We sailed all night to reach our final excursion destination, and awoke to gray skies and fog nearly obscuring the craggy point of rocks called Baily Head on the outer banks of Deception Island, a most unique spot off the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula.


As you can see from the map the island is somewhat horseshoe shaped, and there is a very good reason for this. Not only is the bay inside the island the result of a volcanic eruption, it is officially classified as "a restless caldera with a significant volcanic risk". So, of course, we sailed into it!

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The island is more than half covered with soot-stained glaciers and ringed by hills, the highest of which is 1768' above the sea. Freshwater springs continually drain to both the inner and outer coasts and several lakes are located in the interior.

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The world's largest colony of Chinstrap penguins lives on Baily Head, boasting an estimated 100,000 nesting pairs. The seas were quite rough the morning we arrived which made landing on the black sand outer beaches impossible, but we bounced around the outer coast for several hours watching the penguins, leopard and elephant seals, and a few Humpbacks.

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After our morning cruise the captain took us through Neptune's Bellows (so named because the winds are channeled fiercely through the narrow opening to the caldera) and into Port Foster, anchoring in Whalers Bay. Here we were greeted by the ruins of an old Norwegian whaling station that operated from 1911-1931. Later, in 1944, the British Royal Navy established a base on the site (expressly to deter Germany from doing the same thing), and after WWII the base was generally converted for scientific research until the volcano reawakened first in 1967 and again in 1969 forcing permanent abandonment. Today, Argentina and Spain still maintain summer scientific stations there, although I presume they keep a structured evacuation plan.

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As we approached the shore in our Zodiacs, we could see steam rising from the beach. There is a significant amount of geothermal activity there, and steam vents heat the water near the shore to around 105°F. Move a few feet out into the bay though, and it's again a chilly 30°. Water temperatures up to 158°F have been recorded in other parts of Port Foster! The notch in the cliff behind the Zodiac is called Neptune's Window, and it's purported that Antarctica was first spotted in 1820 from there by Nathaniel Palmer, the first to set foot on the continent.


The eruptions in the late 60s caused extensive mudslides and turned this part of the island into a moonscape.


This smelter was partially buried by volcanic mud.

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The whalers and later scientists tried to brighten up the monochromatic existence of Deception Island by painting their rooms in bright colors.