Land ahoy! Today was the day we would set foot on the Antarctic Peninsular.
Hannah Point & Livingston Island
Our first landing was going to be at Hannah Point, which lies in Walker Bay on the southern coast of Livingston Island.
There was an air of excitement as everyone gathered in the lounge to be loaded up into the zodiacs. Everyone was discussing how many layers that they had on as dealing with this kind of weather was new to all of us – we’d be pros in a day or two.
Desolate and barren. That was what I thought of the landscape when we first saw Livingston Island. The volcanic rocks loomed large and I wondered how anything could live in this place.
It’s the smell that hits you first. For such cute creatures penguins sure do create a lot of guano (penguin poop). Geetoo and Chinstrap penguins lived here and I couldn’t get enough of them!
The rules are that we had to keep 5 metres away from them but if they approached you then it was okay – no hugging penguins allowed! They were far more curious than I thought they might be, especially when I crouched down and waited for them to pass me by.
Elephant seals! You have a hint of how big they are by their name but it’s another thing entirely to see them up close. They are massive! The males can grow up to 2000 kgs and the females only grow to a tenth of that weight.
They are incredible divers and can dive to depths of 1000 metres. I’d love to see videos of them swimming as they are not the most elegant movers while on land.
When they are moulting they gather together to form a “wallow”. I think that this is the perfect name for the group!
The pups grow at a rapid pace over the 23 days they are nursed. They go from an average birth weight of 45kgs up to 120kg. Meanwhile their mums go from 500kg down to a lightweight 300kgs.
Back on the board we warmed up, chatting endlessly about our first taste of Antarctica.
Whalers Bay at Deception Island
The weather wasn’t on our side today as it was overcast with rain to come soon. As it turned out that weather was perfect for our afternoon landing location, Deception Island.
As we approached the island I felt that we were approaching King Kong’s island. The dark volcanic rock loomed large and forbidding.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if a pterodactyl had flown by.
We entered the island through Neptune’s Bellows, the only entrance to sail inside the island. The island is called Deception Island because it’s a collapsed caldera, which means that once upon a time it was a volcano. When the volcano blew its top most of the volcano fell inward forming a ring of rock, with a small inlet in one side. Into that inlet came the sea.
Unless you knew that the inlet was there, sailors would be deceived into thinking that this was a solid island.
The rain had arrived by the time I got off the zodiac so I walked with my head down to avoid the worse of it. I was headed to the viewpoint of Neptune’s Window. The rain provided a misty view of, well, mist. Looking back the way I’d come I had a clear view of what remained of the Norwegian whaling station, and British Antarctica Survey Base.
As I headed back down the hill to explore the buildings I kept a careful watch for Antarctic fur seals. They can be aggressive so we were advised to stay 30 metres away from them. Not so easy when they can look like big rocks in the rain.
I wandered around the derelict buildings of the old whaling station, trying to imagine what life would’ve been like here for those workers who build the station. It must’ve been a harsh way to life as this is a bleak place on a rainy day.
I can tell you that when you put your bare feet in the first few centimetres of the water of the bay that the temperature is warm from the volcanic activity. How I came to be plunging my toes into the waters of the Antarctic Peninsular is a story for another day . . .