Day 9 |
Dec 16, 2010

 Deception Island 

By Uli Kunz, Oceanographer


Co-ordinates: 62˚29’ S, 62˚13’ W
Weather: Overcast, in the afternoon fog and snow
Air Temperature: 0 °C, 32 °F
Sea Temperature: 2 °C, 35.6 °F
Pressure: 970 hPa
Wind: 10 km/h

Early in the morning, the Prince Albert II entered the narrow entrance into one of the best-protected anchorages in Antarctica: Port Foster at Deception Island. The island is the rim of an old volcano that exploded about 10,000 years ago and then collapsed, leaving a deep basin that was subsequently filled with sea water.

The ship anchored in Whalers Bay right behind the small entrance with its towering black cliffs, called Neptune's Bellows. The Zodiacs were lowered from the upper deck and I drove to shore on board the scout boat to unload the safety equipment. At 8 o'clock, the first guests arrived on the beach to go for a hike and enjoy the good view from the top of the hill.

Whalers Bay was one of the first whaling stations in Antarctica, operating from 1912 to 1931. Today, only relics are visible, including boilers, huge oil tanks and houses. In 1944, Base B was built, a British station serving “Operation Tabarin”, designed to watch German activities in the Southern Ocean during World War II. British scientists used the base until 1969, when the station was destroyed during a volcanic eruption.

When the hikers came back to the landing site, the wind picked up and sleet set in, so most of the guests were reluctant to undress and go into the cold water of the bay... but as soon as the first made the beginning, and as soon as they discovered the thermal water to be 40°C, about 30 bold Antarctic heroes dared the Polar Plunge!

Soon after, the next group with our Chinese guests visited the old buildings at Whalers Bay, climbed the hill and did the Polar Plunge! People were running into the bay, taking photographs, splashing buckets of ice cold water over their fellows... Our Chinese friends had a blast!

Following a well earned lunch, I arrived at the beach of Telefon Bay on the other side of Port Foster together with the expedition staff and led a short hike for a group of about 30 guests. The landing site that afternoon showed us the craters created by several volcanic eruptions during the last century. It was our last landing in Antarctica and our guests did a fantastic job during the whole voyage, as they were in charge of the weather!

A few hours later, we entered the Drake Passage and headed back to Ushuaia!