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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Antarctica - Deception Island, a Volcanic Cauldron

Deception Island is one of the safest harbors in Antarctica. The island is the caldera of an active volcano, which caused serious damage to the local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. The Island previously was the home to a whaling station and is now a tourist destination and scientific outpost.

Since the early 19th Century, Deception Island was a favorite refuge from the storms and icebergs of Antarctica. Sealers used the haven, but the volcano destroyed most permanent facilities.  Whaling operations followed in the early 1900's. The whale blubber was processed on the ships and the carcasses were boiled down in large iron boilers to extract additional whale oil and stored in the iron tanks seen here.  As many as 1000 whale carcasses a day at the peak were boiled down at this site. Whale oil prices dropped during the Depression and the station was abandoned in 1931. Thirty-five men are buried in the cemetery along with a memorial to others who were presumed drowned. It is amazing to think that less than 100 years ago, men were hunting down and killing these beautiful and gentle creatures.


We hiked up the sides of the cauldron to Neptune's Bellows. Our guides knew we were looking for a bit of exercise and assisted us in finding interesting sites to visit here and where ever possible!

Today the remains of the whaling station set a desolate backdrop for a large Chinstrap Penguin Rookery with up to 100,000 pairs. Also, because of the volcano, the  black sands and water temperature can warm up to 70 degrees.  On the day we visited, Andy assures us neither the sand nor water temperature were any where near 70 degrees. Then why, may we ask, did he and others go swimming and take the Polar Plunge?

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