Deception Island, 63°S 63°W


11.-14.3. 2009

Deceptive Island



Deception Island is one of the South Shetland Islands. It is a special one. Not just because of the coordinates. It has a horseshoe shape with a narrow entrance, promising a good harbor. But it is deceptive - when you are entering, the depth drops, while you get inside it is too deep in most places to anchor. Thats where the name came from. The island is one of the most frequently visited places in Antarctic region by tourists on cruiseships and small yachts. It is place where possibly the largest penguin colony in the world can be found. Certainly no other place in the Antarctic has so much garbage as Deception Island. What might be surprising is the fact that most visitors come to see the garbage instead of the penguins but it is because a landing in the latter place is tricky if not dangerous. Everybody goes to Whalers Bay instead.


Old whaling station in Whalers Bay


So did I. The bay was chosen by the whalers and a large whaling factory was built there by the Norvegians. There was a frequent volcanic activity in 20th century. In 1921, water in the bay was boiling, taking off the paint of the ships anchored there (!). Later, in the seccond world´s war, a British base was built here to keep an eye on a possible enemies activity. Post-war territorial ambitions have to be covered by scientific purposes and the British station got two companions on Deception Island - Chilean and Argentinian base. They could be working on their research missions forever if the volcano (none of the three rivals ever questioned its primacy) did not have another plans. Series of eruptions was ended by a big one in 1969 and a mudflow turned the Chilean and later the British station in ruins. Everybody was evacuated but the destruction was severe and the island has its ruins until today. The mud partially floded the old whaling station, damaged all the houses and destroyed old cemetery, burrying some of the old whalers for the seccond time. The island showed how deceptive it can be. In other places on the island new bays and lakes were formed. (Surprisingly, the mudflow probably burried the Argentinian scientific interest. I found their station intact by the volcanic activity but abandoned. From a certain point of view it makes sense. Why to be there if the British and Chileans are gone! Another station - a Spanish one was built nearby, I did not see anybody there either).

    Windlass in Whalers Bay            A kitchen  


The winch was not probably used to pull anchors or ships but whales ashore. The stove commemorates later days of the British base.



A volcanic activity can be experienced untill today. Luckily in a more pleasant form. You can enjoy a hot bath in several places. Hot bath in the cold Antarctic air is an experience which I will remember for a long time. It was in Pendulum cove, the remains of a Chilean base should be there but it was so foggy that I did nor see it when I landed with my dinghy. I took my clothes off and I had to be going to the water quickly. The problem was that it was TOO HOT! I burned my foot and jumped out. I was running back and forth for some time to find a place where the water was just right. I was naked and it was just a few degrees above zero. It must have been a funny moment for somebody watching me. Luckily it was very foggy. The best strategy I used at last was mixing the water before jumping in, making the right temperature bath. (I have to say that the volcanic bath can also be deceptive here. You can be cold and burned in one spot simultaneously.) When I was ready the fog started to clear up and I saw the ruins of the Chilean station. It looked very scary.

    A coffin, from whalers graveyard            A fur seal likes the warm volcanic beach  


Animals do not mind the mess around. Sea lions occupie many of old boats and wooden drum remains and the scua favours a coffin.

One of many whaleboat partially covered with the mudslide



One afternoon I decided to visit Baily Head where thousands of chinstrap penguins can be seen. I arrived before dark so I could see something but I had to wait untill the morning. No problem because weak southwesterlies for two days made anchoring possible. I checked a weatherforcast with one of the cruiseships. It said 10 knots from NW so I was looking forward to go ashore in the morning. The only problem that the forcast was probably for another part of the Antarctic. I was blown away by a SW gale early in the morning. It was the last deception for me here. But I have an amazing memory of the Baily Head. What seemed to be a white rock pointing up to the skies was actualy the colony as I could see later. Thousands of penguins covering a high slope I wonder how they find their way back home from ther sea. Many fur seals on the beach and giant petrels and other birds in the water. A place sparkeling with life guarded by a very high cliff.

    A hill behind whalers bay            Lichens in whalers bay  


Colours at Deception are amazing. More flora can be found because of higher temperature on the island.

Deception about Deception


On my way from Deception, I was reading a book called 1421. Somebody was trying to persuade me that Chinese visited Deception island in the year 1421. The detailed story how this supposedly happened was ridiculous, rather impossible than just unlikely. Ignoring facts and full of confabulations. If the author was honest without pretending that it is a historical book I would take it. If an historian wrote it I would forgive him his ignorance of the weather and ice conditions. But the fact that it was written by a former submarine captain brought some suspicion. He must be deceiving because he can not be that ignorant, he is pulling my leg! Only the Deception island is allowed to do the business! I was sorry the book could not be treated as it deserves since garbage disposal into the ocean south of latitude 60 is forbidden by the Antarctic treaty. (Nothing against navigational achievements of the medieval Chinese but I found Gavin Menzies style dishonest and irritating).


Window in Whalers Bay

A scrap iron. Just a joke, Waterbird is in great condition and I am very happy with her. Nothing to complain about.



Ostrov Deception

O Antarktidu se hádá
Argentinec, Chilan, Brit
Deception je k jihu brána
stanici tam musí mít,

Sopka ten spor vyjasnila
kdo je vládcem území
u stanic si zasoptila
srovnala je se zemí

Tučňák, lachtan, noví páni
ti se spolu nehádaj
vulkanicky ohříváni
na sádlo si zakládaj

Koho život už jen nudí
v zátoce se vyválí
jedna půlka ještě studí
a druhá se připálí

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