21 February 2016

South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Chinstrap Penguin, Half Moon Island


The South Shetland Islands form a chain north west of the Antarctic Peninsula




Approaching from the north, first-timers like us gradually got that “Antarctica" feeling, with icy snowclad mountains and and - where ice has receded - just bare rocks. There were many icebergs in the sea.

Half Moon Island

Our first landing was at Half Moon Island, site of a seasonally-closed Argentine Research Station and a colony of Chinstrap Penguins.

Half Moon Island

Half Moon Island

Half Moon Island

There had been penguins in the Falklands and South Georgia, of course, but this was our first experience of “Penguins on snow” and a sense that we were in their domain. 

Chinstrap Penguins, Half Moon Island

Chinstrap Penguin, Half Moon Island

The penguins scrambled from he shore to their nest mounds along “Penguin highways” - really just ruts in the snow painted with pink penguin pooh.  The penguins had right-of-way, of course.







Chinstrap Penguins, Half Moon Island


On the afternoon of the same day (Dec 13th) we arrived at Deception Island with all on deck to view our passage of the narrow entrance (colourfully known as  “Neptune's Bellows”) to Port Foster.

Entering "Neptune's Bellows"

Once inside, we found a calm patch of water encircled by a volcanic caldera.   Deception Island is one of only two active volcanoes in all of Antarctica. (The other is Mt. Erebus, closer to New Zealand.)



Hektor Whaling Station  was active from 1906 to 1931 and various buildings and ironwork still dot the shoreline.  

Hektor Whaling Station ruins, Deception Island


Hektor Whaling Station ruins, Deception Island

Sheltered water and a large flat beach have supported other human activity over the years, too.  The Royal Navy placed a ship on station here in 1944 as part of Operation Tabarin, and pioneer aviators flew from the beach in the 1950s.

There have been research stations on Deception Island, but these were abandoned after volcanic eruptions in 1967 and 1969.

The thermally-heated water was just warm enough for a few hardy souls to splash around in.  The Chinstraps and a few Skuas were making the most of conditions, too.




Chinstrap Penguin, Deception Island

Brown Skuas

Chinstrap Penguins, Deception Island

We saw a few Wilson's Storm-Petrel in the cold waters around Deception Island, "the world's commonest seabird" is breeding there


Wilson's Storm-petrel

Leaving Deception we sailed south through iceberg-filled waters with the prospect of our first continental landing the following morning, - “Depending on the weather..” said the Expedition Team. 








Apart from some mist in the early evening, though, the weather stayed fine.


3 comments:

  1. Great images of a very spectacular part of the world. I doubt that I will ever get there but I can enjoy it through your eyes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Those last 3 photos are stunning............

    ReplyDelete