Volcanoes topped with snow, a steamy lagoon, abandoned buildings, abundant wildlife: my first sight of Antarctica. This is a deception of my prediction of Antarctica, which is quite fitting for the name of our first landing: Deception Island.
The first documented people, sealers in the 1800’s, were deceived as they sailed through the entrance point, Neptune’s Bellow. They thought they’d reach open sea, but were instead encased in this horseshoe-shaped island.
The very first Antarctic fur seal sighting will stick in my mind forever. I sat 5 meters away – the required minimum distance according to the International Antarctic Treaty. Expedition leaders tried to shoo me off the beach to start the first hike, but I didn’t want to leave this fur seal, unaware that I’d see dozens more later in the afternoon.
This island holds diverse land and water features including ash-covered glaciers, lakes, large-flooded caldera upon an active volcano. It last erupted in the 1960’s and who’s to say it won’t burst before our first Antarctic hike is through? Rather than panic over this thought and rush to leave, my 11-year-old friend encouraged me to pause, close my eyes, and take it all in with her.
Instead of a volcanic eruption, I got my first taste of another nature force – Antarctic winds! These strong gusts would come off the cold glacier, burn my face, take my breath away, and I’d dropping to my knees to defend being knocked off the hilltop. My new friend Joe was a bit braver when he leaned against the wind downhill, trusting the wind direction to sustain uphill!
So much to marvel over from only our first landing! Later that afternoon we arrived at Whaler’s Bay where I collected my first water sample, but I’ll save that for my next blog entry!