Travel - Deception Island

Deception Island

Long ago, volcanic pressure on Deception Island resulted in a tremendous eruption that caused the island’s peak to explode. The resulting caldera flooded with seawater, creating the unique landmass that you may visit today. Thousands of Chinstrap Penguins inhabit the volcanic slopes of the island, along with nesting Pintado Petrels and Antarctic Terns.

Nestled among the South Shetland Islands, Deception Island is easily recognized on a map by its horseshoe shape. Its collapsed volcanic caldera is breached at Neptune's Bellows and makes for one of the world's safest natural harbors, despite the volcano's periodic eruptions. Ships enter the relatively calm waters of Port Forster (12km/7.5mi wide) through the caldera's breach that is surrounded by snow-covered hills that reach 580m (1900ft). The island has an interesting history - it was a base for several early exploratory missions - and is still a disputed territory between the Argentineans and the British, however nowadays they seem to get along.

The volcano is still very active and its eruptions have caused evacuations and considerable damage to the stations there (during the 1920-21 whaling season the harbor water boiled and stripped the paint off the ships' hulls). The most recent eruption was in 1991-92.

Part of what brings the tourist ships here is that the volcanic activity thermally heats the waters of Pendulum Cove (so-called because of the British pendulum and magnetism experiments held there last century) and you can take a dip. It's not deep enough for swimming and most tourists don the togs more for the photograph and the story afterwards than for breaststroking. You do have to be careful, however, because if you move even a meter from the warm water you might find your skin blistering from a near-boiling patch or goosebumping from an unheated patch. There are large colonies of chinstrap penguins on the exterior coast, but few marine animals enter the harbor because there are numerous volcanic vents that heat the water to several degrees above the sea surrounding the island.