Due to bad weather conditions we had to forgo our early morning (05:30) landing at Baily Head on Deception Island. This weather is typical of the location but it doesn’t deter the large number (>100,000) of Chinstrap penguins whose Rookery is there. My first sight of land in over 48 hours was of Deception Island, so called because there is only a narrow gap in the caldera wall which wasn’t discovered for a while. At first glance it appears desolate with lichens the only decoration on the dark grey volcanic rocks.
Our initial landing was at Whaler’s Bay. It was raining heavily with strong winds blowing. The weather combined with the ascetic landscape presented an oxymoronic introduction to the polar desert I had expected. Usually bereft of wildlife we were welcomed ashore by numerous Gentoo penguins, Chinstrap penguins and a solitary Adélie penguin. I envied them their waterproof feathers as my hired water-resistant trousers were not up to the weather and soon I was soaked through. I hiked up to look out the natural break in the rocks that is Neptune’s window. One of the first sightings of the Antarctic Peninsula was from here but all we saw was a bleak, grey, rain-filled sky and a matching sea. How the whalers lived and worked here I don’t know. The beach is littered with all manner of abandoned whaling accroutements particularly whale bones, broken freshwater-barrels and the small rowing boats used for carrying the fresh water.
After warming up on the ship over a fabulous lunch we prepared for the afternoon landing at Telefon Bay. We split up into three groups here to do hikes of varying difficulty. We saw our first seals here – Weddel, Crabeater and some saw a Fur seal too. The waters here are supposedly thermally heated so twenty-one of us had intended swimming. Having felt how cold the water was I, along with eight others chickened out. A courageous dozen stripped to their togs (even this would have taken guts) and braved the frigid sea. None lasted too long though.