Penguins, Port Lockroy & The Lemaire Channel
Friday, January 23, 2015
Our fifth full day of exploring the Antarctic Peninsula aboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM was packed full of adventure, as we paired the white continent’s natural beauty with remnants of human settlements here.
We began the day by exploring the snowy expanse of Neko Harbour, where we ‘rescued’ the campers who had tented out on the ice in Antarctica the night before. They came back from their experience feeling cold but accomplished, though most of them retreated to the warmth of their staterooms and went straight to bed.
Those of us not as fortunate to have spent an evening out on the ice donned our rubber boots in the Mud Room on Deck 2, checked off the ship by zapping our keycards against the scanner that then wished us a canned “Goodbye!” in a monotone voice, and set out for Neko Harbour aboard FRAM’s Polarcirkel boats.
Neko Harbour was discovered by the globetrotting Adrien de Gerlache, who named it after a Scottish whaling boat called the Neko. Whaling, as you may have guessed, was a pretty popular pastime back in the day. In fact, what little of Antarctica isn’t named after famous explorers is typically named after whaling ships, operations, or Captains of Industry.
Today, of course, there is no whaling in Antarctica. Only the pristine beauty of Neko Harbour is left behind. Once again, after hiking about 100 metres up a snowy embankment, I dug a nice ‘snow hole’ in which to sit and watch Antarctica’s beauty unfold. I also watched the penguins do something similar: they’d carved ruts out of the snow, which literally resembled little penguin freeways filled with the tuxedo-clad creatures. At the early hour, you’d almost think they were headed off to work…
Impressively, Neko Harbour is one of the few places on our cruise – and most Antarctic Peninsula cruises – where guests can actually set foot on mainland Antarctica. It’s a pretty big deal to be able to do that.
After another delicious buffet lunch onboard the FRAM, we called on Port Lockroy – though not without a few hours of indecision. When we arrived off the small outpost on the western shore of Wiencke Island, strong winds and heavy swells were making launching the Polarcirkel boats impossible. So we stuck around for about two hours w