Day 5 |
Dec 03, 2009

Deception Island

By Anja Nordt, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 62º 90’ S, 60º 33’ W

Weather: overcast, -4ºC

Our destination for today was Deception Island – a unique island in every respect. It is a collapsed volcano, providing a sheltered natural harbor. Captain Stahlberg navigated the Prince Albert II carefully and safely through “Neptune’s Bellows”, an only 230-m wide strait with the hull-piercing Ravn Rock lying close to the surface directly in the center of the narrow channel. As an example of what may happen to vessels with less experienced captains, we could spot at the northern coast of Entrance Point the shipwreck of a whale-catcher that ran aground in 1957.

The passage lived up to its name. A strong wind was blowing; nevertheless some hardy guests observed the maneuver from the outer decks.

Our first landing this morning was almost prevented by a thick belt of ice covering the beach. With combined efforts we managed to clear at least 4m by pushing, pulling and throwing away big pieces of ice to provide a safe landing, so guests could visit the old research base and former whaling station at Whalers Bay.

The station was of great importance during the 1960s due to the supply flights that were undertaken from here to other British research bases further south in Antarctica. In 1969 the base was terribly destroyed by a mudslide released by a volcanic eruption causing the glacier above to melt. Nowadays the white snow on and in the moldered huts, rusting boilers and tanks give it a bizarre appearance.

Wandering along the shore towards Neptune’s Window provided a unique possibility to watch Antarctic terns foraging on krill, a small crustacean, and an ordinary rock at the beach at first glimpse turned into a sleeping Weddell Seal at the second. A lonely chinstrap penguin that crossed my way back to the landing site stirred my ornithological blood as well as a bunch of at least 35 Cape Petrels resting and feeding obviously undisturbed in the water. I could spend hours and hours watching the wildlife, with my feet dug into the warm black sand, which is heated by subterranean volcanic vents.

The outstanding good food during lunch served by Uta and her team in The Restaurant braced us for the afternoon activities. We visited a spectacular place to experience geology – a hike was undertaken in Telefon Bay. Climbing a gentle slope ended abruptly and unexpectedly with a breathtaking view from the rim into a crater formed by some recent volcanic activity.

The late afternoon brought another highlight: we pretended to be an icebreaker and crashed through the sea-ice which had drifted from the other side of Port Foster towards the entrance of the Bay. In the distance we saw some Weddell and Crabeater seals on the ice and everybody felt sorry for a penguin directly in front of the ship. Fortunately it turned out to be a blue-eyed shag rather than a penguin, so it could fly away, which a penguin couldn’t do, as all guests, who joined my lecture about “The Penguins of the Antarctic” this afternoon, well know.