Port Lockroy is a small research station located on Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago, and part of the Antarctic peninsula. While the station “Base A” itself is primarily a British Antarctic Survey research facility, it is much more widely known as the Penguin Post Office that serves both researchers and tourists visiting the area. Several staff were there to help us see the place, answer questions, and let us visit a little museum about Antarctic exploration and life in Antarctica that was part of Bransfield House.
I was so excited for the chance to visit the famous Port Lockroy to send all the postcards I had written on the ship. It felt like mailing a card from there would be the ultimate proof that I had actually gone to Antarctica and the end of the world. Indeed, with special Antarctic stamps to choose from, I proudly sent cards to my kids and some friends for a unique and memorable souvenir. After our visit, it would take about 6-8 weeks for the cards to make their way from down South to all the places around the globe.
But Port Lockroy was quite memorable also for other reasons. Penguin chatter, and penguin smell, greeted us in lively ways as we landed in our zodiacs early in the morning. Nestled in right by the beach, the two main red and black historic houses were just picture perfect to look, especially with all that snow. Soon we recognized that they had been sort of taken over by penguins — much to our joy. This meant we had to work hard to keep the 5 meter distance away from the penguins living under the house as they were waddling around busily building nests and stealing rocks from each other during little fights right in front of us. Some moments felt like they knew just how to entertain us but during others, it was clear that they couldn’t care less about those touristy humans. But some did get a bit curious when I put my kid’s Lego penguins in the snow for some photographs. This may have been the the first ever moment in history that a penguin spotted some Legos.
Either way, it was a true delight to watch the vast yet detailed landscapes of the icy mountains surrounding the bay, the blue water and the rocky beach area full of penguins jumping and playing, and the cute historic houses being all “penguin popular” and hence, located in the middle of giant guano spots. Penguins were definitely the ruling party and everyone was alright with it.
That morning, the water was very calm and there was no wind. Everything was simple yet colorful and immensely serene and harmonious. I was mesmerized watching many penguins go in and come out of the water, swimming around, hopping over rocks to see what was going on around the corner, and for some to chatter in concert together to ring in a new day.
Despite the hundreds of penguins’ constant busy-ness all around us, everything felt so right and just so in place. I was grateful for this truly immersive experience and for a few moments, my heart and soul became one with this beautiful place. Yet, I will cherish the memories for a lifetime.