A Change of Scenery
Our first excursion of our last day in Antarctica takes place on Deception Island at Whalers’ Bay. This is a completely different landscape than we have been seeing. Huge, rusted fuel storage tanks dominate the black sand beach, and although they are an eyesore, it makes for an interesting scene. They are the remains of a Norwegian whaling station. We are inside a caldera, a collapsed volcano, and the beach is littered with rocks and black sand. Several collapsed wooden shacks give the bay an eerie feel, and guides are posted along the beach to share the history of the site. There is an aircraft hanger, and they point out where the runways used to be. As we walk towards the viewpoint hike, we see evidence that we are in an active volcano. Steam is rolling across the flat land that borders the beach. It swirls around huge whalebones that are scattered on the land. It’s almost spooky. At the far end of the beach, a leopard seal lounges near the water. He yawns - a slow, exaggerated yawn, that allows us to to get a good look at his teeth. Four chinstrap penguins clamber out of the water in front of him and stand there squawking at each other. The seal pays them no attention and I walk into the water to get a better vantage point for photos. I have to stop and pinch myself - I am meters away from penguins and a leopard seal in an active volcano in Antarctica. It is hard to believe that I am one of the privileged few who gets to experience this.
I do one last climb to the vantage point they call Neptune’s Mouth. Huge pillars of land drop straight down to the ocean below. I am so high above the water that it almost makes me dizzy. The view from up here is unbelievable - the dark beach stretches off into the distance and I can see the entire bay. It’s a different sight than we are used to, but an incredible view nonetheless.