top of page
  • ggiannoccaro

Port Lockeroy: a Theme Park in Antarctica

Aggiornamento: 13 nov 2023

Port Lockeroy, Wincke Island

It is three o'clock in the morning and finally the roar of the wind has stopped and with it the fear of losing the anchor and "go to rocks". Now only the ice alarm remains!

Port Lockroy is a bay on the south west coast of Wiencke Island, whose access is protected by a series of islets, rocks and outcropping rocks.

We, as suggested by the precious notes, anchor in the area certainly more sheltered from both the sea and the wind and also distant from the great glaciers overlooking the bay.

When we arrived, another yacht stopped at anchor in the same area, but we preferred to take us even more inside the harbor and anchor in 14 meters of water against the 22 on which rested the other sailing ship.

Before going to sleep we activated the alarm on our radar at 50 meters to alert us on the eventual arrival of ice.

The night passed in an absolutely calm way.

In the morning we decided to go ashore to visit the museum of Port Lockroy, also because the forecast gave wind of 20, 25 knots from the afternoon.

In 1944 at Goudier Island, one of the islets at the entrance to the bay, the British government commissioned James Barr (who as Boy Scout had explored Antarctica together with his friend Ernest Shackleton) to build a secret base.

A few years after the war, the base was turned into a scientific research station, to be abandoned in the late 1960s.

Since the 1990s, the United Kingdom Antartic Heritage Trust has renovated the station, as well as many other historic British sites here in Antarctica and has turned it into a museum and post office, the southern post office of the world from which you can send mail to any destination for a dollar.

But the "extraordinary" is that the dollar you can safely pay with your credit card.

Obviously nobody will have a single dollar bill, because one of the premises of the old station has been transformed into a well-kept gift shop where you can buy magnets, postcards, photographs, books and even a very useful umbrella with matching bow tie, with an Antarctic fantasy with typically British colors.

And if you are wondering how the UK Antartic Heritage Trust justify the cost of transporting this material down here, combined with those cost arising from the 8 very kind and gracious rangers, the answer is that here in Port Lockroy, in a year (4 summer months) 18,000 people pass through. Yes, you understood correctly, 18,000 tourists in 4 months, about 150 a day.

The person in charge of the base had not yet finished telling us about the amount of work they manage, who apologizes and tells us that he must leave us. A ship had just arrived and the rafts began to shuttle between the island and the ship.

Mature explorers of my father's age, disembark in the island with their technical clothing scrupulously provided by the tour operator and like many soldiers closely follow the instructions of their guides.

A few hours later, on channel 16 VHF we listened to the conversation between another ship and Port Lockroy. They waited for the first ship to leave the bay to enter and disembark their precious cargo.

I do not deny that this affair has removed a bit of romance from what we are doing, but at the same time I am glad to have done this experience now, because the world is getting smaller and even Antarctica, sooner or later, will turn in a mass tourist destination, if not a theme park, with all due respect to penguins, seals, killer whales and whales.

In the meantime the wind goes up to 25 knots, presaging much higher winds than those indicated by the forecasts. Despite having 80 meters of chain in water with just 14 meters of depth, I felt it would be better to be cautious and spin a second anchor.

The wind came from the north east giving bow to the glacier and stern to islands and rocks! I do not want to take any risk. Once complited the second anchor operation we dedicate ourselves to the activity we like the most: cooking.

Panzerotti Pugliesi and apple pie, this is the menu for the evening. At 17:00h the wind went over 30 knots with gusts of up to 40. Although the boat seemed to sail, I was sure that the two anchors had not drag even a meter, but for further the sake of safety I thought to secure a line from our bow to the shore of the island about 200 meters fin front of us. Fortunately, before leaving Ushuaia, I had bought a 250-meter of polypropylene rope from a fishermen's cooperative, which was complicated to stow for any boat but not for a catamaran of our size.

It is arranged, ready to use on the trampoline,

Given this additional safety measure we thought we could rest. Instead a series of blocks of ice peel off the glaciers, fall into the water and pushed by the wind toward the open sea, towards our boat.

Big, medium and small blocks all in scrupulous Indian row towards the Angelique II.

So we turned on the radar alarm at 50 meters, to switch it off just few minutes later because it continued to play non-stop. Alternatively we decided to stay on watch costantly looking at the radar to identify the large blocks having a collision trajectory with our position.

If a block approached dangerously, two of us went out (where the storm was raging) and with a long "stick" tried to keep it away from the hulls until the wind pushed it beyond our stern.

We also left the tender in the water if some really big block would have required the help of the engine for this anti-collision maneuver, but fortunately its use was never necessary.

The wind continued to rise reaching 45 knots with a recorded maximum of 52.8, but Angelique II held up very well. I've been awake until now but now that we have "only" the risk ice I think I'll go to rest a few hours, tomorrow we should sail to reach the Le Marie Canal and from there the southernmost point of our cruise.

2 visualizzazioni

Post recenti

Mostra tutti


bottom of page