Day 15 |
Jan 27, 2012

Deception Island, South Shetland Islands

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Botanist

Co-ordinates: 62° 55`S, 60° 38`W
Weather: sunny in the morning, cloudy and windy in the afternoon
Air Temperature: 1°C

Early in the morning Deception Island came into sight on the horizon – our destination for today. From the distance you could see the brown and red colored cliff rocks of this volcanic island. Only a very small entrance, Neptune’s Bellow, allows the ships to go into the wide caldera, one of the few calderas in the world where ships can sail in. As the Silver Explorer passed this small “door” into the caldera, many guests were outside on deck and watched as we sailed into Deception Island. Just after Neptune’s Bellow, Whalers Bay came into sight, with its old buildings reminding visitors of its former use as a whaling station.

Today our destination was Telephone Bay at the northern end of the caldera. Sea and wind conditions were perfect today and so our activities could start as scheduled. At the beginning I was driving a Zodiac, shuttling our guests from ship to shore, who wanted to join us on the hike up to a secondary crater, from there over to a lookout point and back to the landing site.

The trail to the secondary crater showed the typical sign of volcanic activity in the past. Lapilli, volcanic ash and lava rocks, gave testimony of a long geological history. After a short walk of 20 minutes, our guests reached the first stop on this hike, an impressive secondary crater dating back to the eruptions at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s. My colleagues and I, who were accompanying the groups, explained in detail not only this geological history but also the whaling and scientific history of this island.

From the crater our walk continued up to the top of a hill, with a fabulous view over the whole caldera. The scenery was amazing, all this dark brown reddish colors from the volcanic rocks, the white from the glaciers and snow fields and the prefect blue sky made it an unforgettable day on Deception Island.

At the end of the morning hike was a cool swim, our so-called “polar plunge” on the shores of the caldera. Seventeen guests participated in this cold experience.

Back on board there was not much resting time for our guests. As the Silver Explorer sailed out of the caldera we passed by the old whaling station and Peter Damish our historian on board gave some interpretation through the PA system.

Our next stop was just around the corner, after we sailed out through Neptune’s Bellow: a place called Bailey Head. Famous for its large Chinstrap Penguin colony, about 250.000 Chinstrap call this place their breeding ground. Going in with the Zodiac to the landing site penguins were porpoising all around in the water going and coming back from their feeding grounds out at sea.

From the landing it was a short walk up to the rookeries, which are extending all over the surrounding hills. Rookery after rookery, as far as the eye could see, every single one full of chicks and adult Chinstrap Penguins. The noise of the colony was incredible as well as the smell. Some of our guests were able to observe a Giant Petrel attacking an adult Chinstrap Penguin and finally killing it. That’s the way nature is, even in a magic place like the Antarctic.

At 16.00 all guests were on board and the Silver Explorer set sail for our final destination –Ushuaia in Argentina. But still the day was not over. In a Recap & Briefing, our Expedition Leader Robin West gave an overview of what is on the program for tomorrow and my colleagues Robin Aiello, Juan, Peter and myself presented a short recap on Humpback whales and Orcas, geology, history and flora of Deception Island respectively.

After such a fantastic final day in the Antarctic our guests enjoyed a delightful dinner in the Restaurant and a calm Drake Passage.