From Brown Bluff, the Sea Spirit ventured for a short distance into the Weddell Sea before turning back and sailing through the Bransfield Strait toward our next destination Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island.
As we were in the Weddell Sea especially, I was reflecting on the book “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing that I had read seven years ago which sparked my fascination with the Polar Region and Shackleton’s stranding. I was on the bow of the ship through our brief time in the Weddell Sea and it was very surreal watching the graceful Humpback Whales rise around our ship at sunset while thinking about Shackleton and his crew nearly 100 years ago.
The next day we arrived at Whaler’s Bay and Deception Island through the narrows of Neptune’s Bellows. The area is now a scientific outpost of Spain and Argentina (as I recall) and was an old whaling station from years ago. Rust covered cylindrical structures and weathered wrecked vessels now scatter the shore to mark the past. At the center is a caldera formed from a volcanic eruption in the late 1960′s, I believe. As we disembarked the zodiacs, the 2041 team lead pointed out that the water is warm just beneath the surface black sand and rocks (geothermal). Strange contrast to the glacier island coverage above…
We had two choices for a hike on this day. The long hike, with no set destination or short hike that would allow for more time to tour the historic building. Without hesitation…long hike and uncertain destination for me.
This hike was the most challenging. We hiked through loose volcanic rocks and the risks of injury were real. Relatively steep climbs, drop-offs, no set trail, scree…fantastic! About 30 of us reached the top and overlook of the entire Island and caldera. Breathtaking and the wind was gusting so strong at the top you could literally lean back against the wind, hold your arms out and fly. Incredible!
I have to say, the hike itself was incredible. However, Deception Island was in vivid and disturbing contrast (for me) to our previous Antarctic experiences because of the presence of the old whaling station. Having experienced the graceful beauty of so many whales as a highlight of our expedition and knowing thousands of whales had perished here (and why)…a sickening feeling struck me as we left the bay that evening (seriously).
On to our next and final Antarctica destination…the 2041 E-Base at Bellingshausen!