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Deception Island I

62° 58' 47"s
060° 33' 23"w
Deception Island is a volcanic caldera. The volcano still puts out a lot of heat in different places. The last erruptions were in the late 60s where they buried an old whaling station turned research station. Black lava covers the beaches.

Hiking on the beach felt like we were on another planet -- firstly the terrain was totally different from anything else we'd seen, and secondly because we were all in our goofy water/wind/rain/cold-proof getups that made us look like astronauts or something. Along the hike everyone took their turns unwittingly walking through the territory of a couple of antarctic terns. They didn't appreciate the invasion, so they dive- bombed everyone who tresspassed. I got hit twice by their wings, but of course it didn't hurt. Their screaching was incessant.

This part of the beach used to be a whaling station in the early 1900s. A previous voyage that season brought a group of ex-whalers from Norway. Apparently they all openly wept when they didn't see as many whales as they thought they would and realized the damage that they had done all those years ago. Later the abandoned whaling station became a research station for the British Antarctic Survey, complete with an airplane hanger. All we found in the small hanger were a pair of wings.


Deception Island II

62° 56' 02"s
060° 36' 12"w
After our tour of the whaling/research area, we got back on the ship to travel 3 miles into the caldera where the heat was rising the most. There we boarded the Zodiacs for the beach, took off our gear and went swimming!

"Swimming" is a generous term. The water was plenty warm right on the edge of the shore, but quickly cooled off as you wandered out to sea. As a result, if you wanted to avoid freezing you had to lie on the edge of the shore where the water just covered your body. If you started to get cold, all you had to do was plunge your hands into the sand to release more heat. About half of the passengers went swimming and the other half watched and took pictures. I don't know how anyone could pass up the opportunity to say that they went swimming in Antarctica!

When you were ready to get out of the water, there was a bag of towels waiting for you next to your hot chocolate with optional rum. Once you are out of the water, that's about it, so I headed straight for the Zodiac. There were several brittlestars washing up on the beach, killed by the volcanic heat that they were certainly not designed to take.

As we sailed to our next destination we were on the lookout for icebergs. The first real iceberg spotted was the approximate shape and size of an aircraft carrier. I couldn't believe it.


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Mick@micktravels.com
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