Probably the best hot springs ever..........

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
Trip End Jan 19, 2007

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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Monday, November 20, 2006

Set the alarm for 3am for sunrise but it is cloudy outside so we go back to bed.

We are woken by the bing bong of the PA system at 7.30am for breakfast and it is still cloudy and a bit snowy. We have arrived at Deception Island. Curious name and so-called because the plateau on the island is allegedly deceptively small when viewed at a distance.

At our briefing we are told that this is an active volcano and we are actually in the volcanic caldera (a big hole or horseshoe bay in this case created by land collapsing following the volcanic activity) which last erupted in the 90´s but there were major eruptions 1967-70. There were not lava flows just explosions and ash clouds due to all the sea water.

Whalers Bay (62 degrees 39´S, 60 degrees 34´W)
Small bay entered between Fildes Point and Penfold Point at the E side of Poret Foster in the South Shetland Islands and named by the FraE 1908-10 under someone whose name I can´t read (my terrible handwriting) becuase of its use by the whalers.

This is an old disused whaling station with airport and aircraft hanger which was largely destroyed by a huge volcano eruption. Apparently 1,000 men worked out of here at one time. Thank god they dont anymore. There were also 2 scientific stations here and runways.

Outside it is a wintry day and we approach the huge black sand bay and paddle to shore watching the penguins who have chosen to nest amongst whale bones. We get a chance to have a close encounter with the chinstrap penguins here which is great. They look just like the joker from batman to me but nicer obviously. We only have a couple of hours to cram a lot in as we go round the abandoned shells of buildings and metal containers and the aircraft hanger and walk the length of the beach and see more seals. Then we trudge up to Neptune´s window to get a view of the whole bay plus the ocean side and you can appreciate we are really on a volcanic ridge. It really looks like we are completely surrounded by land and you almost wonder how the ship got into the bay. All the gravel beneath us is black and red from the eruptions a great contrast to the snow.

We hurry back to the landing point as the staff have started to dig. Yes we are going to swim here! The steam creates a mysterious atmosphere across the beach until nearly 50% of us try and squidge into the pools dug. It is roasting even though we are right next to the sea edge. After a bit we brace ourselves and actually run into the freezing sea and then run back to the hot pools hoping our spot hasnt been nicked. We have a glass of pisco sour with Antarctic snow that we had prepared earlier. We dry off pretty quick although its not too cold as the sun tries to burn through the clouds.

Hot soup at lunch warms us up and we then go to a historic lecture from David about the Endurance voyage by Shackleton entitled ´You will be the first to be eaten´. What Shackleton said when he found a stowaway on board. We also learn all about Mrs Chippie, the carpenters cat and a great diary ´Mrs Chippies Last Expedition´ (she was killed when they had to set off in lifeboats as it couldnt pull its weight) that has been written from its´ view by Caroline Alexander. Must remember to buy it at home!

We also learn of a Thomas Orde-Lees who was a Royal Marines Officer from Britain and was the store keeper and apparently a bit of a loner. We are going to investigate to see if he is one of our ancestors.

After that we have a briefing on our final landing :
Aitcho Islands (62 degrees 24´S, 59 degrees 47´W)
These are a group of small islands lying between Table island and Dee island in the north entrance to the English Strait, South Shetland Islands. Charted and named in 1935 by DI after the Admirarlty Hydrographic Office staff. Other features in this vicinty were named after members of the Hydrographic office staff. IE. Aitcho Islands was the initials of the names of all the staff.

Out on the water it is cold and snowy, true Antarctic weather. There has been a heavy snow fall on the island but which makes it look just like you imagine. On the beach there are gentoo and chinstrap penguins breeding. The beach is littered with whale bones and the penguins are using them to help structure their nests. It is great to see chinstraps up close, they look like they are smiling all the time. Further up the beach there is a baby and adult seal basking in the snow. Clumsily one gets into the water where they look like another animal altogether as they move so fast and gracefully. The penguins are really porpoising in the water today and look like white darts dashing through the water before they break the surface again and glide back in.

This is not a huge site although we are able to walk up a small hill to get a view of the whole bay. It is pretty chilly what with the wind too plus its a damp cold. Despite having an alotted 3 hours here nearly everyone is back on board within about 2 hours. It makes us appreciate the good weather we have had so far but it is also nice to see it in these conditions too. Are sad to leave the shore and our last encounter with the continent and the penguins! Think I can almost hear our cameras breathe a sigh of relief.

After another scrummy dinner we watch Thunderbolt and Lightfoot a Clint Eastwood film but I fall asleep half way through so off to bed.
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