Yes, day 5 was the most exciting yet! On the fifth morning we visited Port Lockroy, used as an anchorage by whalers and known as secret Base A as the British used it to monitor German shipping movements during WWII. Operation Tabarin, named for a famous Paris nightclub, for reasons I don’t really know. Maybe the group who named it loved the nightclub? The “base” is now a museum, and four people reside there for the four months of summer. The museum was interesting, and the store was a pretty standard souvenir store, but the two amazing reasons to stop here are the whale bones, and the Gentoo Penguin colonies.
Whaling was one of the main reasons countries sent expeditions to the Southern Ocean, and the remnants of this cruel practice are very evident. The bones are bigger than one can imagine…we saw Blue Whale bones and were just stunned into silence. Did you know Japan still hunts in this ocean? They hunt Minke Whales, who are very endangered, and they say it is for “scientific research”. Bullshit, of course. An International Court of Justice ordered Japan to stop the practice of hunting whales, and they stopped for one year. Japan is back at it. (Sea Shepherd is an organization trying to stop it.) I want to stress that whales are very, very intelligent mammals with languages and social interactions. Some whale groups have culture, it is not only humans who transmit norms and behaviors and language. Having a social culture is a sign of extremely high intelligence and depth of emotion. Hunting these animals is criminal.
Gentoo Penguins have a lot of personality and since summer is nesting season, there are a lot of them! Moms, Dads, chicks and fledglings are everywhere. Note the nests of stone, built by the dad. If his nest isn’t pretty awesome, a female won’t want to mate with him. Male penguins have to work hard, but sometimes they cheat, taking stones from another nest! Then the squawking begins!
The perfect ending to a perfect day was kayaking with my friend Annie, watching penguins “porpoising” and seeing gigantic leopard seals.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Day 5!
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