Touring Port Lockroy: British Antarctic Base

Date – 11th November 2010 (remembrance day)

Time – Between 10am – 12 noon

Location – Port Lockroy, Goudier Island, Wiencke Islands, ANTARCTICA

Position – 64o 49′ S, 63o 30′ W

Temperature – 0 degrees

Weather conditions – Cold, icy, snowstorm

Wind – Relatively calm
If not the defining moment of my Antarctica adventure, the trip to the British Base at Port Lockroy was definitely the most patriotic and proud moment. Even more special to do it on remembrance day. A minute’s silence was observed while our Zodiac rested on the Antarctic Ocean off the coast of Port Lockroy. A proper tribute for the fallen heroes of wars gone by, on the 11th November 2010. It’s normally a poignant moment to pause. The previous two years I recalled where I had been…

11th November 2008 – doing a coffee morning in Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre at work in England. Boring as hell and worked with some real ass-wipes in that job.
11th November 2009 – onboard the Katoomba – Sydney train ready to move into my new flat and start my new job in Parramatta, Australia (we had the minutes silence on the train).

I could never have predicted to be in the British Antarctic Base at Port Lockroy in 2010, but there I was.

It is no longer an operational British Base, but hey, the Union Flag proudly flies and there’s a wee bit of history there.

The night before we watched a documentary on Port Lockroy, featuring a Welsh guy nicknamed Taff. The documentary on board was excellent.

I also had the pleasure of having dinner with Nikki, one of the volunteer workers at Port Lockroy. She is stationed out there for 6 months a year and was onboard our ship, heading over for the start of her 6 months. A job I would love to do someday, almost just to say I survived and worked in Antarctica. Nikki is on the right hand side in the centre.
I was hotly awaiting our trip to Port Lockroy, having read information from 3 books on it as well as the video. On Remembrance Day 2010 around 9am, we were called to the Mud Room on the ship for disembarkation.

The Antarctic snow that day was immense. A true Winter’s Tale was on display as I got ready for the Lockroy adventure.

The day was broken up into three parts/three landings and was probably the most action packed day of my Antarctic Adventure. I was buzzing like no other day on planet earth. It’s still pretty hard to believe I was there.

The first part of the day was a trip to the lonely penguin full island at Jougla Point. Due to the size of Port Lockroy and Jougla Point, these 2 trips we were split into 2 groups. If we had gone in one group, Port Lockroy in it’s tiny corner would have been overloaded with tourists. The second part was Port Lockroy, and the third part was the amazing first steps on the actual continent part of Antarctica at Neko Harbour.

Russell was in my group which was nice as we had time to talk and walk round Jougla together. After an hour and a half in that magical wonderland, we boarded the Zodiacs again for a fast cruise to Port Lockroy, itself and its proud high Union Flag were also visible from Jougla Point.

A series of small red and black huts, built and restored by British Antarctic Scientists over the years looked simply magnificent. Pretty amazing to see a liveable place so far south and surrounded by constant falling snow. I was loving the weather. Just incredible.

Without further ado we docked. Wearing my Glentoran (Belfast) FC shirt and draping my Northern Ireland flag I was welcomed onto the island, where I met the workers there. Tudor Morgan, the manager of the base and the world’s southernmost postable postbox welcomed us into this tiny Den. 

A museum basically. History restored at the magic of Lockroy. Also there was Nikki Ricketts, who had been at my dinner table the night before.

I was so impressed to find a shop there, that accepted British Pounds Sterling. I had a few quid on me and spent it there! But I carried mostly US Dollars, also accepted. I bought a few maps (more detailed ones than I had), badges, stamps and postcards. I had a few people on my Antarctica postcard list including my family, my flatmates and my mate Steve in New Zealand. With half the boat there at the same time, there were long queues! 

The long queues probably worked to our advantage as it meant we got longer at the Base.

Arrival at Port Lockroy.

The signpost at the entrance.

The Northern Ireland flag.

The Northern Ireland football flag.

With Nikki at the signpost.

Haya from Israel with her flag.

Bransfield House, the main hut at Port Lockroy. It’s survived some extreme weather over the years!

The main shop at Port Lockroy.

The post box, the southernmost official post box in the world.

The original British flag which flew and was ripped in the weather conditions, plus my own flag of my part of the UK.

History plaque on Port Lockroy. Good reading.
The kitchen.
One of the bedrooms.

The radio room.

The post office room.

A room of information, artefacts, history etc.

A fire for keeping warm!

Some more UK information.
The visitors book!! No other Northern Irish names in there – I looked at every page.

Where are we?

British Antarctic Territory Stamps only at the world’s southernmost postbox.

A penguin nests by the UK flag.

Flying the Northern Ireland unofficial flag by the official one!

Another shot of Bransfield House.

The Nissan Hut, where the workers live and sleep 6 months a year. Wrap up warm!

The communications mast and the southern wilderness at Goudier Island in Antarctica. I should mention that the Base area/settlement is known as Port Lockroy. But the island is Goudier Island in a group of islands known as Wiencke Islands.

Snowstorm at Bransfield House.

A hat-trick of in unison penguins.
With the Post Office manager Tudor Morgan, from England.

Camouflage white birds and penguins gather.

Penguins at Port Lockroy.

The entrance to Bransfield House can often get jammed in due to snow, so they have to carve out a path.

An advert for Antarctic Heritage Trust – well worth spending a bit of money there to pay towards restoring this place.


Writing my postcards.

Posting my postcards.

Store room.
I waited behind for a while in awe of the place and was able to snap this photo with nobody else in it.

I was one of the last to board a Zodiac back to our ship the MS Expedition. The place left a truly incredible feeling with me.

Just after leaving Port Lockroy, Roger our guide stopped the engine on our Zodiac and floated off it’s coast honouring a minute’s silence for the war victims during the hour of 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 2010. It was fitting and scary. To think so many people killed each other and sacrificed their lives, when here in this snowy wilderness we are in awe of the planet we live on.
The previous night during the preview speeches I asked if any members of the Royal Family had ever been to Antarctica, to which the answer was Prince Phillip in 1957, and impressively Princess Anne in 2007. So I had got one over the Queen, Charles, William and Harry!

It’s hard writing this not to get totally emotional to a place I can never forget.
I spoke to Nikki about her life working there, for 6 months, no TV, radio, internet etc. And would really love to work there someday. It’s a dream I have, I’d love to go back sometime. My love affair with Port Lockroy may not yet be over…
WATCHING THE PORT LOCKROY DOCUMENTARY ON THE SHIP:

PENGUINS AT PORT LOCKROY:
WRITING POSTCARDS AT PORT LOCKROY:

ARRIVING IN PORT LOCKROY:

INSIDE THE POST OFFICE AT BRANSFIELD HOUSE:

INSIDE THE KITCHEN AT BRANSFIELD HOUSE:

REMEMBRANCE DAY AT PORT LOCKROY:

ZODIAC TO JOUGLA POINT NEAR PORT LOCKROY:

ZODIAC TO PORT LOCKROY:

THERE’S ANOTHER NICE WEE DOCUMENTARY I FOUND HERE:

Some further information on Port Lockroy:

Location of Station A — Port Lockroy

Position: Lat. 64° 49′ S, Long. 63° 30′ W
General location: Goudier Island, Wiencke Island, Palmer Archipelago

 

Purpose

Initially survey, geology, meteorology and botany. Mainly ionospheric research from 1950 onwards

 

Occupied

  • 11 February 1944 – 8 April 1947
  • 23 January 1948 – 14 February 1949
  • 24 January 1950 – 11 February 1951
  • 15 December 1951 – 16 January 1962
  • Austral summers since Jan 1996
The ionospheric work was transferred to Argentine Islands (Station F) when Station A closed

 

Buildings

The main hut was named Bransfield House after the ship initially chartered to transport members of Operation Tabarin from the UK, and itself named after Edward Bransfield, Master, Royal Navy, the first person to chart an area of the Antarctic mainland (1819–1820)



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