Position: 62˚.59’S 060˚.34’W
Weather: Overcast with winds gusting 20 – 45 knots
The Prince Albert II sailed overnight from Brown Bluff on the Antarctic continent to Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands. The seas were quite rough at times with a lot of rocking side to side, but by 7am they had calmed down as we sailed through Neptune’s Bellow – the narrow straits leading from the sea into the caldera of Deception Island. Once inside, we had planned to turn to starboard (the right) and enter Whalers Bay for a landing at the old whaling station. However, the winds were gusting at speeds of over 35 knots, making Zodiac operations impossible.
As an alternative, Captain Peter and our Expedition Leader Robin West decided to continue sailing farther into Deception Island to find a more protected area. This alternative action was rewarded when they arrived at Telefon Bay, where the headland provided some level of protection from the driving winds.
This landing was very interesting – the landscape was similar to what we would expect to find on Mars. It was incredibly barren! The whole area is covered in nothing but volcanic rocks in a range of sizes. This is referred to as ‘tephra’(a mixture of various sized pyroclastic material). We were amazed to pick up lava bombs that had been shot out of the volcano when it erupted.
The site’s predominant feature is a large volcanic crater about 60 meters high. Our expedition team walked with us over the barren landscape to the crater’s edge where we sat mesmerized by the large crater below us. Some of us even ventured further up around the edge for a better scenic view of the area.
When we returned to the shore side, we were delighted to see that a small young Weddell seal had hauled out on the beach. It was only about 2 months old, but already on its own, surviving without parental care. It seemed perfectly at ease with us as we took photographs of it lounging around.
Also on the beach were a few gentoo and chinstrap penguins that alternated between standing and walking on the beach and heading off into the surf to swim and feed.
Once back onboard, the Captain waited until 1pm to see if the winds would die down enough for another landing at Whaler’s Bay. But the winds continued to blow, so we headed out again through Neptune’s Bellows to start our two days at sea for the return journey back to Ushuaia. Just as we passed through the Bellows the announcement came over the loudspeakers that there were whales off the starboard side of the ship. The Captain turned the ship around so that we could get a good look at two humpback whales feeding in the nutrient rich waters offshore Deception Island.
In the afternoon, while at sea, our onboard historian, Victoria Salem, gave us a presentation entitled “Amundsen the Sportsman, Scott the Hero?“ This was a fascinating presentation that explored the different personalities, exploration techniques and consequences of the journeys of Amundsen and Scott to reach the South Pole. She addressed controversial issues as ‘what did they actually achieve?’
Just before dinner the Expedition Team met with us again for a Recap and Briefing – where Robin Aiello (Marine Biologist) discussed the extreme impacts that grounding iceberg have on the seafloor fauna, Gennadi (Ozone Specialist) discussed the life of the scientists that winter over at the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station, Chris (Birder) told us all about tubenose seabirds and their adaptations for life at sea.
By the end of dinner we were ready to retire to our suites since the seas had picked up and the ship was starting to roll. Ahh…the Drake Passage in all its glory!!