December 26, 2016
Today was our last day in Antarctica. This adventure has honestly flown by, and I can’t believe it’s almost over. This morning, we paid an early visit to Port Lockroy, the former site of a British military base and research station at the southern end of the Gerlache Strait. In 1996, the old station was renovated into a museum and post office. The post office allowed me the unique opportunity to send postcards actually from Antarctica, of which I took eager advantage.
During a hike in the later morning on nearby Jougla Point, we encountered overlapping nesting colonies of Gentoos Penguins and Antarctic Shags. It was interesting to note the differences between these two species in terms nest construction and location. While Gentoos craft their nests out of stones, the Antarctic Shags that I observed were utilizing nests made of grass and seaweed, seemingly cemented together by mud. The shag nests were also positioned at higher locations than those of the penguins; I assumed that this was because these locations were more easily accessible from the air. Chicks of both species had already hatched, and the nesting site was quite busy.
I took a moment before stepping onto the Zodiac to leave Jougla Point. This was potentially the last time my feet would be on Antarctic soil! I gathered for a photo with the other teachers on this trip to commemorate the moment.
We traveled even further south that afternoon to the beautiful Lemaire Channel. At this point, every advance of the boat south represented the furthest south I had ever been. I spent entire 11 kilometers trip down this Channel above the bridge of the boat, as the view was breathtaking. The channel is only 1600 meters wide and is bordered by steep-walled, icy cliffs. Eventually, the ship got stuck in the ice, and we were forced to halt our journey southward. We had stopped at 65°6.59’S. I was fully aware that that might be the furthest south I would ever travel on the globe.
As the evening set in, we backtracked out of the Lemaire Channel and began the long trip back across the Drake Passage to South America. But before we left strictly Antarctic waters, I got to see a humpback whale breach for the first time!
Grosvenor Teacher Fellow
National Geographic Society