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02/12/2008

Deception Island & Yankee Harbor, South Shetland Islands

Early this morning we arrived to Deception Island. So-named for its narrow, inconspicuous entrance, Deception is a volcanic caldera with a massive embayment inside. We passed through Neptune’s Bellows and turned to enter Whaler’s Bay, where thousands of whales were processed during the early 20th century. We went ashore where there were many historical monuments to be seen from various eras of human occupation, most of them partially buried by cinders and mud from the last great eruption of 1970. At Neptune’s Window, the spot from which Nathaniel Palmer putatively first spotted the Antarctic Peninsula, we saw beautiful blue ocean, as the sun finally shone. To either side, Pintado petrels called from their cliff nests in the ancient solidified ash flow. Several intrepid swimmers took the plunge into the icy sea at the landing site, wondering what had happened to the supposed geothermal waters of the island. Warmly bundled onlookers enjoyed the scene and handed towels to the quickly retreating plungers.

Back aboard we enjoyed gluwein and hot chocolate on the pool deck as the ship repositioned northward. A gorgeous rainbow was seen behind the ship during lunch. Not long after that we arrived to Yankee Harbor on Greenwich Island, once the site of a huge sealing operation in the 1820s. On the raised beach we watched Gentoo penguins with young chicks, male fur seals, dozens of skuas fighting over scraps of penguin skin, and a mother-calf pair of humpback whales feeding close to shore. As this was our last outing of the journey there were many folks who did not want to leave. At recap John told us about the massive volcanic events at Deception Island in the late 1960s and Norbert recapped the geology of each of the several sites we had visited. JJ presented a hilarious talk about towel use and Suzana briefed us on the morrow. We headed back to the Bransfield Strait and headed toward the Drake Passage after another fine day in the Antarctic.

   

A passenger stops along the shore in front of the Explorer II while anchored at Deception Island.

Those crazy enough to go in Antarctic waters were very vocal about the temperature!

A Gentoo penguin with its chick sits at the colony at Yankee Harbor.

Passengers photograph a group of male fur seals while a gentoo penguin looks on.

Who's watching who?


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