Wish You Were Here: Deception Island

by Mark Lukach

Not all romantic islands are tropical.

Deception Island is an active volcano in the South Shetland off the coast of Antarctica. Its unique shape makes it an extremely safe harbor for vessels, and has long served as refuge for seal and whale expeditions. The island was abandoned during the Great Depression due to falling prices of whale oil, but was once again re-occupied by scientific adventurers in the 1940s. All that changed with two massive volcanic eruptions, in 1967 and 1969, when all business was shut down. On a visit to the island today, you can explore the ruins of the island’s previous inhabitants. Imagine living on an Antarctic island for several months out of the year, gutting whales and hoping that the volcano doesn’t burst right under your feet.

The current appeal of Deception Island is that it is considered one of the safest ways to visit Antarctica. Neptunes Bellows, the channel that enters Port Foster, is only 755 ft at its widest, and is further complicated by Ravn Rock, which sits only 8 ft below the sea’s surface, but it is still considered a safe passage to the otherwise stormy and inhospitable landmass of Antarctica. On a visit to the island, you can practically guarantee encounters with exotic birds, penguins, seals, and whales of all varieties.

Another huge appeal are the geothermal baths, heated by the active volcano. While the mean air temperature is -3 degrees Celsius, water temperatures as high as 70 degrees Celsius have been found on the island. There are naturally available baths, or you can just dig a hole on the black sand beaches until you find steaming hot water and sand to warm yourself to. Who would have thought that you could comfortably bathe in just a bikini while on Antarctica?

*via monolith, deceptionisland.aq, wikipedia, travelvista, ronwalker.org, and flickr

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