Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Deception Island 24/1/2012

The desolate landscape at Deception Island, South Shetlands

 From the impossible anchorage at Elephant Island, to one of the safest harbours in Antarctica: today we swam in the open mouth of an active volcano. The landscape at Deception Island bears zero resemblance to any of the penguin-populated beaches, ice-clad coastlines and fur-seal filled landings that we've experienced so far.

Volcanic cliffs at Deception Island

Despite its gloomy appearance, the blackened beach at Deception has been a refuge from the Antarctic storms for sealers, whalers and explorers, since the early 19th century. Today, the island is unoccupied, and whilst a few rusting boilers and tanks of a 19th century Norwegian-Chilean whaling company remain, other structures have since been buried in volcanic eruptions - most notably, the 1969 eruption. With a history of British, Argentinian and Chilean occupation, today the island is visited by cruise-ships and the occasional Argentinian - the latter seeming most intent on maintaining a presence here.

Gearing up for our second polar plunge

In with a splash: swimming in the Antarctic waters of the caldera

And straight back out again - brrrrr!
For us, the most exciting aspect of Deception island was the opportunity for an Antarctic swim and thermal bath. Tossing my clothes onto the volcanic beach and sprinting through the snow into the icy waters of the caldera, I managed a good 30 seconds in the sea, before I charged back to the shore to plunge my hands and feet into the hot earth: just a few centimetres below the surface, the ground becomes so hot that it starts to burn at your fingertips and toes. I relished the burn as it soothed away the numbness in my big toes and, after a bit of wriggling around, managed to find a comfortable position lying face-first on the shore, that almost struck a balance between the intense heat of the ground and the icy chill of the lapping waters...almost.

Thermal sands and ice-cold water at Deception Island

Thermal sands or not, I soon hot-footed it back to the M/S Expedition sauna for a hot chocolate with Kahlua!

The swimmers salute: back on-board the M/S Expedition

This blog-post forms part of a series of adventures experienced on-board the M/S Expedition in January 2012, whilst on an Antarctic Cruise - The Spirit of Shackleton - courtesy of Gadventures

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