Live #76, Deception Island, Half Moon Bay, Antarctica
31/03/2015 We arrived at the South Shetland Islands on the last day in March and also the last of our Expedition to Antarctica. After navigating into Deception Island, a caldera of an active volcano, we visited Whalers Bay and explored the remains of an old whaling station before rounding the trip off at Half Moon Bay and it’s colony of Chinstrap penguins.
Our lovely expedition leader Anna woke us up at 06:45AM. It was time to get dressed again quickly as we entered Deception Island through the very narrow and shallow Neptune’s Bellows. The captain did a good job navigating us safely through the passage without hitting any of the sharp rock formations just meters from our ship. Once we entered the caldera of an still active volcano, we could not really see a lot since the weather was pretty miserable and everything was covered in clouds. As we approached the island on our zodiac, I could slowly see the crater rim coming up in the background, rising up to 300m. Seals played around in the steaming water, heated up by the volcano below, and the first section of the old abandoned whaling station presented itself behind them in form of some old World War II fuel tanks.
One after the other Zodiac boat landed at the beach and the individual groups were sent to different spots. The fuel tanks and boilers looked really impressive, as did the other buildings that were still left here from the whalers that used the natural harbour because of it’s protection from the elements in the early 19th century. Everything looked black with lot’s of small details to be found, such as little boats that were covered by the gravel. We reached Biscoe House and climbed up a hill called Roberts Walk to get a good overview of the crater. It was pretty windy and cold, so nobody spent too much up there and instead walked down again where we would gather at the beach to have a nice bath in the hot water.
Down at the steaming beach, it smelled distinctively hydrogen sulphide (like bad eggs) and we were told to undress and have a swim in the water. It actually was really hot on the rim and most of us followed the lead and jumped in. Getting in a bit deeper, I quickly realised that the water was only really hot at the very small patch along the beach, but freezing cold once you get only a meter away from it. It was so cold that most of the people quickly returned to the hot spot, sadly it was not really deep enough to heat up quickly again. The crew stood by with towels for us and once I was dry and dressed again, I boarded the next Zodiac and headed back towards the Ship for our afternoon Snacks just when the Sun started to poke out of the clouds, finally offering us some nicer views on this pretty cool scenery.
We left Deception Island again and gathered for lunch. Everyone was just enjoying their starters when suddenly someone screamed “ORCAS!!!” – we would finally get to see the famous killer whales! All passengers and crew members were super excited when we first saw a cow and calf and then two big bulls in fair distance from our ship. It is not too common to see them during this time of the year here so we could consider ourselves lucky. Unfortunately, they quickly disappeared again in the ocean and I was not able to get some good shots. Seeing them live, though, was a great experience. Everyone returned to the dining area and finished the lunch, the kitchen did a good job keeping our main courses warm for us🙂
Next up was our final landing at Half Moon Bay, a small island not only featuring our well known gentoo penguins, but also a new species: the chinstrap penguins! Quiet a few of those white-headed guys with a black strap around their chin welcomed us coming off the Zodiac and we just sat down on the ground to observer their interactions with the gentoo’s. Other than the penguins, we also encountered fur seals, giant petrels, wilsons storm petrels and kelp gulls. The weather was pretty cloudy all day, making up for a nice atmosphere while we climbed up a small hill to look down to the other side of the small island.
It was awesome to watch the penguins jump up and down the slippery rocks, sometimes a bit hesitant and not sure if the next jump would be too far. For some reason, all of them gathered at the top of the hill and a complete armada of penguins came up from the beach. Half Moon Bay also featured something I would not have expected in Antarctica: A tiny spot covered in green moss! According to our guides, it is the only moss to be seen in all of Antarctica. We spent a few hours on the island and it just had started to rain, giving us a good reason to return back on board to receive a nice hot chocolate at 6PM. Two hours later, we would start our journey back towards the mainland of Argentina by crossing the Drake Passage again. A lot of people took their pills to avoid getting sea sick while I was secretly hoping that we would have some more action this time…
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