Deception Island and Its Weather
When I awoke we had already set anchor at Telefon Bay in Deception Island. Why the name, you might ask… well… this island is in the shape of a horse shoe and has one narrow entrance which is difficult to navigate through thanks to shallow areas towards the shore. It’s not actually a complete, dense island; rather, this is the crater of a volcano! In years past there were whaling stations in the internal bays, but thanks to eruptions in 1967 and a much stronger one in 1969 it is not actively used, and the old buildings are now historical sites with restricted access to them.
The internal bays have a water temperature which is a few degrees warmer than water temperatures in the seas surrounding Deception Island due to volcanic activity below. At its deepest it is about 130km to 150km deep, according to the crew which led us around. In some areas the water temperature was actually quite warm… but do not be fooled… it’s cold as ice in general. That being said, not many animals live on the internal side of the island because krill, the main food source for basically everything down here, cannot survive in the higher temperature waters.
We were again blessed with a beautiful day, at least by Antarctic standards, and with that headed out for a full day of exploring. The 4 Desert runners headed out first again, followed by the mountaineers, and then the rest of the group. Kayaking was cancelled for the morning due to slightly strong winds but a group did go out in the afternoon.
We started the day taking the Zodiac from the main ship to the shores of Telefon Bay. The runners were already running, and we quickly grabbed our snow shoes and began to hike up the slopes of the surrounding hills. The views of the bay were special, and it was fun to see the full length of the running course. Today they did a loop of about 2.9km. But better, of course, was getting up over the hill and seeing an ocean of white and black. The island is like 57% glacier, and the rest is composed of the volcanic material which has come through over the years, hence the black color. It was great to get out of the boat, explore the area a bit and to be physical for the morning.
In the afternoon over lunch we took a Zodiac trip around the bay. Along the way the boat drivers pointed out interesting areas of note, talked a little about the history of the bases in the area, and perhaps most interestingly stories about the old whalers… back in the day they literally had to row themselves right up to the whales, pick up a super-duper heavy harpoon, try to hang on and not get thrown into the water as the whale trashed about in agony, etc… not easy. With the advent of diesel fuel and the gun-style harpoon whaling became more efficient and easier, much to the detriment of the local seals. Scuba divers in this area say it is eerie being in the water as there are the remnants of thousands upon thousands of whale bones in the water… sad.
Anyway, Pendulum Bay was special as steam could be seen coming off of the water. Here, the volcanic activity heats up the soil and the water. The difference was quite noticeable. The water was warm to the touch as was the soil. Pretty cool. There was also the skeleton of an old base on the bay, but as with other historical sites we were not allowed to visit it… aside from the historical nature of the site, asbestos was also used in the construction of the site and we wished to avoid it.
I must say, the highlight of the day was participating in my first Polar Dip! In its simplest form, the dip consists of taking a swim in very cold water… I’m told that this is often done naked, but we all opted for a bathing suit version. Taking the Zodiac from Pendulum Bay back to Telefon Bay we were greeted but a bag full of clean towels to support the participants. At first there was only one brave soul keen to do it, and in no time a group of about nine of us mustered up the hutspa to take the dip. Half-naked and totally unorganized, a Swedish woman took the lead and bolted herself into the water. We all followed suit. I was the only dumb-ass to run out and completely dive head first into the water… totally worth it. I must say that while very cold, it was not as bad as I was expecting. The worst part was just trying to clean the sand from between my toes once back on the little beach. I will do this again once in Antarctica proper.
After a nice warm shower we all met in the lounge. The runners stopped running, the crew packed everything up, they pulled up the anchor and we set sail again… this time towards Paradise Bay in the Antarctic Peninsula!!! Passing through the passage on a big ship like ours was a cool experience. We passed by the old whaler’s station on the left and despite being through 2 volcanic eruptions it was still in pretty good shape. Once we hit the open ocean again we could instantly feel the ship start rolling again, enough to roll us to sleep for a big day to come.