Our Journey to Antartica aboard the National Geographic Explorer – Day 3

We awoke on this day knowing that the infamous Drake Passage was behind us. Thank god! It felt quite a relief to be smooth sailing on a pleasant, calm water again.

After breakfast, we crossed the 60th parallel south, the geopolitcal demarcation of Antarctica. We finally arrived and were happy to see some land ahead!  We were looking forward to make our first landfall later in the afternoon.

First land sighting in Antarctica, National Geographic Explorer, Lindbland ExpeditionsLand ahead!

During this morning, we enjoyed an educational talk about ice research and climate change from guest speaker Ken Taylor, the chief scientist for Antarctic Project from Desert Research Institute.

Our expedition leader also gave us pre-landing briefing that included biodiveristy security and rules that tourists should abide by to maintain Antartica’s pristine environment.

We also went through decontamination of all our used gears that we were taking with us during landing – boots, outerwears, trekking poles, backpack, monopods, etc. This process is important to prevent transporting foreign species into Antarctic lands and water.

Sailing into the Caldera of Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionEntering the flooded caldera of Deception Island. We’re now inside the volcano!

By midday, we approached Deception Island, a volcanic island  in the South Shetland archipelago that is shaped like a donut with a small bite. That bite serves as a narrow passage into a flooded caldera that forms a bay. The island was called such because early seafarers just sailed pass the passage, called Nepture Bellow, not knowing that there was a bay within.

The original plan was to make our first landing in Bailey’s Head, an area on the outisde of Deception Island that is a home to a large colony of Chinstrap penguins. However, it was determined that the waves in the area were rough and was not safe for Zodiac landing. Instead, we slipped through the Neptune Bellow into the caldera which offers protection from any swell.

Such is the nature of the expedition. Our activities and schedules were flexible to take advantage of what nature offered best at a given time.

Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionOnce inside the caldera, we felt quite amazed to be in the only place in the world where a vessel can sail into the center of a volcano. We were also surprised to see some buildings on the shore inside the caldera. We learned that it has the longest history of human occupation than any site in Antarctica.

Zodiac Boats, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition





Anchor down! We were thrilled to see the fleet of inflatable boats, the Zodiacs, being lowered into the water one by one. These Zodiacs would transport us from ship to shore.


Zodiac boat arriving on Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionWe were transported ashore in batches.  When our turn came, we were excited to hop into the Zodiac for the first time and to finally be ashore in a short moment. We also experienced our first wet landing. (See Travel Notes below for footwear and gears needed for this kind of landing.)

Penguins and seals in Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionThere was no penguin colony in this area but there were some penguins ashore to welcome us on our first Antarctic landing. There were also some seals but they couldn’t be bothered with our arrival.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was exhilarating and surreal to finally be on Antarctic land and to be stepping into our seventh and final continent. It was about 24 F/-4 C,  windy and with cloudy sky. It was a true polar experience.

People Hiking in Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition, Lindblad ExpeditionsUpon landing, our group hiked to the top of Neptune Window, part of a crater rim that offers view of both inner and outer part of the island.

Here’s Keith’s short video of our hike to Neptune Window. See the amazing landscape that surrounded us and hear the sound of the polar wind.

Neptune's Window, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionWhen we reached the ridge of Neptune Window, one of the naturalists gave us the geological history of the island. We were surprised, and a bit scared, to learn that this volcanic island was still active! Its last eruption was in 1969.

Hikers in Nepture Window, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionWe were in awe of the dramatic landscape of this volcanic island. It is indeed a stunning land of fire and ice.

Neptune's Window, Deception Island, Antartiva, National GeographiC Expeditions, Lindblad, Expeditions

Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition

Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition

National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionIt was cold and windy but we kept warm. As you can see, we were properly dressed for the occasion. (For what we had to wear, see Travel Notes below).

Penguins and seals in Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionAfter our hike, we headed to Whaler’s Bay where we explored the relics of the only land-based whaling station in Antarctica,  operated between 1907 and 1931 by Norwegians and Chileans.

Industrial history in the island actually started in the early 1800’s, when it became the focal point of the fur sealing industry in the South Shetland archipelago.

Old Whaler's Boat, Whaler's Bay, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition, Lindblad ExpeditionsAn old whaler’s boat.

Whale Bones, Whaler's Bay, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition, Lindblad ExpeditionsSome whale bones.

Whaler's Hut, Whaler's Bay, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition, National Geographic/Linblad ExpeditionsAn old whaler’s hut.

Whale Oil tank, Whaler's Bay, Deception Island, Antartica, National Geopgraphic ExpeditionsBoilers used to extract whales’ oil.

Whale Oil Silos.Tank, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionRusting silos used to store whales’ oil.

Whaler's Hut, Whaler's Bay, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition, National Geographic/Lindblad ExpeditionsRemains of British research stations that were launched at the end of WWII. Britain claimed the area as part of the British Empire. At the same time, Argentina and Chile claimed it as their territory as well.

Airplane Hangar, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionThe building is remain of an aircraft hangar used by British in the 1960’s. It was interesting to learn that Deception Island also has a long history of aviation. It was here where the British aviators took off with a single engine Lockheed in 1928, the first plane to have flown in Antarctica.

Airplane Hangar, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica ExpeditionThe structures and operations on the island were destroyed and abandoned after the volcanic eruption in 1969 and were never rebuilt.

Zodiac-leaving-Deception-Island-National-Geographic-Explorer-Antarctica-Expedition.Time to head back to the ship after a rewarding and exhilarating first landfall. Some penguins were on the shore to see us off.

Captain Leif Skog, Captain's Welcome Party, Deception Island, National Geographic Explorer, Antarctica Expedition, National Geopgraphic/Lindblad ExpeditionsBack on board in the evening, we enjoyed the Captain’s cocktail and dinner party. Our captain par excellence, Leif Skog, has been navigating vessels in Antarctica since 1979 and was the architect of the emergency contingency plan for all vessels navigating in Antarctica.  We were grateful to have him as our captain. (The least we could all do to show him our appreciation for his excellent and safe navigation was a standing ovation at the end of the expedition.)

It was a great start to our adventure in the Antarctic Peninsula. And it even got better from here. The following day brought us brighter skies, tons of nesting penguins and beautiful ice patterns.  We’re excited to share them with you in our next post.


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Travel Notes:

We received a lot of questions about the expedition, especially from those planning to take this trip in the future,  and we try to answer them as we go through each post.

How cold was it? What kind of clothes did you wear?
  • During the day, the temperature averaged in the mid-20’s F/-4C.
  • We wore four layers on top: a mid-weight thermal base layer, a fleece or techwick sweater, and the excellent double layer expedition parka supplied to us by National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions (for us to take home).
  • We wore two layers on the bottom: an expedition-weight thermal long pants and waterproof/windproof (Gortex) outer shell pants. At times, we wore three layers: a medium-weight thermal, a trouser, and the outer shell.
  • For head protection, we wore a combo balaclava that provides cover for the head, face and neck.
  • We wore waterproof mittens and a thin gloves to  under the mittens (to keep hands warm when we took off mittens for photography).
What kind of shoes did you wear?
  • Most of our trip ashore required wet landing and, thus, it was important that our footwear were fully waterproof knee-high boots. It is also important that the boots have good traction for hiking on ice and tough terrain. We wore Arctic Sports Muck Boots and they were perfect.
What gears did you carry ashore?
  • DSLR camera, a wide angle lens (24-105 mm) and a zoom lens (70-200 with 1.5X extender), a monopod, and a waterproof compact camera for both photos and videos.
  • Waterproof bag/backpack to carry the photography gears. This is important to protect the gears during wet landing.
  • Trekking poles (Unless you’re attached to your very own poles, you don’t have to bring; they have them on the ship).  Your monopod can also double as walking stick.

Note: If you live in a warm place and have no use for the cold gears after the expedition, you can rent instead of purchasing them. Renting them is also a good idea if you want to pack lighter.  National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions use From Ship to Shore for gear rentals. The rented gears will be waiting for you on the ship upon embarkation.


Linking to Weekend Travel Inspiration, The Weekly Postcard, Travel Photo Discovery, Travel Photo Thursday.

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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

60 responses to “Deception Island: Our First Landfall in Antarctica

  1. Wow, how exciting and thanks for taking us with you through stories and photos. I know you say the coats are warm, but it looks pretty cold in some of those photos, and the video sounds cold with all that wind. What an exciting adventure. Thanks for linking up at weekend travel inspiration.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted..Auckland’s Seafood Festival – A Culinary Anniversary TreatMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Rhonda, our pleasure. It really was cold and windy but we didn’t really feel them. The parka provided to us was really great in blocking the elements.. Having windproof pants also helped. It truly was an exciting adventure.
      Marisol recently posted..Deception Island: Our First Landfall in AntarcticaMy Profile

  2. What an adventure. I am very envious. I would love to see large penguins in the wild. Do you know what species the ones you saw were. D and I saw some king penguins today at an aquarium in Auckland. They weren’t in the wild but they were amazing nevertheless. It looks like the ones in your photos might be king penguins.
    Lyn@thetravellinglindfields recently posted..Tips and tricks to get the best hotel room at the best rate!My Profile

    • Marisol

      HI Lynn, the peguins we saw here were Adelie penguins. They moist live in the Antarctic Peninsula. The King Peguins are mostly in the Falklamd and South George’s Island. I hope you get a chance to see them in the wild soon. It’s is amazing to observe and learn about their behavior.

    • Marisol

      Thanks Maria. I’m pleased you enjoyed the trip:)

  3. Anda

    What a great trip! I envy you for this National Geographic expedition, Marisol, but I’ve told you this before. Too bad you couldn’t visit the penguins’ colony on Deception Island. I love penguins and I’m sure you do too. But sailing into a Zodiac in these cold, unfriendly waters…. brrrr! Not my cup of tea.

    • Marisol

      Hi Anda, it was alright,. We had mant chances to see a lot more penguin colonies after this day and they were delightful. I can’t wait to share them with you. The Zodiac ride from ship to shop were very short – often it was only about a minute. And since were were waterproofed from head to be we didn’t get wet and our gears were great in blocking cold.

  4. Corinne

    Marisol, I love it! I really want to go. I’m so curious about the buildings. Are they inhabited now? Is that where the geologist lives? Thanks again for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration!
    Corinne recently posted..Top 10 Things to do in MaltaMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Corinne, so glad you enjoyed it. Those buildings were whalers’ huts, researtch station and hangars and they are no longer in used. As mentioned, they were all abandoned after the last volcano eruption in 1969..
      Marisol recently posted..Deception Island: Our First Landfall in AntarcticaMy Profile

  5. I hate winter, I simply loathe it. I am however willing to brave the cold for the sake of adventure. I’m a bit jealous of you guys, I’d never thought I’d willlingly travel to a cold place but I just might add Antarctica to my bucketlist.
    Rachael@safari254 recently posted..Taita Hills Wildlife SanctuaryMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Rachel, the key is to be dressed properly for the cold and you will have a great time. Antarctica is so worthy to add to your list. I really hope you can make it there someday.

    • Marisol

      Hi Samiya, it truly was an amazing journing and I really wish that the Selim family can make this dream trip someday.

  6. Wow! It looks intense – and cold! I go back and forth over whether I really want to go to Antartica. It would be fascinating, but there are lots of warmer places that would be fascinating too. But then, only a few of those warmer places have penguins :-( I hope you get to see more wildlife on your next stop!
    Cindy – thetravelgal recently posted..Cerveza Boxes along the Street in Akumal, MexicoMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Cindy, it looks cold but we were not cold at old. Don’t let the thought of coldness discourage you,. If you property dressed for it you will forget the you’re in a cold place. Yes, we did see tons more of wildlife in our next stops.

  7. A wet landing in Antarctica sounds positively chilly, but 24F isn’t so bad. Being from a warm climate, I think we wore a similar amount of clothing to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. That’s so incredible that you can sail into a caldera. It really drives home the notion of how volcanic islands are made. I guess the top is at sea level at some point. Too bad that you didn’t get closer to the huge colony of chinstraps, but the whaling base with the boat ruins and the old buildings makes up for it. Imagine living out there before instantaneous communication with the rest of the world was available. And wow, that polar wind is wailing in the video.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Cambodian Snack Food: Bamboo Sticky RiceMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Michelle, it was not chilly at all; we were property geared up for it. The volcanic setting was truly interesting and those relics from old whaling industry made it more fascinating. We saw a lot more penguin colonies in our next stops. I’m afraid you may get sick of them:)

  8. noel

    Wow, how exciting and that hike looks like quite a workout but fun….love all the fantastic information – I hope I can put this on my travel bucket list for 2015
    noel recently posted..The Fancy Food Show – Travel Photo MondaysMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Noel, it was realloy a fun hike and a great workout after being cooped up on the ship for almost 2 days. I’m glad you liked the info. I really hope you can make it there this year,.

    • Marisol

      Hi Aleah, thanks! I wish for you to make it there someday. Stay positive and never never say never.

  9. Not a fan of cold – heck, we lived within 8 degrees of the Equator for years. But sometimes enduring frigid climes is worth it, and this is one of those times. Especially since you had a chance to sail into a caldera. Deception Island is a unique experience, that’s for sure.

    I’ve been looking at Antarctica excursions and the National Geographic Lindblad is tops on my list. They are comparatively high priced, but in this case you get what you pay for.

    I definitely agree that setting foot on the continent is a Big Deal. Like you, I have a goal to set foot on all seven continents. (Two to go!) Now that you’ve accomplished it, what’s your next goal?
    Linda Bibb recently posted..Vatican Bucket List IdeasMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Linda, don’t worry about the cold. It’s not an issue at all if you’re property geared up for it. And even if it’s a bit cold, it’s worth braving it for the incredible experiences awaiting you each day. Yest, Nat Geo’s cost is higher than most but you will want to do it right and go with the best. I hope you achieve your travel goal soon. Our goal is just to keep on traveling – to whichever destination calls for us.

    • Marisol

      Hi Jan, It was very hard to contain our excitement:) Most of the things we saw on the island was quite unexpected on our part as well, including the silos. I guess all those unexpected made the experience even more interesting.

  10. Katie

    I’m so glad you answered pretty much all my questions at the end there. And it’s good to know you can rent a lot of it. I don’t live in a warm area, but it’s not that cold – haha! The penguins look so cute! And the old WWII research stations must have been cool to photograph!
    Katie recently posted..7 Amazing Things to Do on Isla Holbox MexicoMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Katie, glad we answered your questions, Watch out for more, tons more penguins on the next post. It will be cuteness overload.

  11. I haven’t caught up with your travels for a while, I am sorry, but I am glad I logged in today to check out your latest adventures. Going to Antarctica is high on my wish list. Who knows if I will ever make it, so thankyou for taking us along. I am looking forward to your continuing adventure. Keep warm and happy travels!

  12. Wow! What fabulous photos of the Antarctic. It must be the adventure of a lifetime. Looking forward to seeing more of this intriguing place.

  13. This is by far my dream holiday ever. Now I can’t wait to the next episode! What an amazing adventure, and I was afraid to learn that it wasn’t actually that freezing… only -4°C! Thanks for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration!
    Margherita Ragg recently posted..10 Free Things to do in MilanMy Profile

    • Hi Margherita, it truly is a dream holiday. If you[re used to cold the temperature is really nothing to worry about. We look forward to sharing our next post.

  14. Wow! What a great trip! You have selected the best place to take an awesome adventure trip. Glad to see you here. Magnificent photo-shots.
    All the best! Keep on traveling!
    Srimanta Ghosh recently posted..Top 10 places to visit in MumbaiMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Srimanta, Thanks, it truly was. Glad you enjoyed the post and photos.

  15. This is the stuff dreams are made of! I’m so enjoying reading about your Antarctic adventures…some of the photos almost look like they’re black and white and you’ve just used an app to colour the coats in orange, they’re so monochrome. It’s all so fascinating. Thank you!
    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo recently posted..Notes from the Monte Carlo RallyMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Phoebe, I’m pleased you enjoyed the adventure with us. No, I didn’t use any apps or filters for the photos. They colors were how they were. Seeing the nature in monochrome was truly fascinating.

  16. Bama

    The bright color of the participants’ jackets look like tiny specks of burning lava on the barren walls. Such a beautiful and majestic place Antarctica is! Did you see Aurora Australis from that part of the world?
    Bama recently posted..Tastes of the Island of GodsMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Bama, I really liked the choice of color for our parkas and we also loved how warm they were. It truly was a majestic place. No, it was summertime there so we did’t see any Aurora. The sun was up for almost 24 hours.

    • Marisol

      I know, those seals were such a snob. We were on the island for pretty much the whole afternoon.

  17. It seems so thrilled to be there in Antarctica, but I know it takes a lot of effort and for me I need to be prepared emotionally and physically fit to be there someday. It is one of my dreams.

    • Marisol

      Hi RC – any kind of preparation you think you need to get to Antarctica will be totally worth you while. I hope you get there sometime soon.

  18. “seventh and final continent”?? “Final”? Really?! Wow, that’s something. You’re very inspiring!!!
    Found you via #TheWeeklyPostcard :)
    Isabella recently posted..“They cannot see us now”My Profile

  19. Leigh

    You two do the most incredible trips. The whalers boat make me wonder how hard life would be – cold, desolate, alone – very beautiful but what a tough way to make a living.

    Wonderful photos!

    • Marisol

      Hi Leigh, thanks. We had the same thought as you, especially knowing that way back then they didn’t have the high performance gears that we have today.

  20. Agness

    I always wanted to make it to Antarctica. Me and Cez have been dreaming about that place for years! Your pictures are just extraordinary!
    Agness recently posted..Antwerp In PhotosMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thanks Agness. I wish with all my heart that you and Cez make it to Antarctica sometime soon.

  21. Mike

    I’m usually a much chattier commenter but I have to tell this post gave me goosebumps…literally! It was so much fun for me to read these last two posts back to back in succession. What a blessing for you both, Marisol and Keith! :)

    • Marisol

      Hi Mike, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the posts. We truly feel so grateful to be blessed with this wonderful experience.

  22. I’m exhausted just reading about your adventures! What an amazing thing to do.
    bettyl – NZ recently posted..roadside snapsMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Betty, it was acutally exhilirating and, yes, amazing:)

  23. Viswa

    What an adventure,how exciting and thanks for taking us with you through stories and photos.thanks for writing up.

  24. Incredible post. Thanks for sharing! The British research stations look a little creepy but it looks like a place to have a really fun adventure.

  25. Elaine

    Thanks for the photos and great info. How was the hike to Neptune Window? How steep was the walking trail and how slippery?

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