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Eclipse Point. Lemaire Channel. Argentine Islands (Winter Island/Wordie Hut)

Overnight, Europa made her way Southwards, and buy the beginning of the day she was ready to squeeze into the narrow passage of Eclipse Point, her preferred route to start the scenic and famous Lemaire Channel.

Icebergs, shallows, glacier fronts on either side, a tight strait, all makes an interesting and spectacular passage of the the Eclipse Point.

At the southern end of this waterway, open waters sprinkled by brash ice and larger icebergs welcome us, before turning into the main channel around the impressive twin peaks of Cape Renard. The Lemaire Channel runs in a NE-SW direction between steep glaciers and high mountains about 1000m high, separating Booth Island from the West coast of Graham Land. It was first seen during the 1873-74 Antarctic Expedition under Dallmann, but it was 24 years later when Gerlache actually sailed through and named. For that he chose a Belgian explorer that actually never been in Antarctica, but in Congo (Africa), Charles Lemaire.

Though the overcast and rainy conditions seem to extend over a large area, even becoming snowy during the night and early morning, the seas are calm and just a gentle breeze blows. Most of the way is relatively ice free, with just some scattered icebergs, but getting deeper into the Lemaire, it narrows up and now some more icebergs gather here together with bands of brash ice, making for a more careful navigation. Some decided to climb the rig to have a good view of the ship.

Steering southwards, Europa is on her way towards the small archipelago of the Argentine islands, formed by Fanfare, Irizar, Uruguay, Forge, Grotto, Corner, Galindez, Winter, Shelter, Skua, Leopard, Black, Three Little Pigs and The Barchans islands, and many more unnamed small rocks and islets. They are separated from mainland by the Penola Strait.
Approaching them, attention must be paid to the steering amongst the poorly charted channels and waters around. It seems that not much has changed since the place was firstly roughly mapped by the French Antarctic Expedition 1903-05 and named after the Republic of Argentina.

About lunchtime we arrived to the small embayment between Winter and Galindez island. The first one is where the historical Wordie House is located, the latter one is home for the Scientific Ukrainian Station “Vernadsky”. In the former times British, and called “Faraday” it was in 1996 when UK reduced their Antarctic budget, and one of the solutions was letting go of this station. By then, Ukraine had the expertise and wanted to be present in Antarctica as well doing some research, but couldn’t afford to build a new station, so they found the good solution for both countries of selling it for a symbolic amount of one pound. This meant that the time series of measurements and research could be continued without interruption. Nowadays the base is inhabited the whole year around by a team of Ukrainians. The Base include laboratories, scientific instrumentation, huge generator plant, fuel tanks, galley, dinning room, fitness room, some basic medical facilities, storage space for all the expedition gear, sauna and lost but not least – a pub, kept from the days when it was built by the British.

But the history of the humans visiting, living and working in this place actually started at Winter Island, that got its name after the British Graham Land Expedition (1934-37) made this island the site of its winter base during 1935. Also the more sustained scientific projects built Wordie House in the same place in 1947. It was named after the explorer James Wordie who travelled to Antarctica with Shackleton on the renowned “Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition”. But in 1954 the operation was moved to the next neighbour Galindez Island where the rest of the story goes until nowadays.

Geschreven door:
Jordi Plana Morales | Guide

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