Day 15 |
Mar 06, 2010

Deception Island, Antarctica

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: S 62º 58’ 46”, W 060º 33’ 27”

Weather: Overcast with passing showers

Air Temperature: -2ºc

Pressure: 991 hPa

Wind: Variable

SURPRISE, SURPRISE! This morning an unexpected announcement was made just before 6 am. By that time, some of the Expedition Team and I had already been out in a Zodiac for a while scouting the conditions for an unannounced early morning landing at Baily Head. This site is famous for being the world’s largest chinstrap penguin colony and it is situated on the outer eastern side of Deception Island. 

While we were out there on the scouting trip, the conditions were not ideal, the swell was manageable, but the wind was gusting up to 30 knots. We decided to give it a try and it was definitely worthwhile. Most of our guests woke up, got in the Zodiacs under wet and windy conditions and enjoyed the rarely visited, Baily Head. It was a great landing.

I could feel the excitement of the guests, (who were already pretty happy after yesterday in the Antarctic Sound) when I was bringing them back on board. So far, so good…

As everyone came back on board for breakfast, and the Prince Albert II sailed across to Neptune’s bellows, Malindy (onboard photographer), Peter Damisch (historian) and I drove a Zodiac around to Whalers Bay. The idea was to have an opportunity to take some photos of the ship while navigating this narrow passage, the entrance to Deception Island’s inner bay. 

Deception Island is an active volcano, and as a result of erosion, a breach on the side of the caldera allows ships to enter and navigate Port Foster, a 10-km-across bay within the caldera.

At 10 am the second landing of the day started. It took place at Whalers Bay, an abandoned whaling station. The activities offered included: a hike to Ronald Hill for panoramic views of the island, and a walk to Neptune’s Window during which we got to see some wildlife along the way, and also some interesting geological features and some historical remains. We also offered a guided tour of the whaling station and the British Antarctic Survey base that was destroyed by the volcanic eruptions of the late 60s and early 70s. A few brave souls took the opportunity to go for a refreshing (to say the least) polar plunge!

Everybody came back on board for lunch as we sailed for the second surprise of the day, a landing at Hannah Point in Livingston Island. This third landing option was not mentioned in our plans for today either, as the conditions are often difficult and our timings were a bit tight and weather dependent. The Drake Passage looked promising and the weather good for a landing at Hannah Point, an unlikely although favorable and welcomed combination, so off we went.

Once ashore, a third of our guests went on a guided walk to fossil beach where a good collection of fossils can be seen as well as some good wildlife and beautiful scenery. Gentoo, Chinstrap and Macaroni penguins, Giant Petrels, Sheathbills, molting Elephant seals and some interesting geological features make Hannah Point one of the best landing sites in the area.

At 5 pm it was time to sail for the Drake Passage. The Expedition Team held an informative and fun Recap & Briefing just before dinner. Long day, satisfaction smiles, early night.  What a day!