After a spectacular departure through Neumayer Channel, it was time to to turn north. We traveled through some rocking seas to King George Island. Argentina, Brazil, China, South Korea, Peru, Uruguay, and the US have research stations here, studying topics such as biology, ecology, geology, and paleontology. The Chilean station is a permanent village with an air strip which is used for bringing supplies, rescue operations and bringing in tourists who want to avoid sailing the Drake Passage to get to Antartica. A small amount of tourist activity takes place here during the summer including an Antarctic marathon.
Every day’s plan is issued the evening before and so far we have been able to follow the published schedule pretty well. But is is snowing here and the wind is whipping up the waves. The kayak tour and our afternoon zodiac cruise were cancelled due to weather conditions. It is amazing how different the weather is from the blue skies of yesterday since we have only traveled a short distance.
We visited Arctowski, the Polish research station. I’m surprised that Poland has a presence here. We were amazed how hospitable the Poles were to us. They even served us snacks. Folks from a cruise ship, even a fairly spartan one like ours are never in need of more food. And it’s not so easy for them to get more food. I suppose it’s a break in the normal routine to have 500 people drop by for a visit. All they asked is that we take off our boots at the door. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but our ship devoted two crew members to the task of labeling the boots and getting the correct ones back to the correct feet. They were issued by the boat and all look the same.
We visited the main building where the cook prepares meals and those meals are consumed. The administrative staff also has rooms here. The rest of the researchers stay in outbuildings, some a considerable distance away especially in a blizzard. In the summer the staff numbers 16; in the winter half that. We spoke with some of the half that are scheduled to go home soon; they were very excited. Six Brazilians have temporarily bunked in here; their station is called Copa Cobana. They have television and wi fi, weather permitting and travel to the other stations for fun. To get to the South Korean one they hike eight hours and stay overnight before the return eight hour trip.
If we had come earlier in the season we would have seen more penguins here. Like us they head out once their child rearing duties are done. They spend the winter at sea and rest on ice floes when they need a break from swimming. Those few that still lingered on the beach looked like they hadn’t gotten the departure memo.