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.
These rock formations, known as the Sewing-Machine Needles, mark the entrance to the Deception Island caldera.
Successfully navigated into the narrow and easy-to-miss opening into the caldera of Deception Island called Neptune’s Bellow
Deception 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.
View from the black sand beach of Deception Island
Magellan Explorer anchored in Whaler’s Bay
Trail of krill that has been washed ashore. I wonder how these krill actually survive these geothermally heated hot waters??
The 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…
Many salps are also washed up ashore
Salps 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.
There 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.
The remains of Jolles or water-boats
What remains of Jolles or water boats in front of Neptune’s Window
Climbing up to Neptune’s Window. It is said that on a very very clear day, one can see the Antarctic Peninsular from here.
I didn’t know that the back flippers of the fur seal has individual “fingers”!
Strolling along the beach towards the remains of the Hektor Whaling Station.
One of the eruptions formed the caldera shaped like a horseshoe.
The 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.
Deception Island used to be a whaling station as well as a scientific research base until several eruptions drove everyone off the island.
The remains of the Hektor Whaling Station
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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