Feb. 17 – Almirante Brown Antarctic Base

Almirante Brown Antarctic Base is an Argentine research base. When we visited, there was “nobody home” but I suspect that really isn’t the point of these kinds of stations. On our journey we saw active bases, inactive bases, and rescue huts… all operated by different countries. While a lot of important research happens on the continent, I suspect that many of these facilities are actually there as “sovereignty” place markers… pieces on the territorial claim board should the status of Antarctica change. Currently the Antarctic Treaty System designates Antarctica as “ a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.”  According to the Environmental Protocol in the treaty, “All activities relating to Antarctic mineral resources, except for scientific research, are forbidden.” Essentially, Antarctica is currently a giant park that several countries have land claims upon, but in the interest of peace they’ve all agreed to get along, even where claims overlap. In that context, the stations are there just in case the treaty falls apart.

Feb. 16 – Port Lockroy – The Post Office in the Middle of Nowhere

Yes, you can get mail in Antarctica. The former military/research base at Port Lockroy has been turned into a museum and, yes, a functioning post office.

A few random notes and observations:

  • The facility is an actual functioning post office. You can buy stamps in the gift shop and there is a mailbox at the entrance.

Feb. 16 – Grass and Oil Spills in Antarctica – Torgersen Island & More

Besides the Polar Plunge, February 16th was a very eventful day. There was so much to see near Torgersen Island, just off shore from the much larger Anvers Island.

A few highlights:

  • Adélie Penguins! (Definitely my favorite penguin species!) Sadly, we learned that, while Gentoo penguin populations are on the rise, Adélie and Chinstrap populations seem to be on the decline. Research is being done to try and determine the cause; with special care being made to evaluate the effects of eco-tourism.
  • We got to see the Palmer Station, a United States research facility, in the distance. I’m pretty sure the resupply vessel RV Laurence M. Gould was visiting the station; very impressive. If you are planning to visit the peninsula,