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CruiseDirection - Magazine May 2019

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Deception Island

Deception Island is an active volcano in the South Shetland Islands, near the Antarctic Peninsula. It is one of the most intriguing islands in the world with a unique landscape comprised of mysterious steaming beaches, magnificent glaciers and barren volcanic slopes. The island is horse-shoe shaped, with a flooded caldera. This volcanic depression connects to the sea via a narrow channel at Neptune’s Bellows, forming a natural harbour. This makes the island one of the few places in the world where ships can sail into the centre of a volcano. The island has an area of 98.5 square kilometres and over half of this area is covered by permanent glaciers. It is classed as an active caldera with a significant risk of volcanic activity. A volcanic alert scheme is used to indicate whether a volcanic eruption is expected or not. Green indicates that the volcano is dormant while red indicates that a major eruption is in progress or expected within the next 24 hours. The island has been claimed by Britain, Chile and Argentina and each of these countries has operated a research station on the island.  

The climate of Deception Island is polar maritime with a mean annual air temperature of -3 degrees Centigrade. Temperatures range from +11 degrees centigrade to -28 degrees Centigrade. However, around the fumaroles and geothermal waters the temperature can reach 70 degrees Centigrade.

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Why visit Deception Island ?


Deception Island location iamge - CruiseDirection

One of the most intriguing islands in the world

Deception Island is an active volcano in the South Shetland Islands, near the Antarctic Peninsula

The island is sparse, but it does have some exceptional flora. There are 18 species of moss or lichen found nowhere else in the Antarctic. Nine species of seabirds are found on the island, including the world’s largest colony of Chinstrap Penguins. As many as 100,000 nesting pairs are to be found at Baily Head on the south-west coast. Other fauna that can be seen on the island are Gentoo Penguins, Wilson Petrels, giant petrels, skuas, Antarctic Fur Seals and even Southern Elephant Seals.  

Deception Island is one of the most popular tourist sites in the Antarctic. Landing points for tourists are Whalers Bay, Pendulum Cove, Baily Head and Telefon Bay.  

Whalers Bay was the site for a number of whaling factory ships up until the beginning of the 20th century. The factory ships boiled the carcasses to extract the whale oil. Today you can still see the remains of some of the whale carcasses that were processed here. When the price of whale oil dropped sharply during the Great Depression that afflicted the 1920s, the factory ships were abandoned. Now all that remains are some derelict huts, a cemetery and rusting whaling equipment. The shoreline is covered by black cinders from the volcanic eruptions and is warm to the touch. The nearby Kroner Lake is the only geothermal lagoon in the Antarctic.  

Intrepid travellers can swim at Pendulum Cove. A narrow strip of shallow water along the beach, Pendulum Cove is heated by the active volcano, making it warm enough for bathing. It is also possible to scuba dive at Stancomb Cove in Telefon Bay. Although this is not a particularly interesting dive in terms of the marine life; it will be one of the few occasions when you can scuba dive in a volcano.  

When travelling to the Antarctic visitors should take several layers of clothing to keep warm. The three essential layers are thermal underwear for the inner layer, fleece or down jackets for insulation and finally waterproof and windproof garments for the outer layer. Clothing can be obtained from tour operators but there is a limited amount of clothing available on the boats and it tends to be expensive.

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