December 03, 2012 – Halfmoon Island, South Shetland Islands
Posted on December 4th, 2012
Today we understood why you might need a vacation after your vacation to Antarctica. Breakfast began at 0600 and the first of the Zodiacs headed ashore just after 0700.
Our destination this morning was Halfmoon Island in the South Shetland Island chain. Known as early as 1821 by sealers, this small crescent-shaped island is home to nesting chinstrap penguins, shags and many smaller bird species. Crossing over the island, we encountered Weddell seals lounging in the sun along the shoreline as the chinstraps came and went from their colony.
As the morning wore on, the temperature continued to rise and we continued peeling off our layers, feeling as though we would soon be in our t-shirts. It was difficult to pull us away when the call was made for the final Zodiac.
Through the lunch hour, ‘Le Boreal’ steamed south toward our afternoon activity: a visit to Whalers Bay on the inside of Deception Island. Appropriately named, Deception Island looks like any other island at first glance. But take a closer look and you’ll find an opening into the flooded caldera of this still-active volcano.
Today was our chance to take the polar plunge if we, to quote Larry, “were completely nuts.” We needed to have all of the cards lined up for the waters to be warm. Although everything was almost perfect, the winds were blowing a gale. Even still, some twenty of us took the plunge and earned our stripes!
Returning to the warmth of ‘Le Boreal,’ the anchor was heaved and Captain Garcia took us for a scenic tour of Port Foster. We then exited Deception Island through Neptune’s Bellows.
Sailing south-southwest towards the peninsula, we settled in for another fine meal before heading off to catch some sleep. The only question for tomorrow; could it possibly be any better than today?
– Chris Srigley, Naturalist