Voyage Journal 7904 Day 13

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Day 13 - February 21, 2009 - Half Moon Island And Whalers Bay (Deception Island), Antarctica

By Claudia Holgate

Weather: 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7F)
Wind: North westerly 15 knots
Pressure 979hPa, 89% humidity
Co-ordinates: 62 34'45''South, 059 52'07'' West

After a fabulously clear still day yesterday, we woke up this morning to the entrance of Half Moon Island with a light, but overcast sky and a slight wind. It was slightly colder than yesterday, but by no means unpleasant. Half Moon Island is a sheltered bay with an Argentine base and a colony of chinstrap penguins. We had only seen chinstraps briefly in the water previously at Point Wilde, on Elephant Island, so this was a great opportunity to see them at close quarters. Most of the penguins are undergoing their catastrophic moult and are thus feeling rather sorry for themselves as they cannot go into the water until they have a completely new coat of feathers, thus they are on an enforced fast for between two and three weeks. Many of us commented that after the great food we get on the ship, an enforced fast would probably be a good thing. There were also still a number of the juvenile penguins who still had tufts of down on their heads or backs and were full of beans, exploring, fighting and doing what immature penguins do (primarily chasing their parents for more food).

At the landing site, we had the company of a very curious fur seal who constantly swam around the Zodiac, spy hopping to see who we were and what we were up to. The Base is a summer base, built in 1953 and accommodating 13 people, and is used primarily for geological research, although the occupants are currently here mainly for fixing up and maintaining the base, getting it ready for next year. We were invited into the base to see how scientists live in Antarctica and we found a very cosy base, with lots of memorabilia from visiting ships. Some of the Base's citizens also had the opportunity to come aboard, visit the Bridge and get a whirlwind tour of the Prince Albert II. Before long, however, we had to say goodbye to the chinstraps and head back to the ship so that we could make our way to our next landing for the day: Deception Island.

We entered Neptune's Bellows, the breach in the edge of the volcanic caldera, at around 1:30pm so that we could experience this magnificent entrance from The Restaurant while enjoying a fabulous lunch. Once inside the crater, we anchored in Whaler's Bay, which has the remains of a whaling station and a British Antarctic Base, which was destroyed by the eruptions in 1967 and 1969. We went on a great walk up to “Neptune's window”, where on a clear day you can see the peninsula. Unfortunately, the weather had deteriorated and it was snowing and the wind had picked up a bit, so our view was limited. We then walked along the beach to the whaling station and explored the whalers' graves. This was followed by the traditional polar plunge, which was not embraced by as many guests as in previous trips, however, there were some people ready for a challenge. The Expedition Team joined in the fray of running into the freezing water, even though some members had to be forcibly stripped of their outer layer of clothes. Much of the fun is watching the facial expressions and antics of the polar plunge participants. Deception Island made for a very pleasant afternoon walk, where we could avoid the fur seals, watch a few Chinstrap Penguins, Kelp Gulls and Brown Skuas. Everyone had a good time before we eventually had to head back to the ship. Soon we were back out through Neptune's Bellows and on our way to the Gerlache Strait for our last day on the Peninsula.

Our Recap & Briefing followed at 6:45pm with a little more information on what we were going to be doing tomorrow and some more on the places we had visited and the birds and mammals that we had seen. This, of course, was followed by another delectable meal in The Restaurant.

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