Day 14 |
Nov 25, 2009

Deception Island, Antarctica

By Stefan Kredel, Geologist

Co-ordinates: Co-ordinates: 62°58’55”S, 60°35’38”W

Weather: partly cloudy

Air Temperature: -0,4°C

I was so much looking forward to this day! I could convince our fearless Expedition Leader Robin to go to Telephone Bay, one of my favorite places in Antarctica, and definitely my favorite place in Deception Island.

Probably I should clarify why that is. Deception Island is a huge volcanic caldera with an opening to the sea side. Through this so-called Neptune’s Bellow ships can sail, which is quite exciting (that is an emotional outbreak for a German, saying “quite exciting”) as it is quite narrow. The last volcanic eruptions took place here in 1967, 1969 and 1970. From the eruptions of 1970 there are still the craters well preserved in the glacier ice. For a geologist like me, an outstanding place, very special. Not too often that ships visit this place, if ever. I guess because there are no animals …

Anyhow, we planed to go there! So when I got up in the morning I was in a pretty good mood. I went up to the Bridge, got a coffee offered by our Captain and saw Deception Island in front of us in the cold. So far so good this day, but then we entered into Port Forster, which is the name of the inner of the caldera, and what we saw there, I have never seen here before!

The majority of the caldera was covered with sea ice! It is already end of November, I have been here in previous years far earlier, and never saw any sea ice in here! So we were all a bit surprised, looks like the plan of Telephone Bay was history.

But first the Captain tried to navigate through the ice. It was amazing how he and his officers on the Bridge navigated the Prince Albert II through the ice. But it was soon clear to me that under those circumstances we wouldn’t attempt to try a landing at Telephone Bay at the far end of the caldera with all the sea ice between there and the exit, Neptune’s Bellow. So what doing now?

First, I decided to become a bit disappointed and get another coffee in the Observation Lounge. Back on the Bridge it was official, we won’t go to Telephone Bay, and our afternoon’s target, Whaler’s Bay, was “blocked” by another ship for the morning. So we had to wait the rest of the morning, and our Expedition Leader was looking for alternative activities for the morning. I offered to give a talk about Volcanism, which then was scheduled for 10:00 o’clock.
At about 09:30 I went back to my suite to get the lecture downloaded on my memory stick. I didn’t hear the call on the radio that all Staff should be stand by at the reception area. So I came a bit late to the side gate and realized that my lecture will be postponed to a later time.

The Captain managed to “park” the Prince Albert II in a safe position into the ice and the side gate was opened. We landed on the ice!!! It was amazing! I walked from the ship straight onto the ice! And that was the new plan for the morning, giving all the guests the chance to get on the ice. But obviously we had to think about some safety issues.

The area where we could let the guests walk was restricted. And we didn’t let too many guests at a time on the ice. It took us about 2 hours to give all the guests this opportunity to walk straight from the ship on to sea ice – probably for most of them a once-in-a-life-time chance. And everyone seem to enjoy it a lot and it was quite some work for the Staff to make the guest go back on board that the next guests could come.

Anyhow, it was a great replacement for Telephone Bay; I have to admit. And finally, after all guests were back on board, Captain Peter Stahlberg called the crew to get out on the ice, if they wanted to. It was surprising how much crew we have on the Prince Albert II!

After lunch we landed in Whaler’s Bay. I led two hikes on Ronald Hill, a small hill just behind the former whaling station. On both hikes I had 16 guests with me doing the about 120 meters in altitude. It was nice for me to get some exercise. And the view from up there is always outstanding. You get a nice view of the former whaling station, where later also the BAS (British Antarctic Survey) had a base, with Neptune’s Window and Neptune’s Bellow in the background. But it is also a good spot to see most of the inner part of the caldera.

After I got back from the walks, I saw some crazy guests who decided to go swimming in the freezing water. I guess they where mislead by the information that the volcanic activity would have warmed the water. On the one hand it is true, but on the other hand only for the first one or two 2 meters, which they obviously didn’t know …

Anyhow, back on board all guests had another Recap & Briefing. Together with Anja (she wants to say “hello” to her mum) we held our Recap & Briefing with German-speaking guests in the Observation Lounge. After explaining the plans for the following day, Anja talked a bit about krill and I a bit about the volcanic history of Deception Island.

After a quick dinner in the officer’s mess I wrote (write) these lines, and now I have to get to bed as activities will start for me at 06:00 tomorrow…