We got a very early wake up call this morning. By 5am, we were approaching Deception Island.
Deception Island is the caldera of an active volcano. It is called Deception Island because, looking from the outside, it just appears to be a normal island; but it has a narrow opening that leads to the inner water, the island is actually a ring. The narrow opening is called Neptune’s Bellows, which is only 230 meters wide. The wind was strong. It took a bit of caution to navigate through.
Our landing spot is at Whalers Bay. Up the hill is called Neptune’s Window. It is a gap in the volcano rim. It’s about 100-meter high and most of us walked up and had a look of the outside of the caldera. Some Cape Petrels with their chicks nested on the cliff.
Deception Island has several Chinstrap Penguin colonies. As we walked down from the hill, several of them just swam back to the beach from the sea. With a black band under their heads, they are by far the most cute-looking penguin we’ve seen.
Further down on the beach, it’s the remnants of the old whaling station. The station was closed in 1930s’ as the supply of whales was almost exhausted. A serials of volcano eruptions in 1960s’ destroyed most of the station. Now a day, Deception Island has become a popular landing site of the Antarctic cruise. One of the activities is to make a warm bath by digging into the sands. In a better day, some water temperature can be very hot near volcanic area. It was a cold and gloomy day with a cutting wind, but there were still a few brave ones dare to dashing into the sea.
We went back to the ship at 8am. After the breakfast, Lex gave us a presentation about the history of the whaling industry. Blue Whales were abundant in nearly all the oceans on Earth until the beginning of the twentieth century. Especially in the Antarctic region, at the time of 1966, when whale hunting was banned, the number of Blue Whales has been reduced to 10% of its original population in 1900. Without the industry killing so many whales before the ban, whale watching wouldn’t be a tourist program as whales would be much easier to be seen in the sea.
After the lecture, most people went back to the room to get some rest. A Northern Giant Petrel followed our ship very closely. The way to distinguish it from the Southern Giant Petrel is that it has a red bill, while the Southern one is in green. Only people in the dinner room got chance to see it. Against the wind, gliding through the snow, sometimes it flew high above the ship, sometimes almost touched the wave. Its wings spanned 2 meters and never flapped. Watching it fly, I saw calm and determination.
After lunch, Stefan and the captain decided that our second planned landing of the day, Fort Point, had to be cancelled because of the weather condition. The wind is strong around the coast of Greenwich Island in the South Shetland Islands. Lex gave another talk about the seabirds of the Drake Passage. He is an active supporter of the Save The Albatross campaign. By the dinner time, we sailed into the Drake. We were now out in the open sea.