Half Moon Island in brilliant sunshine with Livingston Island behind it
Chinstrap Penguin with chicks on Half Moon Island
We put the ‘Guanomatics’ to good use today!
At Deception Island, Neptune’s Window fills with Le Boreal’s guests
Our super deck crew that gets us in and out of the zodiacs every day
Le Boreal - January 15, 2012
Halfmoon Island, Deception Island
Temperature: 37° F
Wind speed: 25 knots
Cloud cover: 15%
Under a perfect blue sky with spectacular mountain scenery all around, Captain Patrick Marchesseau dropped anchor off of Halfmoon Island in the South Shetlands. The zodiacs landed in calm conditions on a cobble beach with several chinstrap penguins in attendance to greet us. The decaying remains of an old wooden boat was laying slightly above the shoreline, and the brightly painted orange Argentine Station, Camara, could be seen in the distance on the southwest side of the island.
We made our way up the hill to the chinstrap penguin colony. Most of the chinstraps had two medium-sized chicks that were nestling in close with one another on top of a dome-shaped nest made of stones. Too small yet to be left alone and unguarded, the chicks were carefully watched over by one of the parents, while the other parent was out at sea feeding.
The whole scene at Halfmoon Island was carefully watched by several snowy sheathbills, which happily gobbled up any regurgitated krill that was spilled on the ground by the penguins. On one occasion, a sheathbill noticed an old unhatched egg that was lying in the gap between two penguin nests. With lightning speed, the sheathbill dashed into the opening, pecked a hole in the egg, and leapt into flight with the egg held firmly in its beak.
We left the chinstraps to their own devices and headed back to the ship for lunch. At a midday Recap and Briefing, Naturalist Rich Pagen and some fellow guests used bathrobes and Mars candy bars to introduce us to sheathbill behavior, while Historian Bob Burton gave us some background on Whaler's Bay and Deception Island.
Meanwhile, Captain Patrick Marchesseau pointed the ship in the direction of our afternoon destination, the famed Deception Island. Deception Island is so-named because although it appears to be a normal island at first glance, it is actually the flooded caldera of a volcano. It is shaped like a doughnut with a bite out of its side, and with care it is possible to sail a ship right inside the volcano itself! While Le Boreal made its passage into the center of Deception Island through Neptune's Bellows, Geologist Jason Hicks pointed out many of the interesting geological features of this fascinating place.
We landed in Whaler's Bay, which is the site of the partially buried remains of the Hektor Whaling Station, and the remnants of a British base, which was destroyed by a mud and debris flow that swept down the mountainside in 1968. We roamed the rusty remains of the station, and then took a hike along the beach to a break in the caldera wall above Whaler's Bay called Neptune's Window.
Large clouds of geothermal steam rising from the gravel shoreline enticed a few of the bravely foolish (or foolishly brave!) to take a dip in what is widely regarded as the best swimming hole in the Antarctic. A few confused chinstrap penguins looked on as one after another of us took the plunge into the icy waters.
As our landing was drawing to a close, a Chilean Navy ship came through Neptune's Bellows and dropped anchor not far from Le Boreal. Expedition Leader Larry Hobbs had mentioned that President Sebastian Pinera of Chile, and President Carlos Mujica of Uruguay were coincidentally scheduled to visit Deception Island on the same day as us, and so we kept an eye on the newly arrived ship to see what might happen next. As we returned to Le Boreal and the last of our zodiacs were being craned back onboard, two helicopters took to the air and numerous zodiacs to the water, dropping off key personnel from the Navy ship onto the beach. With binoculars and cameras in hand, we watched this historic event unfold before us.