Antarctica – February 3, 2018…Half Moon and Deception Islands…The expedition continues…

This has got to be one of our favorite Antarctic photos, a Chinstrap Penguin lying on the rocks for a short rest with what looks like a winsome smile on his face.

Due to Wi-Fi issues, we’re unable to format line spacing.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Most days, we board the Zodiac boats twice, once in the early morning and another in the afternoon between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm since it stays light until after 10:00 pm in the Antarctic this time of year. It’s not easy undertaking dressing and undressing in many layers of clothing to ensure we stay toasty warm when out on the ten passenger boats.    

Moments later, he stood up and posed for this shot.  Thank you, Penguin.

All of our outer layers are waterproof, a must for an Antarctic expedition, even in these warmer summer months when temperatures can drop well below freezing. Also, as the windiest place in the world, we never felt over-dressed after reaching as far south as the South Shetland Islands in the Antarctic Peninsula.

The rocky terrain was suitable for the penguins but less so for us humans.

After years of relatively warm climates, surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult for either of us to adapt to the cold, windy environment. After Tom spent his first 60 years in Minnesota and my 45 years, both felt right at home in the cold weather.

A group of passengers atop a hill we were climbing.

Each time we venture off the ship, we bundle up in long Lycra workout pants, waterproof ski pants, hats, gloves, and then the huge warm red parkas the ship provides (which we can keep). 

It was highly entertaining seeing these adorable, playful Chinstrap Penguins.

After layering the parka, we add the compact-sized life vest as shown in our photos, stuff our sea pass cards into the see-through window on our sleeves, and haul our heavy rubber boots and backpack with two cameras to deck three.

Our ship, Ponant Le Soleal, was waiting for us while we were on shore.
From there, we wait in line to have our cards swiped, and then we don our waterproof gloves to board the Zodiac boat. Two staff members assist passengers in getting on and off the Zodiac boats. In rough seas, it can take exceptional diligence stepping from the ship onto the Zodiac.
Penguins were combing through the rocky cliff.
But now, for most of us, getting on and off the Zodiacs has become second nature. Even me, with the bad knee, has been able to manage fairly well. Once we reach the shore, we swing our legs around from sitting on the outer edge of the inflatable (although very sturdy) boat and slip down off the edge directly into the icy sea. Our high boots and waterproof pants keep us from getting wet.
Antarctica has many unusual rock formations from millions of years of glacier activity.

Before we embarked on this cruise, we wondered how adept we’d be in handling the rough rocky terrain, the Zodiac boats, and the often steep climbs to viewing points. Had it not been for my knee, I wouldn’t have been hesitant. Tom is more sure-footed than anyone I know and is always a stabilizing force for me when I need help. I’m kind of clumsy. I always have been. But, we do okay. 

Penguins are very social among themselves. Note a few fluffy chicks in this colony.

As for yesterday, we had two landings; one on Half Moon Island and the other on the more commonly recognized, Deception Island.

A fur seal was lounging next to an abandoned half a barrel on Deception Island.
First, here’s some information on Half Moon from this site:

“Half Moon Island is a minor Antarctic island, lying 1.35 km (0.84 mi) north of Burgas Peninsula, Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands of the Antarctic Peninsula region. Its surface area is 171 hectares (420 acres).[ The Argentine Cámara Base is located on the island. It is only accessible by sea and by helicopter; there is no airport of any kind. The naval base is operational occasionally during the summer but is closed during the winter.  Plants found on the island include several lichen and moss species as well as Antarctic Hairgrass.

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a breeding colony of about 100 pairs of south polar skuas. Other birds nesting on the island include chinstrap penguins (2000 pairs), Antarctic terns (125 pairs), kelp gulls (40 teams), Wilson’s, and black-bellied storm petrels, Cape petrels, brown skuas, snowy sheathbills, and imperial shags.Weddell and Antarctic fur seals regularly haul out on the beaches. Southern elephant seals have been recorded. Whales are often seen patrolling the shores.

The island is used as a stop during Antarctic cruises, with visitation during November–March. There is a 2,000 m (2,200 yd) walking track on the southern part of the Island, which allows tourists to get a close view of the wildlife (mainly chinstrap penguins and skuas), mountainous scenery nearby Livingston and Greenwich Islands. The path begins on the south side of Menguante Cove, runs westwards along the beach to Cámara Base, then turns north along the head of Menguante Cove, and eventually ascends northeastwards to the top of Xenia Hill.”

Our next stop in the late afternoon was Deception Island, directly into the caldera of an active volcano. Here’s information about that island from this site:

“Deception Island is an island in the South Shetland Islands archipelago, with one of the safest harbors in Antarctica. This island is the caldera of an active volcano, which seriously damaged local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. The island previously held a whaling station; it is now a tourist destination and scientific outpost, with Argentine and Spanish research bases. While various countries have asserted sovereignty, it is still administered under the Antarctic Treaty System.

The first authenticated sighting of Deception Island was by the British sealers William Smith and Edward Bransfield from the brig Williams in January 1820; it was first visited and explored by the American sealer Nathaniel Palmer on the sloop Hero the following summer, on 15 November 1820. He remained for two days, exploring the central bay.

The whaling equipment and housing were destroyed by a volcano eruption in 1969, and operations ceased.
Palmer named it “Deception Island” on account of its outward deceptive appearance as a normal island, when Neptune’s Bellows revealed it instead to be a ring around a flooded caldera.  
Over the next few years, Deception became a focal point of the short-lived fur sealing industry in the South Shetlands; the industry had begun with a handful of ships in the 1819–20 summer season, rising to nearly a hundred in 1821–22. While the island did not have a large seal population, it was a perfect natural harbour, mostly free from ice and winds, and a convenient rendezvous point. Likely, some men lived ashore in tents or shacks for short periods during the summer, though no archaeological or documentary evidence survives to confirm this. Massive overhunting meant that the fur seals became almost extinct in the South Shetlands within a few years. The sealing industry collapsed as quickly as it had begun; by around 1825, Deception was again abandoned.
In 1829, the British Naval Expedition to the South Atlantic under the command of Captain Henry Foster in HMS Chanticleer stopped at Deception. The expedition conducted a topographic survey and scientific experiments, particularly pendulum and magnetic observations.  A watercolor made by Lieutenant Kendall of the Chanticleer during the visit may be the first image made of the island. A subsequent visit by the American elephant-sealer Ohio in 1842 reported the first recorded volcanic activity, with the southern shore “in flames.” 
Please click this link to continue the above story.
A resting Gentoo Penguin.

After returning yesterday afternoon, we met with all of our new friends for happy hour and then later for dinner. After dinner ended, we headed to deck three for the live band in the lounge and a night of Karaoke. We pulled chairs together and had another spectacular evening of entertainment, lively chatter, and endless travel stories.

Tom spotted this military ship while we were on land at Deception Island.

This morning was quite an experience when we toured a portion of Paradise Island, a stunning experience, which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.  We need to work on the photos and get this post uploaded in time to board a Zodiac for another outing today. We’re the “blue” group, and we need to be dressed and ready to go by 2:15 pm.

Alternate view of a military vessel at Deception Island.

With only five days remaining until the cruise ends, we’re savoring every moment and hoping you are doing the same!                          

      Photo from one year ago today, February 3, 2017:

Expansive views of the Huon River in Tasmania, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *