Fort Point: fit for Westeros

After Yankee Harbour we travelled the six miles to Fort Point on the south easterly side of Greenwich Island. It’s obviously named after its rocks, and it wouldn’t be out of place guarding a strategic river crossing in the Seven Kingdoms.  The rocks are piled up in basalt slabs from which a shingle ridge has formed a permanent connection to the island proper, where glaciers hit the sea in ice walls.

This is a bleak and rocky place. Even now at the end of summer there is thick snow on the slopes while at sea level it lies in swales along the ridges of stones and ice. The pebbles are littered with half-eaten remains, stranded kelp rotting and over it all is thick, stinking penguin guano. Not many ships come here: it’s exposed to swell and appears inhospitable.

But it is crowded, full of wildlife. Gentoo and chinstrap penguins, fur seals, skuas, sheathbills are all around us, so busy and so curious it is hard to find somewhere to stand and remove the lifejackets.

Even organising gloves seems a delay when I want to rush around taking pictures. Eventually I will learn: there is a lot of life in Antarctica, and it’s not going to vanish while I sort my stuff out. At Fort Point, though, I hadn’t learnt that lesson yet and there are animals and birds everywhere, the penguin colony stretching way up the 100m cliffs. The penguins are grumpy and moulting, while the fur seals flop in and out of the water to hunt.

In the end we are all sorted out. First we visit the nearest glacier tongue where the penguins and seals ignore us all as we pose for each other. Then Jordi starts the trek towards the nanatuk. From the Inuit, the term is used to describe a pinnacle or rocky tooth sticking out from a glacier or on the edge of one. Bowl shapes exist around such isolated peaks where it creates at downdraught or wind-shelter so that it sits in a saucer lower than the surrounding ice-field. The one at Fort Point is said to be the easiest to reach in Antarctica. (It wasn’t that easy, not least because I am very inexperienced in walking in deep (1m) snow across a hill slope. Not all of us have the same definition of 'easy'.)

The tooth stood out sharp against the dwindling light and rising moon, a mysterious confection of jagged black edges above the blue and grey ice. Beneath it the fur seals were dotted across the slopes, busy with their internal discussions. We sailed away under the clear sky towards Half Moon Island.

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