Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas

Port Lockroy (Sun., 6/6/10) – Silence is golden
by -- June 8th, 2010

Although Chief Scientist Doug Nowacek is known as quite a slave driver, he graciously arranged for us to have a “fun day” on shore today.

We woke up in the Neumayer Channel facing Port Lockroy, an old whaling station.  The station now serves as a historical museum and is a popular tourist attraction operated by the United Kingdom.  Although it is one of the most visited places in Antarctica, it is closed for the off-season (winter), so we were left to guide ourselves and invent our own entertainment.  This is, of course, not hard when 42 energetic people are dropped on shore after living together on a 308-ft ship for the last 30 days.  Between sledding, building human pyramids, inspecting old whale bones and snapping photos of the towering mountains, we had a very enjoyable and relaxing day ashore. 

  

One of the most spectacular things about Antarctica is the sound of nothing.  When you live on a ship there is always noise.  The noise comes from the constant hum of the engines, the chronic ping of the depth sounder, and people working 24 hours a day. But Antarctica is best experienced away from the mother ship and all that noise.  Today while I was sitting on a humble boulder surrounded by picturesque jagged mountains draped with snow and ice, back-dropped by a clear blue sky smeared with orange and pink hues, I didn’t hear a thing.  It’s very hard to explain; it’s the sharpest silence you’ve ever heard because it is contrasted by an overload of visual stimulation.  It’s the best. 

While going through the museum today I read a letter from someone who had lived at Port Lockroy from 1944-1945.  I’m not sure to whom the letter was addressed, perhaps someone who worked there with him or one of the museum curators, but it was obviously a friend.  He wrote (in 2005) about a documentary made depicting the time period he lived at Port Lockroy.   Although he enjoyed it, he couldn’t stand all that dramatic music playing in the background.  He admitted he knew it was meant to be inspiring, but he instead found it rather distracting.  If they really wanted to show audiences how dramatic and unparalleled the sights and sounds of Antarctica were, he noted, they should have revealed its silence – except for the occasional biting wind.  He couldn’t recall what sort of shoes they wore, but he said above all else the silence was his fondest and clearest memory, and the aspect of Antarctica that he’d most want to share with others.

This was the second visit to Port Lockroy for many of us, as we were lucky enough to stop here last year.  However it was a first for some folks onboard, and my favorite thing today, besides the silence, was seeing Port Lockroy through their eyes.  In the summer, Port Lockroy hosts a gentoo penguin nesting colony.  In the winter small numbers of penguins find it a nice place to rest.  Today there was one lone gentoo on shore when we arrived, and by the time we left two more had joined and there were four more swimming around the rocky shoreline inspecting safe haul-out places.

Last year one of my personal highlights at Port Lockroy was admiring the penguins, and this year watching my friends admiring the penguins, for the first time, was a real treat. 

 

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

– Lindsey

Meagan and friends

Meagan excitedly posing with her new friends

 

1 Comment

  1. Linds' Mom
    Jun 9, 2010

    Love the Quote!

    What a message to pass along for the rest of us to think about–silence and admiring the beauty around us. Can’t quite match your your elegant tuxedo friends, but, we can stop and smell the roses more often than we do in the quiet of a beautiful sunset. Can’t wait to see your pics, Linds. Miss and love you. Mom

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