Deception Island, Antarctica
Located off the northwest coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island is part of the South Shetland Islands group and is one of the most visited locations in Antarctica.
Taking on an almost circular form, Deception Island is actually a volcano. Due to a catastrophic eruption almost 10,000 years ago, the volcano collapsed in on itself, forming a caldera which eventually filled with water. Deception Island is now one of the few places in the world where you can sail into the centre of a restless volcano.
Truly a site to behold, the island is surrounded by a ring of hills with 57% of its land surface covered by permanent glaciers. Deception Island’s Port Foster is one of the safest harbours in the world, offering visitors a once in a lifetime chance to experience the ice shelves, bubbling hot springs and ash-covered beaches of this eerily isolated location.
Deception Island is situated 160 kilometres northwest of the Antarctic Peninsula, and approximately 960 kilometres south of the bottom tip of South America. At 15 kilometres in diameter, this island is accessed via Neptune’s Bellows, a narrow gateway just 230 metres wide. Cruises visiting the area can disembark at a number of places, such as Pendulum Cove, Telefon Bay, Baily Head and Whalers Bay.
No specific port for cruise passengers exists on the island. Instead, there are two research facilities: Argentina’s Decepcion and Spain’s Gabriel de Castilla. These scientific outposts are summer-only bases with visits permitted only if prior arrangements have been made. Day trips rather than overnight stays occur on the island for tourists to learn about its important natural, historic and scientific values. Basic facilities including clean water, electricity and toilets are provided.
How to Get Around
All tourism visitors to Deception Island arrive by sea. Travelling on foot using established tracks is the main way to move around once your ship or boat has made anchor. No taxis or cars as such are available to tourists. All other transport is via small boats or your arrival ship that will dock at various sites.
- Currency – There is no currency exchanged on Deception Island and all visits are day trips via ship. Currency used on the ship is dependent on the nationality of the carrier, or is in US dollars. The on board economy is also managed depending on who you’re travelling with, but will often follow a system whereby everything is paid for at the end using cash or credit card.
- Time Zone – There is technically no official time zone in Antarctica, as the longitude lines from all time zones meet at a central point here. Each research base will usually determine its own time zone, often based on their home country or the closest point on inhabited land. Cruise ships will often adopt the time zone of the last point they disembarked from, for example Christchurch, New Zealand, which is 12 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) during the winter and 13 hours ahead in summer.
- Weather – During Antarctica’s winter, temperatures can drop below minus 50 degrees Celsius and there can be 24 hours of darkness each day. During the warmer months, from November to April, temperatures can range from 11 degrees Celsius to minus 28 degrees. This is the peak tourist season.
- Whalers Bay – One of the most visited areas on Deception Island, Whalers Bay got its name from the location’s initial role as a port for whalers. After making anchor here, you will see the remains of stations, a cemetery and giant rusting tanks that were used for boiling whale fat.
- Baily Head – Another popular site, Baily Head is located on the south east coast of the island. A natural amphitheatre, this rocky headland is home to the Chinstrap penguin colony. As one of the largest colonies in the world, it’s been estimated that around 100,000 pairs of penguins breed here each year. Other animals here include Gentoo penguins, skuas and elephant seals.
- Telefon Bay – Although barren in appearance, the land surrounding Telefon Bay is actually covered by mosses and lichens, and is of high botanical interest. Telefon is also a popular dive site. You can take the icy plunge at Stancomb Cove for a surreal experience of swimming in the underwater world of a volcano.
- Pendulum Cove – Located northeast of Port Foster, this small cove got its name after the magnetic observations that were conducted here using pendulums in the 1800s. Featuring a remarkable ash and cinder beach, Pendulum Cove houses the remains of the Chilean research station destroyed by a 1967 volcanic eruption. Thermal springs also dot the cove’s shallow shoreline, meaning visitors can take a dip in the warm water.