Deception Island Neptune's Bellows
Deception Island is an island unequalled in the world. The ring-shaped island is in fact the top of a volcano, a caldera. This remarkable island is located in the South Shetland Islands, north of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Caldera has a diameter of about 15 kilometres and has a narrow entrance on one side, Neptune’s Bellows. Through this spectacular passage ships can sail into the flooded crater, a unique phenomenon.
The Deception Island volcano is still active, inside the caldera there is geothermal activity; sea water temperatures of 70°C have been recorded. Eruptions have happened as recently as 1970. Sealers, whalers, explorers and scientists have been sailing into Port Foster since its discovery in 1820 and remains of these expeditions can still be seen.
History of Whalers Bay
In Whalers Bay bleached whalebones, wooden barrels and other artefacts from 20th century whale hunters can be seen beside derelict buildings from a British scientific station that was evacuated after the 1969 eruption. Although the wildlife inside the caldera is not that abundant, several bird species breed on the caldera cliffs. On the outside of Deception one of the highlights of the peninsula can be found; Bailey Head. In this natural amphitheatre about 50,000 pairs of Chinstrap penguins breed. Unfortunately the colony is seldom visited due to the difficult landing conditions on the outside of the island.
Wildlife on Deception Island
Although the wildlife inside the caldera does not seem to be that abundant, thousands of Cape Pigeons, Wilson’s Storm Petrels and Black-bellied Storm Petrels, Dominican Gulls, Brown and South Polar Skua’s and Antarctic Terns breed on the caldera shores and cliffs. Also penguins and seals venture sometimes through Neptune’s Bellows into the caldera where they enjoy a bath in the sometimes thermally heated water. As the Deception Island volcano is still active, eruptions have been taking place as recent as 1970, signs of volcanic activity can be found inside the caldera. At some places the seawater is heated by geothermal activity, water temperatures of 70°C have been recorded. In Whalers Bay and Pendulum Cove the shallow water, only during low tide, can be pleasant for skinny dipping. But take care; most of the time one side of your body feels like it is being cooked while the other side is almost freezing from the cold seawater.
Hiking on Deception Island
Unlike many other parts of Antarctica, Deception Island is not totally covered by ice and therefore it offers some great walking opportunities. From Whalers Bay a great hike can be made towards a viewpoint above Neptune’s Window and South East Point. From this 130 metres high summit great views of Port Foster and the little rock columns called the Sewing Machine Needles can be made. Also Telefon Bay, at the north-western side of Port Foster offers great hiking opportunities. The eruption of 1970 created a lunar landscape with a beautiful crater.