This last adventure has truly been one of my favorites! We wrapped up our journey a couple days ago when we woke up at 5 AM and made our way, bright and early to an Antarctic-Chilean military base, near the south Shetland Islands. We walked down the long gravel runway, no terminal of any sort, exposed to the elements, as we watched our planes land before us. There was no TSA pat-down, no 3 ounce liquid limit, and no x-ray machines… But I’m sure that some nearby penguin had a close eye on our curious behavior. One of our planes was actually painted to resemble a penguin!
We made our way back to Punta Arenas and ended the day with a wonderful dinner on land with our newfound friends and fellow adventurers.
Prior to this, I had left off talking about our plans to sail into the caldera of an active volcano. The volcano at Deception Island is still considered active, last erupting back around 1969. The caldera from the initial blast opens into the Antarctic seas. The ocean water funnels in through what’s known as Neptune’s Bellows. It was here that we passed, moving this massive ship right in to the center of this active volcano. Fortunately and obviously this did not involve any lava flows. Actually, the water itself is just as cold as the surrounding polar sea. However, along the shoreline you can see temperature variants creating a steamy backdrop emerging from the pumice lines beach. It used to be common practice to arrive on shore, and dig just deep enough to create a natural hot spring. Environmental regulations now prevent this. However, that didn’t stop us from taking a dip!
After a steep climb up a black pumice wall to the site of the last eruption, we made our way to the shore, stripped down to our skivvies, and made a mad dash for the ice cold water in true polar plunge style. I would’ve much rather preferred a spontaneous jump into deep waters, too quick to be able to change my mind halfway into the plunge. However, in good spirit, I over-rode that part of our brains meant to protect us, that part of your brain that says “this is a bad idea”, and made my way… leading the pack, first one into the icy waters! Yes, it was cold! Being from Minnesota though, we are champs at this sort of thing.
Later that afternoon, we made one last zodiac run to shore at Half Moon Bay. Several Penguins here were in the process of molting, and sadly off to the side we sat an injured penguin, we assume victim to the leopard seal. He sat with part of his guts hanging out of his side, shivering on a rock. It’s expected he’ll likely die of hypothermia overnight. Stuff like that just breaks my heart. On a lighter note, this island was also filled with several rare nesting birds, and dozens of fur seals that were quite entertaining.
Later that night, back on the ship we had a captain’s farewell dinner. We reconvened in the lounge and debriefed our expedition. Truly, this experience has been absolutely amazing! Not only have I had the opportunity to meet so many like-minded individuals, but I have had the honor and pleasure of experiencing parts of the world so remote, so pristine, and so preserved from human impact. The sights and sounds of this journey will linger with me for a lifetime. I can only hope I will one day return to experience this beauty once again. I will share a more comprehensive selection of photos when I get the chance. Till then, adventure on!