Silver Explorer, Antarctica: Day 7 – Change Of Plans: Ice-Choked Channel Causes Us To Miss Port Lockroy, But …

Day 7 – Change Of Plans: Ice-Choked Channel Causes Us To Miss Port Lockroy, But …

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Glaciers and penguins aplenty in Neko Harbor. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Today, we were supposed to be stepping ashore at Port Lockroy, a natural harbor within Antarctica’s British Antarctic Territory. The harbor was used for whaling and later for British military operations during World War II, and afterward became a British research station until 1962. The attraction today is a museum and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. Stick a stamp on a postcard and mail from Antarctica. Not many people can claim having done that.

Last night, however, Silver Explorer was stopped short of Port Lockroy. Our captain had charted a course, hoping we would anchor in Port Lockroy in the morning, but a channel thick with ice turned us away. The crew made every effort, but eventually a decision was made to sail to another harbor for a landing that included a hike and scenic zodiac cruise. It was a good decision, validated by another vessel that had spent the entire day trying to get through the ice — and failed. At least we were ashore and active.

Of course, it was a bit disappointing not to visit Port Lockroy, but the expedition team did a good job in coming up with an alternative. That is the thing about Antarctica: Itineraries and activities are weather-dependent, but the knowledgeable Silversea expedition always has a Plan B.

After lunch, we visited Neko Harbor for another landing. Many of us on Silver Explorer agreed that Neko Harbor was one of our favorite landings during our time in Antarctica so far. Activities included penguin and seal spotting, calving glaciers, a not-too-rigorous hike to the top of a hill that offered gorgeous vistas and even some sledding, on our rumps back down part of the mountain.

From the ridges at Neko Harbor, we could practically frame the whole spectrum of the Antarctic experience within our viewfinders. There was wildlife, glaciers, an iceberg-strewn sea, snow-covered mountains. It was beautiful and expansive, on such a scale that it deemed humans insignificant.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Antarctica makes humans appear small and insignificant. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

That was the feeling I had when I snapped the photo above. As were those who I photographed, we were standing on such a small piece of Antarctica, and yet it dwarfed all of us. A land of extremes, Antarctica has the power to humble humans. That’s not such a bad thing. Antarctica is where nature asserts itself over the domain of man. The power and beauty of a place so grand that even words — and photos — aren’t enough to fully encompass the feeling one has when standing on ground such as this.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Silver Explorer anchored this morning. Note the zigzag of guests climbing the hill. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
A closer look at guests hiking to the mountaintop. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
On the zodiac to our landing. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Silver Explorer against a backdrop of mountains and glaciers. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Snow boulders on the beach at Neko Harbor. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Penguins galore at Neko Harbor. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Mr. Penguin, meet Mr. Seal. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Penguins against a glacier backdrop in Neko Harbor. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Silver Explorer anchored in Neko Harbor. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Sledding, on our rumps, down the hill at Neko Harbor. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Our voyage so far …

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
December 12 Ushuaia, ArgentinaCharter flight from Buenos Aires; Embark Silver Explorer5:00 PM
December 13Sailing The Drake Passage
December 14Crossing The Drake, Day 2
December 15Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 16Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 17Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 18Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 19Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 20Sailing the Drake Passage, Redux
December 21Sailing the Drake Passage
December 22Ushuaia, Argentina8:00 AMDisembark Silver Explorer; return charter flight to Buenos Aires.
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