Deception Island – Bailey Head and Whalers Bay

Never have you seen two people leap out of bed so quickly as my cabin mate and I, when the expedition leader announced two minutes after the wake up call that there were minke whales off the bow. Niceties such as showering went out the window, as I quickly threw on my clothes and headed outside. The temperature has dropped a little, and with the cool wind, my ungloved hands were practically frozen to the camera. The whales were quite a way off, but eventually they came close enough for a couple recognisable photos, although nothing spectacular.

The plan for the morning was to make a landing at Baily Head, on the outside of the ring shaped Deception Island. There was some question to whether the landing would be possible, as it’s a notoriously difficult one, with high waves coming into a steep beach. After sending a pilot boat out, we had the news that the landing was to go ahead.

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Baily Head is a long beach, with hills behind, hosting a huge chinstrap penguin colony, with penguins nesting all the way back into the mountains. Despite the description of the size of the colony, I was totally unprepared for the extent of it, and the drama of the surrounding landscape.

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Because of all the warnings we had about the difficulties of the landing, I pared down my camera bag to just the fisheye (that I’ve hired for the trip), and the 70-200mm lens, one on each body. It turned out to be the perfect choice, and I made the most of the opportunity to get some wide-angle landscape shots. There were a few fur seals hauled out, but I gave those a wide berth.

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Although I concentrated on landscape, I did take a few close up shots, mostly trying to capture a bit of movement in the penguin’s antics, but also, more somberly, of Southern Giant Petrels fending off each other and the skuas from a penguin kill.

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Deception Island is the caldera of an active volcano, and lunchtime saw us passing through the so-called Neptune’s Bellows to the inside of the ring.

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Our second destination was Whalers Bay, a place I’d visited on my previous trip, renowned for its geothermal activity and old whaling station. As far as wildlife is concerned, it’s not the most interesting places, so I decided to travel light, taking only a standard lens with me.

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I took the option of the hike up to Neptune’s Window and back, stopping along the way for my first leopard seal sighting (it was sleeping on the beach), and also to photograph some kind of starfish.

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