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Published: February 21st 2019
9. Whalers Bay - Pt Foster Deception island, the caldera of an active volcano, South Shetland Islands
We were heading towards the narrow entrance to the Whalers Bay, Pt Foster Deception island, the cauldron of an active volcano. The day was 1 C degree with a breeze and we were doing a landing on the black sandy beach. Digging down into the black sand was lovely and warm due to the thermal activity which continues. The steam was coming off the water which was beautiful.
The Captain steered the ship through the narrow entrance ensuing that he dodged the massive boulder in the middle of Neptune’s Bellows, the entrance. The surrounding mountains were streaked with snow, reminding us of a favourite spot of mine in Norway. In fact, as I was giving out our business cards, we had used the photo of that spot …. And I even was wearing the same jumper!!!
After a very short zodiac trip to the beach, I picked up a couple of walking poles and headed for the mountain walk, but first, along the beach. Tom had decided to do some washing so he came
on a later zodiac.
Along the beach were many large fur seals, some playfully fighting.
Unexpectedly there was a Norwegian research ship behind us. Normally there was only one ship at a time allowed into the cauldron, but this ship was coming to pick up researchers who had been on site for 90 days studying a Pinstrap penguin colony.
Our residential historian gave a talk on the history of the sunken caldera and whaling station. Whaling began in 1910 and ended in 1931. It was a natural location: a safe and deep harbour with large quantities of melt water running off the Island’s glaciers. It was in1967 and 1969 when the final volcanic eruption forced the vacating of the island. In 1990 there was a team of people who came back to the cauldron to clean up the region, removing the oil, fuel and other toxic material to make it safe for tourism and other research.
We walked around all the destroyed buildings including the aircraft hanger as well as the whale oil tanks and living quarters.
I walked along the black beach, dodging the
fur seals as I went. The wind was cold, but I soon warmed up, walking up the slop to the beautiful natural lookout, outside the caldera. There was a sheer drop from where we were standing. The view back into the caldera was also stunning and we were only looking at a small section of the inside of this massive volcano which erupted the 1st
time over 10,000 years ago.
We then returned back to the ship for the movie, ‘Sailing around Cape Horn’, about an old sailing ship and one of its adventures around the Horn, narrated by one of the sailors who, risked his life as all sailors did back in the 30s and 40s. This massive ship had no engine and was driven only by its men and wind. The narrator was hilarious at times!!
10. Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands
Our final zodiac ride for this amazing expedition was to Half Moon Island near Livingston Island n the South Shetland Island group. The island is 2 kms long, crescent shaped, and an island known to sealers as early as 1821. The Argentine Camera Station is
located on Half Moon’s southwestern side.
We made our rocky, black beach landing and immediately headed for the large Chinstrap penguin colony. On the way we saw mature fur seals and a Leopard seal. We had noticed the reduction in snow as we were heading further north. Our historian told us later that when he first came to Antarctica there were so much more snow and glaciers as well as sheet sea ice. Interesting!
That night, we enjoyed the Captain’s dinner and celebrating with the ship’s staff. Kaylan thanked all her staff as well as the hospitality staff and sailors. She has been an incredible cruise leader. One could see clearly that she had the respect of her team. The Captain had gone ‘the extra mile’ to ensure that we could see as much as possible, of the regions we visited. He always had a plan B if the seas were against us. He and his sailors would steer the ship in to spot that many could or would not, but all with our safety in mind of course. We were very pleased to be in a ship this size.
catering manager carried in a very large icecream cake that was made into what looked like Paradise Harbour with iceberg and mountains all around. It even had seals in the water and penguins on the mountains. A very nice touch.
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