Silver Explorer, Antarctica: Day 8 – Visiting A Volcano & A Rough Ride Ahead?

Day 8 – Visiting A Volcano & A Rough Ride Ahead?

At Telefon Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At Telefon Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

I spent the day in a caldera. And it was in the most unusual of places for a traveler: Deception Island, in Antarctica. Not many travelers get to Deception Island, only about 10,000 people annually, I was told.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Silver Explorer anchored at Whalers Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

While Deception Island has one of Antarctica’s safest harbors, there are at least two hazards that travelers will want to avoid. The first is the narrow entrance to the harbor. Called Neptune’s Bellows, the entrance is only 754 feet wide (230 meters). It has the additional challenge of a rock, called Ravn Rock, situated in the middle of the channel just 8 feet (2.5 meters) below the water’s surface. It’s enough to make captains sweat.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Silver Explorer anchored in the caldera of Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The second hazard is that Deception Island has an active volcano. I was told that eruptions were predicted to be on a 30-year cycle. The last eruption was 44 years ago, in 1969. That eruption caused serious damage to research and whaling stations on Deception Island.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Relics of a whaling station at Whalers Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

We made it through Neptune’s Bellows and anchored in a cove called Whalers Bay, where we spent the day exploring the remains of facilities destroyed by the 1969 volcanic eruption — rusting boilers and tanks, an aircraft hangar and the British scientific station house (Biscoe House), with the middle torn out by the 1969 mudflows.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Old tanks that are now part of a historic site at Whalers Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

We also hiked along a black sand beach where we saw a single seal and penguins. We continued hiking up to the crest of a hill that ended with a dramatic drop into the sea.

It was snowing, and the contrasts between the bleach-white snow and the black sand evoked thoughts of charcoal drawings. The scene was different from anything else we had experienced on this trip so far.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Black, volcanic beaches at Whalers Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

It was remarkable to be in the caldera of a volcano that was born more than 10,000 years ago. When the volcano erupted millennia ago, the bay known as Port Foster was formed. The eruption apparently was a powerful one. Core ice samples from the South Pole contain ashes from the volcano.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Hiking up to Neptune’s Window at Whalers Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Nearly 60 percent of the island is covered by glaciers, though some appear as rocks because they are covered with soot.

After lunch, we motored on a bit more — Deception Island has a diameter of 7 miles, and the bay, known as Port Foster, is only 5.5 miles long by 3.6 miles wide. We dropped anchor in Telefon Bay, where we walked to the edge of the crater that was created during the eruptions of 1969-1970. Those who wished could continue hiking for another mile, across volcanic soil along ridges and back to the beach and the zodiacs waiting to shuttle us back to the ship.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Such contrast with the snow, sea and black volcanic pebbles at Whaler’s Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

The fact that our trip is drawing to an end seemed to be on the minds of those I spoke with. Antarctica is powerful place, and it has had quite an impact on all of us on this voyage.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Look who we met on the beach. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Shortly after 5 p.m. we hoisted the anchor and headed out of Port Foster, through Neptune’s Bellows and away from Deception Island. We were making our way around the west end of the South Shetland Islands, the archipelago where we first made landfall in Antarctica on Day 3 of our voyage.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Curious but not moving. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

As I write this at 11:30 p.m., Silver Explorer is rocking. The waves are not more than a couple of meters at this point, but they will continue to increase as we make our way back through the Drake Passage. Earlier, during the Recap & Briefing, Silver Explorer Expedition Team Leader Kara told us that seas could reach six meters to eight meters on Saturday. That’s 18 feet to 24 feet.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Expedition team member Chris briefs us about the history of Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

During the day tomorrow, we’ll have a few bumps before winds increase up to 40 knots, “straight on the nose,” Kara said, “and that causes the ship to pitch, which does make for a bumpy ride.” Worse, the wind and waves will require reducing the ship’s speed from around 15 knots to four or five knots. Nonetheless, we will be in Ushuaia early Sunday morning for our return to Buenos Aires.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Watch your step, a steep drop. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Tomorrow, I’ll let you know how we’re faring in the Drake Passage, and I’ll tell you a bit more about our voyage and Silver Explorer. For now, I’m hoping for a comfortable ride for the next two days.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Biscoe House, one of the abandoned buildings at Whalers Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
An old whaling boat at Whalers Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Whaling boats at Whalers Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At Telefon Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At Telefon Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At Telefon Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At Telefon Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At Telefon Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At Telefon Bay on Deception Island. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
December 12 Ushuaia, ArgentinaCharter flight from Buenos Aires; Embark Silver Explorer5:00 PM
December 13Sailing The Drake Passage
December 14Crossing The Drake, Day 2
December 15Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 16Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 17Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 18Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 19Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 20Sailing the Drake Passage, Redux
December 21Sailing the Drake Passage
December 22Ushuaia, Argentina8:00 AMDisembark Silver Explorer; return charter flight to Buenos Aires.
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on stumbleupon
StumbleUpon
Share on digg
Digg