Sunday, 29 December 2013

Half Moon & Deception Islands

 Half Moon island - showing part of the crescent
 from which it got its name.

The start of the walk, from the bay,
 up to the ridgeline.
Michael, Barbara & myself having a great time!

The first section was steep & hard going
 in the snow shoes!
Maria, leading the way!

Half Moon Island is a relatively small island next to the heavily glaciated Livingston Island. Most of the wildlife is concentrated on the southern arm of the crescent. And that is where we headed! But first a few of us did a walk in snow shoes up to the top of a nearby ridge & along the skyline before heading back down towards the Chinstrap Penguin colony. The weather was very good & it turned out to be a massive highlight of the trip, with stupendous views in every direction. No birds at all were seen on this walk, apart from a lone pair of South Polar Skuas nesting on top of the mountain.

 Pretty harsh terrain!


 We slowly, climbed higher!
A small group of kayaker's from our ship.
South Polar Skua - the only bird seen
on a three hour hike!
What a stupendous place!
I was having the time of my life!
Peter & his daughter, Daphne - both top people!

Any pieces of land not covered by ice
 are used for nesting.

Chinstrap Penguins are very noisy!
The Chinstrap Penguin colony is about 3,000 pairs & fairly scattered over a wide area. However, we could get close & personal and we all enjoyed some great viewing, of these superb little birds. It is sometimes hard to remember that penguins are in fact birds! It was a great morning!


 Chinstraps have to walk quite a long way from
the sea to get to these nesting areas.
All of it through thick snow!
Antarctic Shag in habitat!
This one has some nesting material!
Rare stuff indeed down here!

Our ship, together with an Antarctic research vessel.

Part of our group, watching the
Chinstrap Penguin colony.

And there was a lot of activity!

Even the smallest, snow free piece of ground
 is used for nesting.

Weddell Seals were on the ice.

What is amazing, are the amount of scars
on each animal.

My first view of Deception Island.
During lunch we sailed by nearby Deception Island.  The weather yet again turned bright & sunny & we were all set for a brilliant afternoon!

The old whaling station, in Deception Island Harbour.

The buildings are looking at bit worse
 for the wear these days!
Deception Island lives up to its name! It is a horseshoe shaped island, with the most wonderful, safe harbour in the whole of Antarctica. But the land is the rim of a volcano & the lovely safe harbour is a caldera filled with sea water! Oh! I might have forgot to mention, that it is still active! The blast that took off the top of the volcano happened around 10,000 years ago, but there have been recent eruptions even into the 1970's. Snow free patches on the island are because of the warm, geologically active rocks, which melts the snow! Only about half of this land mass is covered by glaciers, whereas all other islands & the Antarctic mainland are virtually 100% covered by glaciers. However, this means you can go hiking! And that is what we did!

One of the best viewing points
 (in calm weather) on the ship.
The riff-raff, that a photographer has to put up with!
The helicopter is from the research vessel,
which was in the vicinity.
Some lucky people get here under their own steam,
 or is it wind?
Brett & Debbie have circumnavigated the world twice
in their little yacht!
Deception Island has one of the best safe harbours
 in Antarctica.
 Maybe you might be able to guess why?
 The red are patches of iron at the surface.
Our group landing on Deception Island.
 Of course, I landed before them!
Weddell Seals in the foreground.
 What is totally amazing are all the marks
 on these animals!

That distant ridge, was where we were heading!
About half of our group elected to conduct a hike, up on to the distant ridge, walk along the ridge & back down on the beach. It turned out to be an amazingly scenic & wonderful experience. 
The group at the very start of our memorable hike!
Guess who? No, it is not Stevie Wonder!
As one walked higher, the views just got better!

Our little group enjoying the views.
Two of our party down there!
Yes, it is me again! But I was very happy!
 It is sights like this, that one goes to Antarctica for!

 A white phase, Southern Giant Petrel.

No bird species at all were seen on the hike! However, as we descended this little (giant) beauty hove into sight!
Bird list for the day was a little restricted!
Gentoo Penguin 8; Chinstrap Penguin 5,000; Southern Giant Petrel 2; Cape Petrel 250+; Snow Petrel 10;Wilson's Storm Petrel 5; Antarctic Shag 10; Snowy Sheathbill 110; Kelp Gull 500+; Antarctic Tern 25; South Polar Skua 8.
Eleven species in total!
As evening descended upon us, the light changed in very dramatic fashion! We sailed out of the caldera, through the tight piece of sea, named Neptune's Bellows. The scenery was just spectacular! The light changed yet again & the sky became almost black & red, at one point. I had never seen anything quite like it.
And so ended yet another remarkable day!
Evening in Deception Island harbour.
 Neptune's Bellows.


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