The wind indeed had increased as we crossed to Deception Island.
The newsflash at the end of last night’s briefing that had forecast that the seas would get rough had been 100% correct. The crossing was rough overnight.
After sunrise I went out early on deck to get my first views of Deception Island. From the direction of our approach Neptune’s Bellows was not visible. The wind was still high and Fram was still pitching with the waves.
On the morning of Wednesday 1st March we arrived at Deception Island. This active caldera was our last landing in Antarctica and we landed among fur seals to walk around an abandoned whaling station and Antarctic base
Along with the other early risers we had our first views of the island.
As we came closer the island was bathed in early morning light.
From last night’s briefing we had learnt that Deception Island was a an active volcano that had at one time been huge. It had collapsed in on itself and the sea had rushed in through a gap. This gap is now called Neptune’s Bellows. When a volcano collapses after the rapid evacuation of its magma chamber then the resulting formation is known as a caldera.
Neptune’s Bellows not only is narrow but it has a reef in the centre of the channel. Once inside the island a ship would be sheltered from any storms in the sea outside. This map of Deception Island is from Wikipedia.
A whaling station was established when whales that had been slaughtered had to be ‘processed’ on land. A British Antarctic Base was also established that included a runway and a hanger for aircraft.
Fram was scheduled to go through Neptune’s Bellows at around 7 am. We did have a slight scheduling problem as our Boat Group was to be the first to called. We had to have had breakfast, watch the sail through and be ready to leave the ship!
The wind was fierce as Fram circled around the island and we had an announcement from the expedition team that said the wind was too strong to attempt the passage. We all left the decks and went for breakfast.
Fram held her position just by the passage while we were busy having breakfast.Then we had the good news that the wind had dropped enough to attempt the passage into the heart of the island. This was at about 7:30 am.
Deck 8 forward was packed as we all watched Fram maneuver to enter the channel. The ship had to stay close to the cliffs on the starboard side as this was the deepest water.
Once through Neptune’s Bellows, then the inside of the island was visible. This is called Port Foster.
The sea inside Port Foster was calm and there away on our starboard side were the buildings from the British Antarctic base. Alongside the old base were the whaling station’s remains which were also damaged after volcanic eruptions.
Further round was the aircraft hanger where the first aircraft flights in Antarctica took place.
As MS Fram spun to set up for the landings we had more views of Port Foster.
Landing at Whalers’ Bay
It was a rush then to get down to Deck 2 as we were called after the Polar Cruisers had left on their Geology cruise around Port Foster.
The ride to the beach was fast and wet. We did have to pause offshore as a seal had decided to approach close to the landing steps on the beach. The beach was very different from all the others we had been on as it was made up of volcanic materiel.
There were seals all around us. The members of the expedition team all had poles which they would have to use to deter the seals from approaching too close.
We set off walking towards the British Base and the huge rusting tanks with the bay to our left.
There were fully grown fur seals on both sides as we walked past the remains of the whaling station.
The gap between the rusting remains was rather small as we turned off the beach towards the British base’s building.
The expedition team member there was kept busy keeping everyone safe from the seals. We could see the crosses of one of the first cemeteries in Antarctica beyond the rusting tanks.
Away in distance we could see the aircraft hangar and the fur seals that prevented us from safely going to take a look at this historic building.
Base B, Port Foster, Deception Island
The British Base was in a sorry state and we could only stand outside and look through the window frames to the rooms inside. The building is now preserved as part of the Antarctic heritage.
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I walked to the left of the building to take pictures inside what looked to have been the generator room. Then I was confronted by a gaggle of sleeping seals and I rapidly retraced my steps.
The safest way was to go around the building on the other side. The walls and and roof on this side were in an even worse state of repair after the volcanic eruption. Inside a couple of rooms I did manage to to see graffiti left by earlier visitors brave enough to go inside the site.
We were taking pictures of each other by a tank without realising that there were seals only a few feet away to its side.
On the way back to the landing site we had our picture taken by one of the expedition team. He was still very busy as there were seals all around the path between the tanks.
As more and more passengers came through towards Base B the seals were becoming very curious. The team member had to stop passengers from coming through until they calmed down.
We passed three Gentoo penguins that looked very windswept as they walked along parallel to our marked path.