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Antarctica

Photo journal (page 3)

Livingstone Island & Deception Island
Walker Bay (Livingstone Island) and Deception Island

Livingstone Island is one of the larger members of the South Shetlands archipelago. Its southern coast is a ragged line of glacier faces, sharp peninsulas, and open bays. One of the points, protruding dry rock away from the glaciers, offers ideal breeding ground for the wildlife.

Glacier, rock, and snow comprise the typical terrain in this area. Deception Island, well south of the South Shetlands straight-line arrangement, is an exception: an enormous volcano, the caldera open to the sea, surrounded by volcanic geology.

The weather is typically dull surrounding Livingstone Island. Our anchorage at Hannah Point was a lee shore, with five miles of fetch to the other side of the bay. The day after we arrived, the clouds parted for a while, driven by a freshening wind which created other issues.

South Shetlands – Livingstone Island and Deception Island

The view off the south coast of Livingstone Island contains the typical elements: glacier ice, rocky mountains decorated with snow, and clouds which shroud the islands.

Livingstone Island
Livingstone Island

Hannah Point is a rocky peninsula on the south coast of Livingstone Island. It features a number of penguin colonies, some seal wallows, and bird nesting sites.

Hannah Point
Hannah Point

The Point is the eastern side of Walker Bay. The glacier face on the other side of the bay is five miles away, and it stretches all the way around to the north. The scale and volume of the ice is incredible.

Walker Bay
Walker Bay

Ashore, the penguins and the seals mix with apparent ease. These chinstraps are not too concerned about the nearby elephant seals, and the seals do not seem interested either.

Penguins and seals
Penguins and seals

The elephant seals are present in great masses.

Elephant seals
Elephant seals

The gentoo chicks are about the same age as the ones on the Aitchos – and just as hungry.

Feeding gentoos
Feeding gentoo chicks

The greenery on the shore is not grass: it is lichen. No grass or shrubbery can withstand the environment of the Antarctic islands. This is looking south, and the cloud on the horizon covers the Antarctic continent – our eventual destination. Deception Island lies a little to the left of this frame.

Hannah Point
Hannah Point slopes

A telephoto lens pulled this nesting site into view.

Bird nest
Nesting site

Ice calving from the glacier at the other side of the bay drifts downwind, and makes landing on the lee-shores very difficult, as it collects and makes the possible landing areas awkward to reach with the dinghy. While we were ashore, the ice become more of a problem, and began to damage the boat’s anti-fouling as it drifted past. Time to head for the final destination of the Shetlands: Deception Island.

Bergy bits
Bergy bits

These are the “Sewing-Machine Needles” on the east coast of Deception Island, a warning to mariners if one was needed that this is no forgiving land of soft coast lines and protected harbours.

Sewing-Machine Needles
Sewing-Machine Needles

This message is reinforced by the entrance into the island interior. Rocky cliffsides reluctantly split and permit access into the volcano’s caldera. This pass is called Neptune’s Bellows, on account of the accelerated winds that funnel through. As we got closer, we were welcomed by high winds and driving sleet.

Neptune’s Bellows
Approaching Neptune’s Bellows

If it had been warning us, the island wasn’t kidding. The next day, we were anchored on the exterior coastline when the wind reversed and quickly strengthened. With nowhere to head for safety, we were tenuously anchored with jagged cliffs on one side and the open ocean on the other.

High winds
High winds

With 50–60 knots of wind, we were dependent on the anchor to keep us safe. Photographs never convey wind strengths very well, but the spray in the above picture tells the story. In the distance, the wind funneling through Neptune’s Bellows is over 60 or 70 knots. Below, the chain to the anchor is straightened and nearly bar taut.

High winds
High winds

Behind us, unforgiving rock and breaking waves awaited us should the anchor have failed. Had we dragged and the bow wiped off, we would never have been able to bring the bow around into the wind before ending up driven ashore. Fortunately, the Rocna anchor did its job true to reputation.

Deception Island cliffs
Deception Island cliffs

In the afternoon, the winds abated, and we headed into the island interior to find a better anchorage for the next night. We motored to the northern side of the caldera, a six mile trip across the huge ancient volcano.

Inside the caldera
Inside the caldera

We found what we were looking for at Telefon Bay, about the only anchorage of the whole trip that deserves to be called one.

Half Moon Island
Telefon Bay

The next day, we set out for Antarctica proper. On the way out of the caldera, we passed the old British Antarctic Survey base at Whaler’s Bay. Now abandoned, the British used to fly aircraft from here for survey projects on the mainland to the south.

Whaler’s Bay base
Whaler’s Bay

We left Deception Island to the north.

Deception Island
Deception Island