65:14.93S 64:15.20W. 7th January 2013 - Vernadsky
Happy New Year….. and what a new year so far. Antarctica just does not stop in bombarding us with its rugged beauty, scenery and wildlife. We are still continually being surprised with the friendliness of not only its wildlife but everyone we have met be it on other yachts, cruise ships or base employees. We all can’t stop taking photos, no matter how many times we may have done on the same subject. So, for those unfortunates who will be put through the ‘my holiday shots of Antarctica’, you may see a penguin or two ;)
We sailed into Port Lockroy late on the 30th December and anchored behind the island where the UK base is located. Port Lockroy is a restored UK research base which also houses a museum and a post office that is run by four volunteers who are there for four months over the summer. A very friendly bunch that are kept busy with almost daily visitors from cruise ships and the likes of us. For New Year’s Eve they invited us to the base and we listened to music on their gramophone from the 40s in the museum. We had to keep winding the gramophone up between beers…. brilliant…. A great night had by all and a highlight of our voyage south so far.
We stayed another day to recover from the festivities, and early the 2nd January we weighed anchor and continued our sail south again. Due to low cloud and at times sleet and snow falls the visibility was not the best as we sailed down through the Wauwermans Islands and the Butler Passage to anchor that evening in a small bay in the north west of Booth Island. We woke the next morning to blue skies and brilliant sunshine with some of the best views and visibility yet so far on the trip. We spent all day wondering around the north of Booth Island amongst seals and hundreds of penguins nesting, many whose eggs had hatched and were busy with one or two chicks. The hills gave us magnificent views of the local area which included the Lemaire Channel and the iceberg graveyard, which is a bay on the south side of Booth Island that collects icebergs by the hundreds from the many surrounding glaciers in the region, and hence its name. Magnificent!! What a magic day……..
With so much still to see we moved on again the next morning and sailed through the Lemaire Channel and then into the iceberg graveyard itself. Lemaire Channel is known as “Koday Alley”, and with good reason – beautiful scenery at every turn. Entering the iceberg graveyard we were treated to a seal eating a penguin, and a minke whale played around, and under, Providence for half an hour. And… navigating a 39’ yacht through a mass of icebergs…. well, let’s just say it was fun!
After another great day we arrived at the Ukrainian Base Vernadsky on the afternoon of Friday the 4th January. This was our first visit to a working Antarctica Base and we were lucky in that we were invited for a tour on the Saturday which ended up in the bar with the very hospitable scientists and maintainers. As well as being Saturday night, it was also the Ukrainian (Orthodox) Christmas on Sunday so there was another excuse to have a few Antarctic made vodkas with them. The base used to be British but was sold to the Ukrainians for 1 pound in 1995 (yes… not a typo, 1 pound!!), and they have kept the bar looking very English, including a pool table and the original purchase pound embedded in the bar top. A great evening in the ‘most southern bar in the world’. Loved it – thanks Bogdan! We were also able to have a look at Wordie House, another restored British research base that now acts as a museum / monument that is very close to the main base and where we are anchored.
Otherwise we are all well and in good spirits. The days are long but the weather in general has been great, and though we are a crowded boat we are still getting on famously. The fact that there is no night down here at this time of year does play with your internal clock, but no complaints so far. The girls are complaining they are putting on weight due to how well we are eating but the fact is that with the cold, trekking and just the act of moving about a yacht is burning up all we are putting in (but try telling them that!). We had done a good job in packing food and supplies into the yacht before we left Ushuaia so we are eating well and have yet to run out of the other essentials…. beer, wine, whiskey, rum, tam-tams, baked beans….. to name a few ;)
With so much to see and time running out for our stay on the Peninsula, we will sail today for Paradise Harbour, and with a name like that we don’t think we will be disappointed.
Best regards to all,
Matt, Rohan, Tina, Nigel and Kate