Deception Island

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For the island of Washington state, see Deception Island (Washington).

Deception Island
Missing image

Entrance to Deception Island, Livingston Island in the background.
Elevation:576 m (1,890 feet)
Coordinates: Template:Coor d
Last eruption: 1970
First ascent:
Easiest route:

Deception Island is an island in the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula in Antarctica. It is notable for having one of the safest harbors in Antarctica, and for being an active volcano, whose eruption in 1970 caused serious damage to the scientific stations there.

The island is located at 62 deg 57 min S, 60 deg 36 min W. It is approximately circular, with a diameter of about 12 km (7 mi), and its highest point, Mt Pond, has an elevation of 542 m (1778 ft). The center of the island is a large bay named Port Foster, about 9 km (5.5 mi) long and 6 km (3.6 mi) wide, thus covering most of the middle of the island. The bay has a narrow entrance, just 230 m (754 ft) wide, called Neptunes Bellows. Adding to the hazard is Ravn Rock, which lies 2.5 m (8 ft) below the water in the middle of the channel. Just inside Neptunes Bellows lies the cove Whalers Bay, which is bordered by a large black sand beach.

Nevertheless, 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.

Whale oil prices dropped in the Great Depression, making the station uneconomic, and it was abandoned in 1931. Advances in factory ships made shore stations for carcass processing unnecessary, and so it was never reoccupied. 45 men were buried in the station's cemetery, but the cemetery was buried in a 1969 eruption, and the only remaining signs are the rusting boilers and tanks.

Other remains at Whalers Bay include an aircraft hangar with a bright orange derelict airplane fuselage outside, and the British scientific station house, with the middle torn out by the mudflows in 1969.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Argentina and the UK contested control of Deception Island with various tit-for-tat removals of each other's flags, and temporary occupation of the island.

On February 3, 1944 the British established a permanent base on Deception Island as part of Operation Tabarin, which was occupied until December 5, 1967, when a volcanic eruption forced a temporary withdrawal. It was used again between December 4, 1968 and Feburay 23, 1969, when further volcanic activity caused it to be abandoned.

In 1961 Argentina's president Arturo Frondizi visited to show his country's interest.

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 Decepcion station.


Missing image

Deception Island has several colonies of chinstrap penguins, and it is possible to make a warm bath by digging into the sands of the beach, so it has become a popular tourist stop in Antarctica.

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