We sail towards Deception Island
We have had to change plans, so are the expeditions, the weather rules, I received an email from the airline DAP “The only one that operates in Antarctica”. We had the flight from King George Island to Punta Arenas for the 16th and they have advanced it one day, so it’s time to run and navigate at night, there is still enough visibility and the icebergs look good, plus the radar works very well.
One of the most striking aspects of this island is the name it has. When we talk about Deception Island, it is inevitable to think who put that name and the reason it had. As a curiosity, this island does not disappoint anyone , much less all those who love Arctic landscapes.
The name Deception Island is due to a mistranslation of the English term “deception” since it really wanted to baptize the island as a hoax and not as a disappointment in itself. Why a hoax? If you stay reading you will learn much more about Deception Island.
The origin of deception
Deception Island owes its name to Nathan Palmer, an American sealer who baptized this island under the name of “Deception Island” for the deceptive appearance it has. Nathan Palmer thought it was just another island, an ordinary island in Antarctica, but the reality was quite different.
Below this island is an active volcano that is surrounded by warm land. This volcano is known as “flooded caldera” and it is this volcano that makes this island so particular. The heat generated at the bottom of the volcano serves to warm the surface, making Deception Island one of the few places in Antarctica that cannot freeze.
That it has a volcano meters below in its interior causes that the landscape of Deception Island itself is also unusual. This island has a striking contrast where the land mixes with black scoria and solidified lava and, of course, the immaculate ice of the Antarctic surface.
Deception Island is claimed by several countries, from the United Kingdom to Argentina and Chile. The island was discovered by the British and occupied by the Spanish during the colonial period. As a curiosity, during World War II, in 1941, the British army destroyed all the tanks and coal reserves that remained of the German whaling company. Aktieselskabet Hektor Whaling Company that he was on the island for fear that German troops would use him as reinforcement.
What's Deception Island like?
Throughout history there are many who have tried to conquer Deception Island. Although it may seem that an inhospitable island is easily conquered, the truth is that this thought is far from reality. We’re talking about a lot of different groups, each with their own motives, from whalers and scientists, to sailors and pirates. The truth is that settling on top of an active volcano is not a good idea as a good account of it gives the only existing cemetery on the island with 45 graves.
To all the dangers that the island has had to face we must add one more, the massive arrival of tourists. It is clear that carrying out an expedition to Deception Island is attractive to more than one. Due to the place where it is located and its own nature, an excursion to Deception Island becomes an adventure incomparable to any other.
The climate of this island is pleasant, especially if we compare it with everything that is around it. In fact, thanks to the volcano inside, a microclimate is created that softens all the temperature around it, making the temperature up to three degrees Celsius higher than the rest of places with the same latitude.
Although it may seem like a desolate island, the truth is that it keeps a geological structure of the most complex and, in the past, has had a life of the most hectic. Throughout history Deception Island has vomited millions of tons of lava through more than thirty volcanic craters.
All this has served to create the unusual atmosphere it has. We are talking about unique black sand beaches that, in addition, are overflowing with animal life inside. The flora and fauna so particular to the island itself has attracted the attention of many scientists.
The flora of the island is scarce, but exceptional. It has at least 18 species of mosses or lichens that have not been documented anywhere else in Antarctica, in addition, two of them are endemic. As for its fauna, the 9 species of seabirds that breed on the island stand out.
Deception Island is home to the world’s largest colony of chinstrap penguins, specifically on the southwest coast. On this coast nest around 100,000 pairs of penguins.
As if it were an oasis of water in a desert, Deception Island is a contrast compared to everything around it. In a place where the cold prevails, there is a piece of volcanic land where heat is a reality.
Deception Island's fishing industry
Having such a suggestive flora and fauna has allowed more species to be attracted to the island. There are many seals and whales that have approached the island in search of food and, without looking for it, they found a growing fishing industry without any scruples.
In 1820 the first whalers and sealers arrived on the island. The uncontrolled hunting that took place on the island about seals and whales almost led to the extinction of seals in the place. During that period of time an entire whaling industry was built to be abandoned five years later. Today, it is possible to see the remains in the Caleta de los Balleneros.
During all that period of time lived on the island about 200 people who were responsible for butchering whales and seals to process their oil. Estimates suggest that in one year they may have killed about 5,000 whales, a truly spectacular figure. Today, this is a thing of the past and it is a historical monument that is protected by the Antarctic Treaty.
This treaty has been created to find modern solutions to the use of the island. The treaty has some regulations that are mandatory. For example, it is intended to regulate the entrance to the interior of the volcano and it is also forbidden to dig in the sand in search of thermal baths. As we will see later, bathing is possible since there are some more natural holes that have that water a few degrees warmer.
The conservation of the island’s own structures and buildings is also sought. Recently several graffiti have been found on the walls of the buildings and this is something that is totally forbidden to do on the island.
There is a code of conduct for visitors that you must learn if you want to carry out a visit to Deception Island. This code is much more important if we take into account the number of people who visit the island today and who put its natural state of conservation at risk.
Treating the island with respect is the smartest way to enjoy it and allow others to enjoy it too. It is totally forbidden to write about any man-made or natural structure.
What can you visit in Deception Island?
Do not think that Deception Island is a desolate place, since you can visit a lot of points of interest. One of the things you can visit are the military bases that are located on the island. These military bases are a few barracks with few amenities that are enabled for the research work carried out on the island.
Another point of interest on Deception Island is Puerto Foster Bay. In this Bay Port Foster there is an opening of 150 meters that is known by the name of Bellows of Neptune. The particularity that it has is that the water that is inside is several degrees above the rest of the waters, which makes it a kind of thermal spring.
Thanks to these “fountains” it is possible to enjoy an outdoor bath in the Arctic without having to worry about being cold. This is possible thanks to the heat emanating from the volcano itself.
Finally, you can also see and visit the remains of the old whaling stations that were built on the island. There are also monuments honoring people who lost their lives at sea and remains of other military bases in the past.
All this is much more welcoming when we talk about the place where it is located, a privileged enclave of nature where thanks
In Deception Island
It seems that we will arrive at 7 in the morning, we will be only a few hours, we will visit the abandoned whaling factory, we will approach the Gabriel de Castilla base and maybe we can visit it. We can only be a few hours to set sail for King George, they are 70 miles and you have to arrive before the wind intensifies, my goal is to be on the 15th of the morning at about 2 hours, the flight has been scheduled for 15 hours.
It is a pity that this great expedition is shortened, I always feel sorry when they leave, you get affection for them, they learn to take the boat and I almost do not have to do anything but guide them and make decisions, we do this between Lucas and me, it seems that we make a good team, there is also Guillermo who has been working with us for more than 10 months and I did not have the opportunity to sail much with He, I am delighted with his functions and finally the boat has more and more order …
Regarding the rest of the crew it must be said that they are cheerful, collaborative, polite and very good people, they have made a very united group, I will miss them. I always remember the Great Vito Dumas “when your friend’s hand starts to warm up you have to let go and keep moving forward”
My shoulder hurts more and more, I hope it’s nothing and in a couple of days I start to improve, I’m also a little lazy, like with a feeling of flu and a churning stomach. I have made a white rice to see if I straighten up a little because there is a lot of trouble ahead, some crew leave, others come, you have to prepare the boat and set sail as quickly as possible to escape the bad weather …
In this other Expedition we will try to know the northeastern area of the Antarctic Peninsula and look a little into the Weddell Sea, we will see how we are given…
My eyes hurt, I’m going to have to stop writing.
Today we saw seals, whales, penguins and icebergs of all sizes, the day dawned sunny and the sea was calm…
It’s not cold
I pass the position in case you want to google a little
Position S 63.39.43 W 61.04.11
Wind 10 knots
Water temperature 1.4 (it’s cold, I attest)
The atmosphere of the crew, well, they would have liked to stay longer…
My eyes hurt
I’m still on call, I have about 4 more hours left…
My guard, your guard…