Antarctica Trip - Day 7
Nov 23, 2009
|Today we have had an early morning start. We have spent the night anchored in Port Lockroy and we have today visited the old British base in Port Lockroy - Base A. We have been very well educated about the base from a video shown last night. The history of the base is somewhat curious and it’s not fully known why the base was set up.
Some claim that the British base was set up for scientific research whereas some claim that it was set up during to monitor German activity in the area during WWII. Others claim that it was a dummy operation to attract German attention to the base from somewhere else. Irrespective of the true reason for building the base, it has been used for scientific research for many years until it was abandoned in the 1960s.
It then fell into disrepair until the late 1990s when it was designated a historical site in the new Antarctic Treaty. The base was then restored by the Commonwealth Office and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (www.ukaht.org - I think). It is now a ‘living museum’. The base is decorated and set up exactly like it would have looked during the 1950s. They have old food tins, stoves, radios, gramophones, posters, newspapers, books, etc that make it look like it did in the 1950s.
People from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust come here to live during the summer season and keeping the base alive. They live in the base itself like people did during the 1950s. They also operate a small gift shop and post office allowing people to send postcards back home. The Trust also runs five other buildings across the Antarctic, including Scott’s old hut. It is estimated that some 15,000 people visit the base annually.
Before going across to the base, the base leader came aboard to give us a little speech about the history of the base and what they were trying to achieve.
According to the member, the maintenance of these historical base is funded by the souvenir shop and the postal service that they offer. They are also very grateful to see the cruise ship as that is their only opportunity to come up to relative warm and take a shower! The scientists come here every year via one of these cruises at the beginning of the season and he has gladly told me that they are going back at the end of the summer via Antarctic Dream (which is this ship)!
As we landed on the base, we were a bit surprised that the base member do not actually own any zodiacs or boats and they are pretty stuck in the very small island with no chance of exploring further apart from during the winter season when the sea freeze. The sound of carrying out scientific work in the Antarctica sounds good but I am not sure I want to be stuck in a small island with lots of penguins for the entire summer with no running water and minimal heating…
The base was charming but it did feel very strange seeing the Union Jack flying next to icebergs and having a few penguin nests next to the flag pole. Some British people onboard found it charming - we mainly found it a bit weird and out of place. However, it was charming to take a step back into the human civilization on Antarctica and see what a base might have looked like. It felt very 1950s and very cozy in a way but we’re quite happy that we didn’t have to live there.
We managed to send a few postcards to our parents so we’re hoping that they arrive before we do. Apparently, the postal ship only arrives once a week and then takes the mail to the Falkland Islands. From there they are flown to the UK. We were a bit surprised when the people at the base preferred us to pay in US dollars. We don’t expect many UK post offices to be like that. The stamps were lovely, and as expected, had a penguin on them. Apparently, they are specially issued by Royal Mail for the UK Antarctic Territories.
They conduct some interesting scientific research at the base - mainly trying to measure the impact on penguins of human interaction. There are many visitors coming to the base and this makes it a perfect testing ground for their research. We were told that the humans don’t have any impact on the reproduction of the penguins - which is reassuring.
After stepping back in time at the base we cruised over to a nearby island, Jougla Point, for some more penguin watching. By now, most people is getting a bit tired of penguins (I didn’t think that was possible prior to this trip!) but I still think that they are very amusing to watch. Especially now we are more familiar with the animals and are better at spotting their behavior. We spotted more ‘happy thieves’ whose sole aim was to steal their neighbors’ nesting stones despite that there are actually quite plenty of stones on the island. We also spotted a few more mating couples which we have managed to capture on video.
During lunch someone spotted some Orcas, or Killer Whales, at a distance. Everyone was glued to the windows for the next 30 minutes trying to look for their tail fins. We managed to spot a group of killer whales with probably ten whales in it. The Orcas are ferocious beasts and it’s quite good fun having seen them. Unfortunately they don’t seem to want to do a nice jump in front of the camera and we only spotted some fins and some breathing activities.
After lunch the ship continued steaming towards Ushuaia. Marcus spent a lot of time resting in the cabin and relaxing. I managed to attend a lecture held by one of guests onboard. The lecture covered the topic of Global Warming and the Ancient Prophecies.
The lecture was well received by some but skeptically viewed by the others. It is not the conventional global warming lecture that talks about carbon footprint and what we can do about it etc. The presenter was one of the passengers who works in some Earthquakes research centre. It was part of his thesis to work on this book which was the basis of his lecture.
He started by stating a few ancient prophecies that was “said” between 1000AD to as recent as the 1800s. He then linked the prophecies to the events that have happened so to ‘prove’ that the prophecies were correct. I was a bit skeptical about that as I think what was described in the prophecies were rather vague and can be interpreted in many ways.
However, he did have some rather interesting facts in the later part of his lecture. He described that how the solar activities, e.g. solar storms, seem to have a positive correlations to catastrophe on earth such as hurricanes and earthquakes. I thought that was a rather interesting discovery. He then went on to describe how there are different schools of thoughts how global warming could be a result of - 1) increased human activities (namely burning fossil fuels and increasing carbon footprint, which is the most popular thought at the moment); 2) global warming is part of the earth’s natural temperature cycle, as evidence in the many ice ages and warming periods we have experience; 3) it was a result of the increase activities in the sum in forms of solar storms which increase the heat the earth receives.
One of the scientist then subsequently ask a rather interesting question. He asked whether there are any study at the moment to monitor the temperature of Mars at the moment. Seeing that if global warming is a result of solar activities, Mars will be equally affected as Earth. Unfortunately, the human technology has not been able to do that yet at the moment, however, I do consider this a very interesting point.
His lecture then goes to become more bizarre… His theory was that the increase in recent earthquake activities was also a result of global warming as the glacier melts, there are less forces to hold the earth’s plates together and more earthquakes are resulted. I am not too convince of that as I consider the glacier to be relatively thin compare to the thickness of the earth’s crest and the impact it has on holding the earth together will be pretty minimal.
And then he goes on even more bizarre thoughts (in my opinion). He explains that the people’s thought may also have an impact on the level of solar activities on the sun, evidence by the increase solar storms during WWI… by this point I am completely lost. Apparently there’s a theory out there that our collective brain waves can affect the energy level of the sun and if everyone is concentrating on destructive thoughts then the sun will also be affected which then subsequently creates hurricanes and earthquakes… By then I am absolutely lost…
However, I must say that the lecture was more interesting then I expected and created a few interesting discussion afterwards.
After the lecture we also managed to spot a fair few Minkie whales following the ship. They were also nice spotting as they went up to blow. We enjoyed watching them but gave up after a while as viewing them was getting a bit cold. Our cabin is very nice and warm.
The dinner was excellent as always and we really enjoy the company of our fellow passengers. Most are very well traveled and it’s really interesting exchanging stories.