Neptune’s Bellows

We left Cuverville Island last night after everyone got a chance to go ashore and have a quick zodiac cruise among the icebergs. My group (the giant petrels) was one of the last, the sun was starting to go down so it was getting cold and the light really sucked for getting photos (besides zipping around on the zodiacs too fast to get a decent shot).

Southern Giant Petrel

We made an early arrival at Deception Island to pierce the narrow entrance through Neptune’s Bellows. I watched from my room since I wasn’t dressed to go out yet.

It looked like another dreary day. Overcast and cold, but at least not too windy. As we made our way into the volcanic caldera enroute to our landing site at Telefon Bay, we passed an old whaling station on our starboard side. I would’ve loved to go exploring there, but all these landings in Antarctica are very strictly controlled.

I really hate being restricted like that, even tho I can certainly understand it in a place like Antarctica. It’s still relatively free of the effects of mankind and I can see why so many people would like to keep it in the (almost) pristine state it’s in today. I agree, I do think the world needs to keep at least some true wilderness. I guess I’m a hypocrite since I really would love to see all of those places myself someday too.

On arrival at Telefon Bay, we waited our turn for the zodiacs to come for our group. Landing on the beach was very smooth this time. The bottom was mostly gravel rather than the usual rock and ice. Sit on the side of the zodiac and hop off. Easy. 🙂

Some people were really getting into the spirit of things, and jumped in for a Polar Plunge. I have to admit, I was too chicken to do it myself. I think I’ve watched those hypothermia videos too many times at work to take a chance of giving myself a heart attack like that. I put my hands in the water, just to see, it was freezing! (Not literally, but cooooold!).

Not far from our landing site, our guides had cordoned off a section of beach. There was a seal sleeping on the beach! I still can’t tell the difference between a crab eater seal, weddel seal and leopard seal. I think this one was a crab eater. This one was the only seal I saw ‘close up’ in the entire trip (still had to stay about 20′ away, but got a few decent photos at least). There were a couple of gentoo penguins further down the beach too, but all in all, this place was pretty desolate.

Deception Island is volcanic. Once you pass through the narrow channel of Neptune’s Bellows (only about 750′ wide), you’re floating around inside the caldera- on top of the volcano.

It is still active, you can see some of the steam coming out of the ground around the island . The last ‘major eruption’ was only in 1970. From the beach, it was a steep hike up to roam around the edge of the caldera. I was glad for the use of the hiking poles to help keep my balance.

Landing at Telefon Bay

The scenery was beautiful in a very stark way. All black volcanic gravelly rock and white snow, with a few small ponds full of colorful algae or bacteria. I tried to walk over to one interesting depression, where the snow was melted, but our guides called me back to their marked pathway (too bad).

Supposedly there are lots of seals, penguins and other wildlife around this island but I didn’t see any. Just the one seal, all alone on the beach and the 2 penguins nearby.

As we were leaving, we passed the Argentine base and then outbound through Neptune’s Bellows again. The weather brightened up late afternoon and really made the scenery sparkle.

On departure, we were met by a whale mother and calf (I’m not sure what kind). And flocks of penguins porposing through the water nearby. This was the first time I got to see whales fairly close to the ship (tho they were still at least 100 yards off). I got a couple of photos and some video, but wasn’t able to get anything decent. They were all too far off and moving too fast for a good shot. Can anybody tell what kind they are from my photos?

According to our onboard expert, you can send in photos and then identify the whale from an online database.

All in all, another fantastic day on the MS Roald Amundsen. I was a little sad that today was our last landing in Antarctica, but had to get over it and go enjoy another delicious dinner. At least I had another few days of great food to look forward to- and we still had to see the Falklands. 🙂

Yum! I sure do miss their food. 😉