Antarctica – 12/24 – Deception Island (Polar Plunge) & Lindblad Cove

Deception Island Crater

Early in the morning we arrived at Deception Island.  This island has a lot of history for the early explorers and also served as a whaling station for several of the early whaling operations.  All of that has stopped now and after some recent volcanic eruptions only 2 research stations are still left on the island.

It was a very flat and grey overcast day when we arrived.  There was no wildlife on the island.  Just a lot of grey volcanic ash and little bit of snow.  Obviously this doesn’t make for great photos but Miki was able to stop some interesting texture in the ash which I think makes an interesting photo.  This is a color photo.  It hasn’t been processed as a black and white photo.  Just shows how flat the light was that day.

Color landscape photo of Deception Island

There is still a lot of thermal activity from the volcano which does produce some “hot springs”.  Hot Springs is a bit of misnomer.  The first 3 cm of water very close to shore is very hot but beyond that its as cold as you would imagine the water in Antarctica would be.  None the less… we join some of our hearty travelers and went for a dip.

Taking the Polar Plunge

Miki enjoying the Antarctic "Hot Springs"

After we enjoyed the polar plunge we continued onto Lindblad Cove where we would spend Christmas eve.  On the way there we spotted a pod of humpback whales feeding on Krill.  This whale also got an frightened bird for desert.

Humpback Whale almost eating a bird

Humpback whales catching krill with bubbles

The whales use bubbles to gather the Krill together and the swim up through the ball of krill with their mouths open to scoop up as much krill is they can in one big gulp.

Humpback whale feeding on Krill

Dennis, our undersea specialist wanted to catch some Krill for us to show what they looked like.  He hopped into one of the Zodiacs to get some for us and had a close encounter with the humpbacks.  Dennis is a great guy and is always one of the highlights during the daily recap of the days events.  However, we were all secretly hoping the whales would have gotten even a little closer to cause some real action for him ;)

Catching Krill

He did catch some Krill for us and its surprising how small these things are.  Amazing to think that these tiny things are what massive humpback whales and a lot of other species live off of.

Krill

and as soon as the whales showed up… they were off to feed elsewhere.

Humpback Whale Tail

Next up was Lindblad Cove and this was one of the highlights of the trip.  The cove was full of us but that didn’t stop the captain.  We made our way through slowly and the views were spectacular.

Panoramic of Lindblad Cove

Having this kind of view from the balcony of our room on Christmas eve was reasons this was one of the highlights of the trip.

View from the NatGeo Explorer on Christmas Eve 2010

I never got tired of taking pictures of the ice.  Here are a few more of the cool ice picks from the day.

Lindblad Cove - Ice

Lindblad Cove - Ice

Lindblad Cove - Ice that looks like a whale tail

Lindblad Cove - Ice

Lindblad Cove - Ice

Daily Expedition Report and a few more pics after the break.

Deception Island, Charcot Bay & Lindblad Cove

Did we really have a large pod of killer whales around the ship late last night as we made our way across the Bransfield Strait heading for Deception Island or was that just a dream?

Early this morning low mist obscured the island until we were almost upon Neptune’s Bellows; the narrow entrance that provides access into the inner caldera which is named Port Foster. As National Geographic Explorer cautiously threaded her way through this restricted entrance into the protected waters within, the mist began to clear, revealing blue skies and the recently formed volcanic scenery of our surroundings. The first landing of the day, Telefon Bay provided the opportunity for most of us to walk up to lip of one of the recently erupted craters on the island. The cinder covered slope of this small volcano made for easy walking up to some magnificent vantage points where we were able to gaze with wonder at this remarkable landscape.

Our next landing just a couple of miles across the caldera was at Pendulum Cove. Here an unexpectedly high proportion of our expedition members opted to test the temperature of the hot springs that are reputedly to be found here. The waters just at the shore edge were indeed steaming but judging by the screams and other reactions of most of the brave plungers, the polar water beyond the edge was not particularly warm!

During the afternoon it was full steam ahead almost directly south to start exploring the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. It was not long after lunch that the beauty of this part of the world was unveiled. High stratus clouds gave way to clear blue skies above the peninsula, revealing the stunning landscape of high, snow covered plateau stretching south as far as the eye could see. Vast glaciers tumbled down from the plateaus lofty heights to sea level far below. As we made the approach to Charcot Bay at the south end of the Trinity Peninsula three humpback whales were spotted ahead of the ship. These animals were obviously feeding and appeared to be oblivious to our arrival. They continued to feed on the rich concentration of krill that was massing in this area, offering us outstanding views of these massive, wondrous creatures.

Deep at the back of Charcot Bay is Lindblad Cove, a delightfully peaceful place, surrounded by ice cliffs formed at the interface of where glaciers reach the sea. This cove was still full of pans of sea ice and brash ice. Captain Oliver gave us a demonstration of how capable our ship is in such conditions as he gently cruised round the bay, slipping through the ice, like a knife through butter. Dark clouds on the horizon out to sea and shafts of low angled sun shine added a certain dramatic feel to the spectacular setting. On exiting the bay a large serpent-like leopard seal was seen on an ice flow. As we made our approach it was clearly unconcerned but would occasionally look up at us as we floated quietly by. Before we knew it another incredible day on the Antarctic Peninsula had come to an end.
by Rick Atkinson

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