Photos and commentary from Feldman family vacations.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Deception Island

From Antarctica
As our guides told us we are not on a cruise – the ship is an expedition/passenger vessel! Today we went to an area called Deception Island and Whaler’s Bay in the South Shetlands. It is called that because it initially appears to be just an island with lots of jagged mountains and a shallow coastline. However, if one hikes up a few miles and peers through an opening in the mountain you can see that the island is actually like a doughnut with a lake in the middle. When we arrived in this area we learned that the wind gusts were exceeding fifty miles per hour so we decided to err on the side of caution and stay on the shoreline rather than take a hike. Turned out to be a good decision since most hikers turned back and only a few stalwart souls (the twenty-somethings group) made it to the destination.

Mike and I took a long walk along the shoreline looking at the remnants of an old whaling station. It was operational from about 1902 to 1930. Activities of the whalers nearly made whales extinct in the area and it was actually the depression that reduced the need for whale oil and later fossil fuels replaced it all together. The buildings were damaged by a volcano eruption in 1969 when a huge mud slide went through the middle of the buildings. On board our ship is a British guide who was in the British navy and was part of the rescue of the British researchers staying in the area at the time. He had some film clips he showed us later of the actual rescue.

The mile or so walk that Mike and took was amazingly taxing – the wind gusts were not so bad when they were at our back but returning when the wind was in our faces was hard. I could only do about thirty paces at a time and then I would turn my back to the wind and rest. I was grateful that the friends who made this trip last year told me to bring ski goggles because that was very helpful in deflecting the wind and blowing snow. We stopped half-way to see a lone fur seal sitting on a little bit of mud. He angled his head towards us – we were no more than fifteen feet from him and of course we snapped his photo. Later several Adelie penguins were right in front of us as we went back to the Zodiac to return to the ship. Some fools took the “arctic plunge” which is entering the frigid water in a bathing suit. This is unlike last year when the water was actually warm. The temperature was forty degrees or less. Again the young folks did this activity.

We ate our lunch and immediately returned to our cabin completely exhausted. We fell asleep completely clothed – I even had on my jacket.  Thought I would just rest a bit but woke up two hours later!

That afternoon the captain took us very close to some very large icebergs that could have come from either the Roth or Larsen ice shelves. I have learned many things about ice such as the salt water is highly corrosive to ice and the icebergs can roll and when they roll they are extremely dangerous. The National Ice Center tracks glaciers, icebergs, ice shelves, etc. Icebergs can travel great distances and one was tracked to New Zealand last year. Some are one hundred fifty by twenty nautical miles long – they can be 300 feet thick.

We loved watching the penguins playing on the icebergs sliding up and down and sometimes suddenly being washed into the sea. Several whales were also spotted during the afternoon. That evening we entered Cuverville Cove – again majestic with lots of activity between fur seals, birds and the ever present penguins. Let me explain that there is no set course for our route as the captain makes decisions based on weather, wind speed, ice flow etc. so it is often a surprise as where we might go next.


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