Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tierra del Fuego to Deception Island Antarctica

We are underway for the first of two voyages on The World. Beginning in Ushuaia Argentina (the world's southernmost city) we sailed for 38 hours until we spotted land in Antarctica. This was one of the fastest crossings for me ever - The World's twin screws push us through the sea at an amazing 15 knots. The weather was as good as it gets crossing the Drake Passage and about as bad as it gets in the Antarctic summer once we arrived. See the photo's below.

Mt. Oliveira and the city of Ushuaia on a fine summer's day.

Three ships sailing out of Ushuaia for the Antarctic. My first trip down to the Antarctic Peninsula in 1993-94 saw 10,000 visitors. Today that number is 40,000 and growing.

View of the Beagle Channel and mountains on Isla Hoste, Chile. The weather was fine here. The three photos above were taken on December 20 and 21.

This is December 22 in the heart of the Drake Passage on a very fine day. Most of the horrible reputation that Cape Horn has for the graveyard of sailors occurred during the winter months and in my 54 previous crossings of the Drake, we called it the Drake "Lake." Calm as could be. Another 25% of those crossing were rough and the last 25% were very rough. Twice I saw 40 foot seas. This was a real treat.

Smooth sailing.

 Our twin screws push us 19 knots through the water.

 Finally the Antarctic on December 23 after a 38 hour smooth crossing. This is typical Antarctic Peninsula weather.

And then the wind kicked up about 10 AM from the east.

 And the weather turned, well, very Antarctic.

Our first destination is the infamous volcano, Deception Island, shown on this chart as the horseshoe-shaped island in the lower left. It is a caldera that lost its top about 10,000 years ago and now containing a port inside the volcano! You can read about this volcano at this link (be sure to click on the various tabs for more info along the top bars).

Map of Deception Island and the inner Harbor, Port Foster. This is a unique and wild place. The blue dot shows our landing, Whalers Bay, made at about 1 PM on December 23. As you might imagine, Port Foster makes for a wonderful harborage in an area known for stormy seas. However, in December, 1967, the volcano awoke violently with an explosive roar and three stations located in the inner harbor evacuated within 24 hours. The eruption was quite intense being propelled by the interaction of magma and ice. Compared to the 10,000 year old caldera forming event, this was just a small burp. But to the folks working those stations, it was a terrifying event. Two subsequent eruptions in 1969 and 1970 rendered all three bases forever inoperable. Note the very narrow entrance to Port Foster, Neptune's Bellow's, in the lower right.

Entering Neptune's Bellow's with almost white-out condition and a following wind of about 40 knots!

Ashore at Whalers Bay and the ruins of the two whaling stations.

The World at anchor in Whalers Bay.

Two of my expedition colleagues on this trip. The man in the center, Shaun Norman of Mt. Cook, New Zealand, was working at the British base in 1967 when the first eruption occurred and had great stories to tell about it. In all my years I never imagined meeting a first hand witness to these eruptions. Shaun was working as a 24 year old meteorologist at the time and recognized that a unique even was happening and took formal observations every 15 minutes during the event. When he radioed back to Britain that intense thunderstorms were occurring at Deception Island Antarctica, his superiors tried to correct him that thunderstorms were not possible in Antarctica. He radioed back that this might have once been the case but that the volcanic eruptions were producing electrical storms at three different places around the volcanic cloud.

Destroyed building from the 1969 eruptions.

Just a lovely beach day in Antarctica. The temperature was about 29 degrees but the wind chill made it feel like 5 degrees F. Hopefully, we'll get better weather tomorrow.

Discarded water barrels from the whaling days. Thanks for reading.


  1. Thanks for posting these photos from down there! I had never heard of Deception Island. It's listed as "a restless caldera with a significant volcanic risk." That and the incredible history of whaling is fascinating. Keep 'em coming!

  2. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  3. As usual your photos and commentary are really nice Wayne Thanks and keep em coming....Earl


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