This was an amazing day of adventures.
On of the highlights of the South Shetlands is Deception Island which is were we were headed today. The island surrounds the caldera (called Port Foster) of an active volcano which seriously damaged local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. A portion of the volcanic caldera of Deception Island collapsed and flooded the interior and created an amazing natural harbor. The caldera has a diameter of about 15 km.
In order to get there we had to navigate through Neptune’s Bellows which was named so because of winds which howl through it. The actual access is 230 meters (755 feet) wide. Navigating the ship through the opening can be quite tricky.
- There is a rock (Ravn Rock) in the middle of the access.
- It lays only 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) below the surface of the water.
- The area to one side is foul which means that there is a reef.
- The remains of the shipwreck of a Norwegian whale catcher which hit either the Ravn Rock or the reef can still be seen in the passage, but I didn’t see it.
Because of these hazards, we only had 100 meters with which to navigate. I can certainly attest to the winds because I was out on the deck watching and trying to photograph.
Below are some photos of going through Neptune’s Bellows.
One view of the rocks on the side of Neptune’s Bellows…
Another photo of the rocks on the side of Neptune’s Bellows. Can you tell I liked these.
This is the other side of Neptune’s Bellows.
Once we made it through the Bellows, we entered Port Foster Harbor. We could see Whalers Bay which was the home to factory sailing ships as early as 1905. The bay was named by the French Antarctic Expedition 1908-1910 under Charcot because of its use at that time by whalers. Deception Island has been designated as a Historic Site or Monument which comprises all pre-1970 remains on the shore of the bay. But we didn’t land there until later in the day.
We crossed Port Foster and the first place we landed on Deception Island (which is the rim of the volcano) was Telefon Bay. We were told that this may be the first time the FRAM has gone to this place. This map shows Deception Island.
Telefon Bay is on the northwestern side of Port Foster Caldera and is named for a salvage vessel moored there in 1909 while it awaited repairs. A black ash apron slopes gently upward and inland for about 300 meters up to the steep face of the cinder-covered glacier …and crater from one of Deception’s recent eruptions.
Fred, Bill, Rick and Dawn, who are in our boat landing group, walked up about 1000 feet of the steep slope of Laguna Hill towards the top of Mt Achala. Of course many others in our group also did this. Deception Island is noted for being the largest active volcano in the region and one of the main sources of seismic and volcanic activity in the Antarctic. Hiking on an active volcano is a rarity and being in Antarctica made it even more special.
Sometimes I felt like I was hiking up Dog Mountain without the switchbacks. Fred encouraged me to keep climbing. He said that he had the camera set up at the top to take our group photo.
We sure were a happy group…
… and were jumping at the top when we arrived at the top.
Rick took another photo with my camera.
I kept being overwhelmed with how privileged I was to be standing here having my photograph taken.
We looked down into many coves and bays.
We continued down and around the other side of the mountain on a much gentler but longer slope. Some of the people in our group chose to come up the gentler side which must have been easier.
There were only a few penguins here, but we saw two seals. One I think was a Fur Seal
and the other one (white colored) was called a “Crab Eater” but it doesn’t eat crab.
Actually crabs don’t live in Antarctica. I think I heard from an OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) lecture that a few crabs have been sited recently which may be an indicator of global warming.
By the way, the volcano last erupted it the 1960s. Small eruptions may have been reported in the 90s.
Back to the bottom, we saw this Kelp Gull was just hanging out by the shore
Morten took another fabulous photo of a Skua in the water today.
For the afternoon launches we were the last group. We headed across Port Foster back to Whaler’s Bay.
- It was home to factory whaling ships as early as early as 1905.
- A shore station named Hector was set up in 1912 to process the meat and bones left behind by the ships.
- The station closed in 1931 after modern additions to the factory ships allowed them render the entire whale.
- During Operation Tabarin in 1942 the Britts built Base “B.”
- Both of these bases were finally destroyed by a mudslide during the eruption which lasted from 1967-69.
We walked around the abandoned buildings and equipment from the whaling station…
Before I left Portland, I had seen videos of people doing a polar plunge on another cruise ship voyage to Antarctica. In those videos the people jumped off the side of the ship and were hauled back onto the ship very quickly. During one of our briefings on the MS FRAM we were told that their rules were that we had to walk in from the shore and dunk down far enough to get out shoulders wet. That sounded like torture to me. I thought it would be much easier to just jump-in. But the staff explained to me that it was much too dangerous to jump into the icy water because of the instant shock to the body. So I decided, “No Way.”
Then Fred, Dawn, Rick and Bill told me that they were planning to do it. So, get ready for it, I decided that I would have another adventure. Wendy, who is from Colorado and was traveling with our Portland group, decided to join us.
After we finished taking our photos of the abandoned whaling station, it was time for the adventure. Of course, Fred set up his GoPro to record us. I ran into the water as fast as I could and as soon as I was deep enough to dip down over my shoulders and fulfill the requirement of the polar plunge, I was out of there. Yes, it was freezing (2°C (35.°F) but not torture.
These are the screen shots from Fred’s video.
You can see how far we were from the ship.
Since Fred took a bit longer to adjust the GoPro, he had to run into the water as we are running out of the water.
Bill, Rich, and Fred actually dove into the water before getting out.
I think if you timed us, it was over in a matter of seconds.
A staff member was standing on the shore waiting for us with towels. Andy took a photo of the place where we both undressed and redressed for the plunge. We could have used the inside of that structure, but the winds were howling through there. We very quickly put on our clothes and life vests sand took the next available PolarCirkel boat back to the ship.
After we got back to the ship I followed the directions of the staff and took a warm shower. Of course going into the ice-cold water was a trip, but sting of the warm/hot water hitting my cold body (even after the time it took to get back to the ship and into the shower by the sauna) was more torture than the icy water.
Sitting in the hot tub on deck 8 before dinner was a treat. Yes, we have 2 hot tubs (and saunas) on the top deck of this ship.
This challenge earned each of us another certificate. They called it, “Ice Swimming” even though I never actually swam.
I was pretty exhausted at the end of this day.