CHINSTRAP PENGUINS, SKUA, ELEPHANT SEAL...OH MY!??!?!
Deception Island Travel Blog› entry 8 of 23 › view all entries
November 30th, 2008 – by: mellemel8
WOOHOO FIRST LANDING OF THE EXPEDITION!!!
I was so excited to get out of the boat. Our first landing at 4pm, it takes time to put on layers of clothes. After lunch, I grabbed my binoculars and my jacket to go outside to take photos entering Deception Island. There are only small amounts of snow caps on the mountains. It was an active volcano. We will be landing on whale’s bay. It is where the explorers will dig and make a swallow pool for brave souls to do the famous POLAR BEAR PLUDGE. I am planning to do the plunge. Hey you are here.
I took some awesome photos of Neptune’s bellows. We were group 1, I needed to dress up for the cold. I had long underwear, turtleneck, t �" shirt, 2 pairs of socks, snowboarding jacket and snowboarding pants…..oh and of course my beanie. I even brought my bear, Bobo. I wanted to take photos with him, he is my travel mascot. WHOO HOO!!!!!
We rode on a polar cirkel, the Ferrari of rubber boats. We had to wear special rubber boots to walk on Antarctica. We had to be sanitized before we enter back in the boat. The reason is to not cross contaminate where ever we land. I am glad i did not have to bring my own boots.
It was a 10min boat ride to the landing point. It was wet landing. Anja gave our group an hour to roam around the area. Mum and I took photos of the boat and the steam on the beach shore. I took off my gloves and I felt the warm water. I water must be cold away from the shores. At the briefing, the polar plungers must jump in the cold water first then go in the hot make shift pool, to make it official and to receive a corticated for bragging rights.
We walked towards the other side away from the landing sight. We had heard there were seals and maybe penguins in that area. I figure I won’t bother the wildlife, they are so curious they will come to us. I walked my mum to the sit near the area where people will be disrobing to do the polar plunge. I wanted to walk to the ruins of buildings and tanks around the area and take some artsy photos.
I still don’t feel am in Antarctica. I guess when I am seeing my first iceberg that is when I know I have arrived. I walked around taking it all in that I am here. I walked about and took photos of brown skuas. That means there are penguins nearby. I walked around the old tanks, houses, and storage houses. I can’t sit down on the ground. I don’t want to bring any germs in the boat. I walked towards my mum. I see there are people removing clothes and wearing their swimming gear. It was cold and the wind was strong. I watched and I took photos. I did not have the proper clothing. I wish I could go in. I would have soaked clothes. I am not backing out. I did not have my swimming gear at all. DARN IT!!!!
I watched and took photos of 2 people taking the plunge.
I hung out for a bit longer. There was a long line anyway. Then at a far distance I saw a baby elephant seal that just come up to shore. I took photos but I only got one good photo. I wish I could stay longer. I look forward to the next landing. I hope we have good landing to land. The amount of clothes I was wearing was perfect. 30 degree weather is not too bad….so far.
Uh oh time to head out to the polar cirkel and its dinner time!!!!!! We were served Filipino food, kare kare, ox tail stew made with peanut butter sauce. …only my mum and I.
LOOKING FORWARD TO NEKO HARBOR!!!!!!!
ABOUT THE CHINSTRAP PENGUINS
The Chinstrap penguin is the second most abundant Antarctic/subantarctic penguin, after the Macaroni. They are mainly concentrated in vast colonies along the coast of South Orkneys, South Shetlands and South Sandwich Islands. There are also small breeding colonies on the Balleny Islands, south of New Zealand.Although population changes have been detected among colonies on the Antarctic Peninsula, the overall Chinstraps population seems stable.
Individuals of this species are recognized by the narrow band of black feathers which extends from ear to ear, just below the chin and the cheeks, hence the name. This distinctive, thin black line distinguishes Chinstraps from Adelies and Gentoos, the other two members of its genus. Chinstraps are also smaller than Gentoos
The diet of the Chinstrap consists of: small shoaling animals, krill, small fish and other roaming marine crustaceans. They are considered near-shore feeders foraging among the pack ice, although vagrants may occasionally be seen in the open sea. They feed by pursuit-diving for prey close to their breeding colonies. Diving effort is usually concentrated near midnight and noon and dives typically last less than a minute and are seldom more than 200 feet deep.
Chinstrap penguins lay two eggs in November or December and the chicks fledge at about seven to eight weeks in late February and early March. Unlike other penguins species where the stronger chick is fed preferentially, Chinstrap parents treat both chicks equally. Scientists believe that extensive sea-ice persisting close to shore can restrict access to the sea for foraging adults and therefore impact chick survival.
Although Chinstrap penguins are not considered to be migratory, they do leave their colonies and move north of the pack ice in March through to early May for the winter.
The principal predator of adult Chinstraps is the Leopard seal, while the main predators of eggs and chicks are sheathbills and the Brown skua.
ABOUT THE ELEPHANT SEALS
Inhabitants of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands, Southern Elephant seals, are named for their massive size and for the trunk-like noses of the males. The biggest of the Antarctic seals, these impressive mammals were heavily exploited for their oil during the 19th and early 20th centuries by sealers, who called the animals 'sea elephants.' Populations have since recovered and today sightings throughout the Southern Ocean are quite common. In the summer months, one can observe 'beach parties' of hundreds of Elephant seals lying around 'sunbathing' in muddy depressions called wallows on rocky island shores.
Southern Elephant seals have silvery-brownish skin with large square-shaped heads, strong front flippers, and flipper tails. Male Elephant seals are much larger than the females. Aside from their tremendous bulk, a distinctive feature is the inflatable trunk-like proboscis of the bull, which is fully grown by its eighth year. Swift and powerful swimmers, Southern Elephant seals are cumbersome on land, having difficulty lifting their huge bodies off the ground as they haul themselves on and off the beach.
Elephant seals prey on large fishes, squid and an occasional penguin. They have have few, if any predators. Prey is caught on dives up to several thousand feet deep which can last up to two hours. Elephant seals accomplish this remarkable feat by lowering their heart rates to as little as a single beat per minute.
Males and females reach breeding grounds in August and September. Males then compete quite aggressively in order to establish breeding rights. Fighting amongst these mature bulls involves repeated strikes with their trunks and teeth until one or the other submits. These clashes can become quite bloody and older males bear the scars of many such encounters. The victorious or dominant bull then becomes 'beachmaster,' with mating rights to a 'harem' of up to 50 females. Pups are born during the Austral summer and grow incredibly quickly on their mothers' rich, 50% fat milk. By the time they're weaned in about 3 weeks, they've quadrupled their weight.
HISTORY OF DECEPTION ISLAND
Deception Island is an island in the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula which has one of the safest harbours in Antarctica.
Ring-shaped Deception Island, one of Antarctica's most well known volcanoes, contains a 7-km-wide caldera flooded by the sea. Deception Island is located at the SW end of the Shetland Islands, NE of Graham Land Peninsula, and was constructed along the axis of the Bransfield Rift spreading center. A narrow passageway named Neptune’s Bellows provides entrance to a natural harbor that was utilized as an Antarctic whaling station. Numerous vents located along ring fractures circling the low, 14-km-wide island have been active during historical time. Maars line the shores of 190-m-deep Port Foster, the caldera bay.
The island, located at [show location on an interactive map] 62°57′S, 60°36′W, is approximately circular with a diameter of about 12 km (7 mi). Its highest point, Mt Pond, has an elevation of 542 m (1778 ft), and over half the island is covered by glaciers. The centre of the island is a caldera formed in a huge eruption (VEI-6) which has been flooded by the sea to form a large bay named Port Foster, about 9 km (5.5 mi) long and 6 km (3.6 mi) wide. The bay has a narrow entrance, just 230 m (754 ft) wide, called Neptune's Bellows.
Several maars line the inside rim of the caldera, with some containing crater lakes (including one named Crater Lake). Others form bays within the harbor, such as the 1 kilometer wide Whalers Bay.
Since the early 19th century Deception Island was a favorite refuge from the storms and icebergs of Antarctica. It was first used by sealers, then in 1906 a Norwegian-Chilean whaling company started using Whalers' Bay as a base for a factory ship, the Gobernador Bories. Other whaling operations followed suit, and by 1914 there were 13 factory ships based there.
The station did not actually process whale blubber, that being done on the ships, but instead took the carcasses and boiled them down to extract additional whale oil, using large iron boilers, and storing the results in iron tanks.
Entrance to Deception Island, Livingston Island in the background.
Elevation 576 metres (1,890 feet)
Prominence 576 m
Coordinates 62°58′37.2″S, 60°39′0″W
Last eruption 1970
Whale oil prices dropped in the Great Depression, making the station uneconomic, and it was abandoned in 1931.
Other remains at Whalers' Bay include an aircraft hangar with a bright orange derelict airplane fuselage outside (removed in 2004), and the British scientific station house (Biscoe House), with the middle torn out by the mudflows in 1969.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Argentina contested control of Deception Island with the UK with some removals of the sovereign flag and temporary occupation of the island.
On February 3, 1944 the British established a permanent base on Deception Island as part of Operation Tabarin, and occupied it until December 5, 1967, when a volcanic eruption forced a temporary withdrawal.
In 1955 Chile inaugurated its station Pedro Aguirre Cerda at Pendulum Cove, to increase the Chilean presence in the sector claimed by that nation.
In 1961 Argentina's president Arturo Frondizi visited to show his country's interest.
In 1963 the American Coast Guard icebreaker Eastwind, WAGB 279, visited Deception Island. There were two scientific stations active, one British and one Chilean. The Chileans had an air strip and flew a DeHaviland Beaver back and forth to Punta Arenas for resupply. There were active fumaroles spewing noxious gasses and some fumaroles had churning volcanic ash in the depressions. The Eastwind ran aground inside the volcano which is likely the only time an American military ship ever ran aground inside an active volcano.
In 1969 a violent volcanic eruption demolished the Chilean stations Pedro Aguirre Cerda and Gutierrez Vargas.
The volcano has mostly taken care of other attempts to maintain permanent facilities, and as of 2000, there were only two scientific stations still in use, both summer-only: Spain has Gabriel de Castilla[, and Argentina its Decepción station.
Deception Island has become a popular tourist stop in Antarctica because it has several colonies of chinstrap penguins, as well as the novel possiblility of making a warm bath by digging into the sands of the beach. Baily Head on the west side of the island holds one of the world's largest chinstrap rookeries.
After the Norwegian Coastal Cruise Liner M/S Nordkapp ran aground off the coast of Deception Island on January 30th, 2007, fuel from the ship washed into a bay.
Deception Island exhibits some wildly varying microclimates. Some water temperatures reach 70°C (158°F). Near volcanic areas, the air can be as hot as 40°C (103°F).
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