Deception Island. It's an island of doom where the worst acts of human nature played out on the shores of Antarctica. A land of slaughter and blood situated on an active volcano waiting to erupt. And yet today it is one of the most eerily beautiful places in the world.
Deception Island was an old whalers station and all that is left of it today is a reminder of just how cruel human beings can be. Giant rusting barrels used to boil whale fat and decaying whale bones litter the beach and there is a feeling of gloom hanging heavy in the air.
The dark day contributed to the scene. Grey skies and snow falling it was the perfect setting to quietly walk and contemplate our actions.
As I think about what horrors the men must have faced working in these unbearable conditions, I wonder what makes a man so greedy that we must slaughter a species to the point of near extinction.
Deception Island in Antarctica
We felt a chill as we walked the beach and couldn't imagine working in freezing conditions while carving up carcasses to throw into these giant boilers. I pictured plumes of dark smoke weighing heavy overhead clogging the air with dark soot. As my fingers and toes started to feel the cold, I thought of men working through the night keeping the fire burning to produce the priceless oil. How deep through the ground did the blood run?
As whale oil prices fell during the Great Depression, the station was abandoned and left to wither a slow and depressing death.
It was never reopened as a whaling station even though the whale hunts went on but instead was as a strategical base for the British during WWII. Yes, the world was even fighting over control of Antarctica then.
The British held control of Deception Island until 1967 when they were forced to evacuate due to a volcanic eruption. Since that time it has been used as a research base. Like every base in Antarctica, I can't completely understand what they are researching, but several countries are fighting for control of the continent, so there must be something pretty special there to research and discover.
Polar Plunge at Deception Island
Many people believe that it is here at Deception Island that you should swim in Antarctica because of the hot springs. We heard rumours that the water mixed with the warm springs coming from land and you won't freeze if you take your polar plunge here. That is simply not true.
Once upon a time you could dig a hole in the sand and sit in hot pools of water. However, now with the Antarctic Treaty, nobody is allowed to dig into the sand. You cannot disrupt the continent at all. And we know from a first hand account that the water is not warm. A few people decided that they wanted to do their Polar Plunge here so they brought some towels and robes with them to the beach and ran in.
When we asked them if it was warm, their reply was absolutely not.
For the real Quark Expeditions Polar Plunge, check out our video and post
Deception Island was lacking in the colonies of cute penguins and lazy fur seals of our other landings in Antarctica, however, it is tragically beautiful. One of the safest harbors in the Antarctic, it is almost an entirely enclosed circle of water with only the narrowest of passageways for boats to enter.
Many people walked up to Neptune's Window on the caldera wall for a better view, however, Dave and I stayed back and had the beach nearly all to ourselves allowing for some amazing photos, free of the yellow coats from the Quark Expedition boat.
Check out Quark Expeditions for planning your own Antarctic Expedition.