Backpacking in Antarctica: Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island

Position – 62o 59’S/60o 34′ W
Location – Whaler’s Bay, Port Foster, Deception Island, ANTARCTICA
Temperature – Baltic
Wind – Strong and severe
Weather Conditions – Cold, windy, dry
Date – Friday 12th November 2010
Time – 9.02 am

An active volcano, a magical island and an ex whaling station lay in store for us on our entrance into Deception Island in Antarctica. I say “entrance into Deception island” because as you can see from this map, you go into the island, through a narrow passage called Neptune’s Bellows…

Just before our ship’s captain had marvellously steered the vessel into Deception Island I was up early morning to have breakfast. The “C” shaped island is quite incredible, presumably named because once upon a time a boat sailed “into” it and couldn’t find a way out.

Nice breakfast treat as usual on board. I ate a lot on that trip and milked the food, missing only one meal (the lunch on the Drake Passage on the way back as I fancied a sleep!). I had a full breakfast as the day would be action packed.

On a zodiac into Whaler’s Bay

Arrival at the immense landscape at Whaler’s Bay.

The amazing volcanic terrain. Mixing lava with ash with stone with brick with gravel with sand.

I’ve never worked as a fisherman or a whaler so I have no idea what a whaling station actually consists of. But just to say one thing – I was in total awe of the entire landscape around me.

A fur seal I believe.

These large orangey browny things looked like oil cylinders. In fact that’s what they were. Unused though! This Whaling Station was closed following eruptions in 1967 and 1969. Yes, Deception Island is actually an active volcano.

Where we are at – Whaler’s Bay, Port Foster, Deception Island, Antarctica. I took time to read all of this.
It was actually incredible seeing so many large buildings here in such a cold climate. No doubt it took them a while to build them.
That incredible terrain and landscape that has you feeling like it’s all a dream.
The black volcanic ash contrasts with pure white snow giving Whaler’s Bay a look of pure peculiarity.
I was actually dressed all in black and this photo with my Northern Ireland flag actually looks rather scary. I don’t know why. But it had to be flown at Whaler’s Bay.
There are also some graves at Whaler’s Bay. The names have faded. Early sailors no doubt.
Another couple of graves in the sunshine and cold of Whaler’s Bay.
Another grave. I found out that the cemetery here once held the graves of 45 men (38 Norwegians, 3 Swedes, 1 Chilean, 1 Russian, 1 Briton, 1 Unknown Origin) who died a lonely death at this whaling station miles from their loved ones.
There were huts everywhere, these must have taken a fair effort to build, not just braving the cold but the severe winds and blizzards that hit Whaler’s Bay. Not to mention the risk of volcanic eruption. In fairness though, it is slightly secluded from the wind due to it being in a bay. You’ll find that hard to believe though as you walk along, dragging yourself forward in strong Antarctic gales.
This is Biscoe House, which was once used for accomodation and was owned by the British, more information can be found here:
John Biscoe was British – a master of the Royal Navy.
You can wander round the inside and outside of these ruins of buildings, which have seen better days – this was inside Biscoe House.
The buildings are all in need of repair – but since it is a defunct Whaling Station and no longer used then these will be left to the joys of nature.
Another building in better condition.
There are whale bones scattered along the “beach”.
And believe it or not there is an airport hangar here! Yes, this was indeed the only “airport” I seen in Antarctica (well runway and hangar!). Dis-used of course, but the ground was flat so there could have been a runway here. The hangar is 17 x 22 metres in size and made of corrugated steel. It was built in 1961 – 1962. We learn that indeed there was once a north to south running runway for planes just beside this hangar! A British Otter survey aircraft, stripped of its wings once stood derelict outside this hangar. However it was removed to the UK’s De Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre in 2004.
From planes to ships. I caught this little photo of our ship docked in Whaler’s Bay!
In case you wondered what the inside of an aircraft hangar in Antarctica looked like. Next flight to Belfast please!
The derelict hangar. It survived volcanic eruptions, severe winds and the cold climate.
Snow fills the hangar at Whaler’s Bay.
Another seal. A leopard seal I believe. We also saw a few gentoo penguins, a chinstrap penguins and a weddell seal.
Relaxing in the cold with the leopard seal.
The chinstrap penguin is lonely on the beach at Whaler’s Bay.
Carcass of a dead penguin. Yuk!
Some of our group had paid a lot more money to go kayaking. I hadn’t, but our joys would come as we were soon to go swimming in the ice cold waters here at Whaler’s Bay. I had my green Northern Ireland football shorts on underneath ready for my naked dip.
After a walk up to Neptune’s Window we would be back at the landing point on Whaler’s Bay for a spot of swimming. Report on that to follow!
Where – Whaler’s Bay, Port Foster, Deception Island, South Shetland Islands, ANTARCTICA
What’s There – A hangar, a graveyard, oil cylinders, huts, whale bones, Neptune’s Window
Animal Spotting – Leopard seals, fur seals, weddell seals, gentoo penguins, chinstrap penguins, petrels
FACT – The first ever flight into Antarctica was from Whaler’s Bay. On November 16th 1928, Australian Hubert Wilkins made the first powered flight on a monoplane called Los Angeles, flying for around 20 minutes
Activities – Kayaking, Swimming, Skinny Dipping (Polar Plunge), Reading the information boards, Walking
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