The Gerlache Strait. 27th December 2017

Port Lockroy.

An hour's sailing further South in the afternoon brought us to Port Lockroy, a former whaling harbour, which was a British research station until 1962, and since then has been a museum and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. It is responsible for the maintenance of the site and other historic sites and monuments in Antarctica.

The Trust collects data for the British Antarctic Survey to observe the effect of tourism on penguins. Half the island is open to tourists, while the other half is reserved for penguins. A staff of four typically process 70,000 pieces of mail sent by 18,000 visitors that arrive during the five month Antarctic cruise season.

The world's most southerly post office is on an island the size of a football pitch, with no running water, no mains electricity, no social media, no central heating, no phone signal, no internet and no means of communication with the world other than VHF radio.

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The Lemaire Passage

After a short sail from Port Lockroy, we arrived in the Lemaire Channel, nicknamed "Kodak Gap", which is 11 km long and just 1,600 metres wide at its narrowest point. Words simply cannot express the raw beauty of the protected waters as still as a lake, reflecting the steep cliffs which hem in icebergs in the passage. We glided slowly and silently through the Channel for an hour, stopping to watch whales feeding at the side of the ship. Inevitably, loose ice floes collect in the Channel, making navigation hazardous and we were eventually forced to turn around due to obstructions ahead.

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