Friday 26 February 2010

Deception Island

Slowly throughout the day the Drake lay down.   It was a relief to get in the more sheltered waters around the South Shetland Islands.  It was exciting to see our first icebergs today.  Within short order we had also seen our first penguins in the sea and our first whales.  Humpbacks! This only helped to build our excitement level for our first landing at Deception Island.
At 5pm we cruised through Neptune's Bellows which is the dramatic entrance to the hidden caldera of Deception Island (the reputed southern base of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus).
The cold overcast day added to the heavy atmosphere of Deception.  There were even a few snowflakes in the air. It was wonderful to stretch our legs again.
On shore to greet us was a rather large gathering of Skuas lounging around a small fresh water pool.  One of the expedition team told us it was the "Skua Spa" and that there is always some Skuas there in the summer. Down the beach was a large sleeping Elephant Seal. At the other end of the beach was a bachelor group of Antarctic Fur Seals, lots more Skuas and a flock of Kelp Gulls.

Our expedition team enthusiastically pointed out the hundreds of Salps in the water - small, clear, gelatinous barrel shapped tunicates.  At one point during the landing, thousands of dead krill washed up along the shore.  the Skuas and Kelp gulls had a short lived feast until the Krill washed back out again.

Everywhere there was left the signs of former human occupation: old whaling artifacts and buildings from a British Base.

Our first landing had a little of everything.  History. Geology. Wildlife. Snow.
What will tomorrow bring?