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  • Dawnelle Salant

They Take Visa in Antarctica

On our way to our next landing site, we pass the mountain that you see when you open Lightroom. It is something I see nearly every day on my computer, and to see it in real life is surreal.

The ice prevents us from making it to our first landing place on time, so we carry on down the Neumayer Strait until lunch. It is much the same scenery, but closer. It’s a narrow strait and the landscape feels as if you could reach out and touch it. Giant icebergs float by, and I still can’t get over the blue of the ice. One iceberg is covered with penguins and as I snap my camera, I catch one popping out of the water onto the ice. The entrance to the strait is so small that it looks like we are going into a dead end. We pass by Dorian Bay where we were supposed to stop and I see two huts on the land - the first sign of “civilization” in days. One is an Argentine hut and one is a British refuge hut.


Our afternoon stop is Port Lockroy - A British Research stationed manned by 5 people from November to March. It’s a tiny island, but it’s covered with gentoo penguins. January is the perfect time to come to Antarctica because of the chicks. Babies are usually born around Christmas, and we are lucky enough to see chicks everywhere we go. I witness a mom feeding her two chicks at once, and feel like I’ve been plopped into a documentary. The craziest thing about Port Lockeroy is that it has a gift shop. That takes visa. Via satellite. I pick up a few necessities - a patch for my backpack, a pin, a children’s book about Shackleton (probably my favourite purchase so far) and a gift for my niece. This is also the only Post Office in Antartica so we mail a few postcards. There is also a museum here - the hut that was used as a British Research station until 1962. It’s still set up as it was and I am impressed by the size and facilities it had. Except for maybe the toilet which is more of an indoor outhouse. There is also a store here - (that accepts visa!) and I am delighted to find patches for my backpack, pins, and a book about Shackleton for kids. I can’t believe it. Now I can share my admiration for this guy with my students! There is also the only post office in Antarctica, and we are excited to send out greetings from the white continent. The museum and post office were opened in 1996 and are operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust.

As we wait to board the zodiac for our landing site, we are lucky enough to see both a chinstrap and an Adelie penguin on the beach. Adelies are becoming more difficult to find, apparently, as the Gentoos have taken over their breeding colonies.


We go for a zodiac cruise, where we see ice blue glaciers covered in green and yellow snow algae, and get dropped off on Jogula Point. There are two sailboats anchored near the glacier and I can’t help but think about how they got here - sailboats can go through the Drake Passage? Yikes. At Jogula Point we see nesting cormorants and chicks mixed in with nesting Gentoos and chicks. There is also a blue whale skeleton laying near the beach. The immense size gives me only an idea of how big a blue whale must be. I spend some time watching a Gentoo male trying to pick up a piece of whale bone. It’s much bigger than the rocks they use to build their nests, and after awhile he gives up. We see two Weddell seals before it is time to head back to the ship for dinner. Another mind blowing day in Antarctica.

That night, we eat dinner on the 5th deck of the ship. It’s a barbecue, and although I am cold, and the food cools off immediately, it’s my favourite meal so far. I never dreamed I would be eating dinner outside, with icebergs and glaciers in my view, and of course the ever present Gentoos.



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