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Day 15 - February 8, 2011 - Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island

By by Claudia Holgate, Climatologist

Co-ordinates: 62º09’S, 62º25’W
Weather: overcast, with light wind
Air Temperature: 2ºC
Sea Temperature:
Pressure:991Hp
Wind: 12km/h


Today was our last day on the Antarctic Peninsula and we were headed to Whaler’s Bay within the Deception Island volcanic caldera. Our entrance through Neptune’s Bellows (the very narrow entrance into the caldera is always spectacular and created quite a crowd on the upper decks as we steam in with massive lava cliffs seemed to close in on us on the sides. Once inside the caldera, we made our way towards Whalers Bay where we were to anchor for today’s landing.

The landing here is not one for wildlife, but rather for history, walking and swimming… yes swimming! We disembarked and had a choice of two walks, one up Ronald hill, which gives a spectacular view of the whole caldera, including some of the smaller volcanic cones within the caldera, the other hike was up to Neptune’s Window, which takes one to a section of the caldera where the edge is lower than the surrounding walls and when we walk up to the top we have a good look into the caldera and on a clear day, if one looks outward, you can see the Antarctic continent. I guided this walk today and even though it was too foggy to see the continent, the walk was a rewarding one. Along the shore side we encountered a number of skuas bathing or chasing each other, some even having aerial combat with an equally large black-backed gull.

The water’s edge was swarming with many Cape Petrels, which are such beautiful little birds with checkerboard wings that look as if they have been painted on. The water’s edge was littered with salp, which initially looked like small pieces of ice, until we had a closer look and saw these small tunicates with their transparent bodies and small red fecal patch. This is what had attracted the Cape Petrels who were feasting on these little jellyfish, although I wondered to myself as to how much nutrition could possibly be in an animal created almost entirely out of water. While looking at the salp, one of our guests also discovered a brittle star fish in the water’s edge; what a beautiful creature! Sometimes, we need to look at the small creatures to really understand the Antarctic food web.

As we walked back to the landing site, the tide was dropping and the geothermal heat started to rise along the shoreline, with the typical sulphurous smell and steam created from the volcanic heat warming up the water. This was what we were waiting for before going for the “polar plunge”. There were not too many takers for this traditional Antarctic event, however, those who took part and those who watched all had a whale of a time.

At 1pm we had to head back to the ship and get ready for our Drake Crossing, as this is the end of our Antarctic exploration, but by no means the end of the trip. In the afternoon, I gave a lecture on climate change, which always engenders debate, and later on Robin Aiello gave her very entertaining talk on her experiences diving in the Antarctic. As we are never at a loss for things to do on the ship, the Expedition Team gave a recap on Deception Island. As this was close to the end of our voyage, Luke’s recap covered the differences between the North and South and showed us what culture there is in the South in the way of the 2010 Antarctic film festival, a 48-hour project where teams in different Antarctic bases have to make a film in the middle of winter with certain code words, characters and sounds. This year’s included a grumpy diesel mechanic, a siren, mouthwash and the words “Where is my chicken?” Uli’s recap came next and was a combination of the Expedition Team doing silly things during the voyage and was a feature of much hilarity.

As day ends on the Prince Albert II, everyone went up to The Restaurant for another fabulous meal and a nightcap in the Panorama Lounge to finish off another successful day.

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