Monday, February 9, 2009

Pleneau Island and “The Russians are Coming… Actually, They’re Here” - Feb 9

This morning we went on shore at Pleneau Island and, imagine my surprise, there was another colony of Gentoo Penguins! I say this because the Gentoo seem to be the pigeons of Antarctica: They are everywhere. However, this doesn’t stop them from being cute, adorable, and amusing.

We saw our first yacht sailing past this morning, the Balaena from New Zealand. I tried to make radio contact, but no luck. What I really wanted was a story for my daughter Kim’s boat cruising website, but she’ll have to make due with the pictures. Having had sailboats in the past, I can’t even imagine the difficulty of sailing in these waters with a small boat. Might even be more exciting than my motorcycle trip!

In the afternoon we visited Wordie House and Vernadsky Station. Wordie House is an old British research station in the Argentine Islands that closed in 1954. They still preserve it as a museum.

There was also another private sailboat anchored there. I couldn’t get details, but it will be another picture for Kim’s collection.

From Wordie House it was just a short hop to Vernadsky Station. This was originally a British research post, but they later sold it to the Ukranians for 1 pound sterling. Vernadsky has done a lot of the research measuring and documenting the growth in the hole in the ozone layer, so it’s quite scientifically important.

However, science isn’t the only things that keep the lads busy. They run a very profitable little post office, with letters and post cards going first to the Ukraine, then to wherever they are mailed. I’ll be interested to see how long it takes to get a post card from Antarctica to Panama via the Ukraine!

They also keep the bar open for visitors, selling shots of vodka (what else!) for a buck. We, of course, felt that we would be impolite guests if we didn’t avail ourselves of their wares.

And in addition to collecting information about the ozone, they also collect (… drumroll…) bras! Just how this started is lost in the muddied waters of history, but they have quite an impressive collection behind the bar. The prize exhibit, as clearly obvious in this photo, belonging to a being of whose proportions we can only begin to imagine.

One of our group had read of this collection and brought along her own contribution specifically for the station. Unfortunately (for her sense of philanthropy), they decided that the specimen offered was not of sufficient scientific curiosity to warrant a display in the station. Seen two, seen ‘em all!

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