Antarctica 9: Deception Island Feb 2020

After setting sail from Paradise Bay of the Antarctic Peninsula, we arrived bright and early at Whaler’s Bay of Deception Island, part of the South Shetland Islands.  The horseshoe-shaped Deception Island has an active volcano and hot springs which is unusual in this cold and desolate part of the world.  It is said that the island’s name comes from the very narrow hidden opening into the flooded caldera known as Neptune’s Bellows.  The rock formations on both sides are impressive when sailing through.  About 10,000 years ago, there was a violent eruption that caused the volcano to collapse and form this horseshoe shaped caldera in the middle of the island.  The coastal waters are geothermally heated to 65ºC and at low tide there are clouds of steam rising from the shore shrouding the black sand beach with mystery.  The volcano apparently erupts every 40 years or so and is already 10 years overdue for an eruption.  Yikes!  We were told when we made our landing that if we hear a loud siren from the ship, we are to run as fast as possible back to shore and into the zodiacs.  As can be seen by the many remains of decaying and rusting buildings and boats, this used to be a whaling station as well as a scientific research base until several eruptions drove everyone off the island.  As a photographer, I loved the contrast of these derelict buildings with the harsh natural environment.  Deception Island gives us a glimpse into the traces of human activity in the Antarctic region.  The island is said to be home to one of the world’s largest colonies of chinstrap penguins.  However, the breeding season here has finished and all the penguins have already gone to sea.

DSCF6109These rock formations, known as the Sewing-Machine Needles, mark the entrance to the Deception Island caldera.

DSCF2639Successfully navigated into the narrow and easy-to-miss opening into the caldera of Deception Island called Neptune’s Bellow

DSCF2640Deception Island used to be a whaling station as well as a scientific base until several eruptions drove everyone off the island.  The only traces of human activity here are these abandoned and decaying buildings.

DSCF2657View from the black sand beach of Deception Island

DSCF6210Magellan Explorer anchored in Whaler’s Bay

DSCF2653Trail of krill that has been washed ashore.  I wonder how these krill actually survive these geothermally heated hot waters??

DSCF2643The krill is the main food source for the penguins.  Here is a male krill on top and a female one on the bottom.  I honestly have no idea how the guide could tell them apart…

DSCF6166Many salps are also washed up ashore

DSCF6165Salps are barrel-shaped tunicate feeding on phytoplankton. They move by contracting and pumping water through their gelatinous bodies like jet propulsion.  As they move, the pumped water gets strained through the internal feeding filters extracting the phytoplankton.

DSCF2650There is a strong smell of sulphur on this black volcanic sand beach with steam constantly rising from the heated waters.  The dent ahead in the mountains is called Neptune’s Window and you can supposedly see the Antarctic Peninsula in the distance.

 

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DSCF2683The remains of Jolles or water-boats

DSCF2685What remains of Jolles or water boats in front of Neptune’s WindowDSCF6148

Climbing up to Neptune’s Window. It is said that on a very very clear day, one can see the Antarctic Peninsular from here.

DSCF6156I didn’t know that the back flippers of the fur seal has individual “fingers”!

DSCF2699Strolling along the beach towards the remains of the Hektor Whaling Station.

DSCF2696One of the eruptions formed the caldera shaped like a horseshoe.

DSCF2702The things we photographers would do.  This was actually quite dangerous because fur seals may look all cuddly but they are vicious.  The guides said that quite a few times, visitors had chunks of their backside bitten off by these seals.

DSCF6123Deception Island used to be a whaling station as well as a scientific research base until several eruptions drove everyone off the island.

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DSCF6110The remains of the Hektor Whaling Station

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Photographers capturing the interaction between the fur seals.

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Our adventures in Antarctica are quickly coming to an end.  Last stop after Deception Island is Half Moon Island of the South Shetland Islands before we return to King George Island.  Stay tuned!

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