Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last stop--Deception Island (December 15, 2011)

We had a very important mission today--to pick up the rest of our Oceanites team on Deception Island.  Four Oceanites members have been traveling aboard a yacht around Deception Island for the past two weeks in an effort to count all of the Chinstrap penguin colonies on this island.  As there are well over 80,000 pairs of Chinstraps breeding on the outside of this island, they needed an extended period of time at this site.  It was great to reunite with Ron Naveen (the president of Oceanites), Mike (my lab mat at UNCW), and Thomas and Steve who are long time members of the Oceanites team.

Weddell seals lounging on a frozen lake in Telefon Bay, Deception Island
Deception Island is unlike any other site in the Antarctic Peninsula.  Deception Island is an active volcano, having last erupted in 1972.  Entering into the caldera of the volcano is always fantastic to watch.  It is quite a narrow entrance and very shallow, just deep enough and wide enough for a ship.   Our first stop was Telefon Bay; it was very windy and raining/snowing/sleeting during our hike.  The fog was low and thick.  Being on this island is what I imagine being on the moon must be like, it is like being on another planet.

Chinstrap penguins coming ashore on Deception Island


After spending a few hours hiking around Telefon Bay, we sailed a short distance into Whalers Bay.  Known as one of the safest harbors in the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island was first used by sealers in the early 19th century.  In 1906 a large whaling operation was started by a Norweigan-Chilean group in what is now know as Whalers Bay in Deception Island.  By 1914 Whalers Bay was home to 13 whaling factory ships.  The purpose of these stations was to process the whale carcasses and boil them down for whale oil in large metal tanks which still stand on the beach in Whalers Bay today.  Although abandoned in 1931 after a massive drop in whale oil prices, many of the structures and buildings used by whalers are still standing.  
The geothermal activity on this island often generates steam along the coast.
This photo shows parts of a whaling tank and guests walking along the beach in Whalers Bay.

A few of the remaining structures from the whaling station.

Deception Island was the last landing of this voyage.  This evening we will begin the long journey north through the Drake Passage back to Ushuaia, Argentina.  It was been a wonderful trip, on a great ship, with a fantastic staff and crew.  

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic photos! I envy your adventure. Thanks for sharing it.
    Frankie W.


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