Nestled in the South Shetland Islands archipelago, Deception Island, Antarctica, is one of the most unusual of tourist destinations. The landscape is undoubtedly fascinating with lots to discover.
In summer, Spanish and Argentinian government scientists conduct research on the horseshoe-shaped island, where thousands of chinstrap penguins waddle around. Deception Island is also home to a former whaling station, and the shells of old buildings and boats from that era remain there.
Origins of Deception Island The center of the island is a sinkhole known as a caldera, formed by a gigantic volcanic eruption. The caldera subsequently filled with water, creating the bay known as Port Foster. Port Foster has been a destination for sealers and whalers since its discovery in 1820. The volcano is still active; its eruptions destroyed scientific research centers on Deception Island in 1967 and 1969. At Port Foster’s east end is a smaller bay called Whalers Bay, named after its former primary occupation, which is bordered by a black sand beach.
Should I be worried about the volcano? Technically an active volcano, Deception Island hasn’t erupted in nearly half a century. The odds of it erupting soon are extremely low, but its active status means that the black-sand beaches hold hot steam under the surface. Go there when the tide is low and see for yourself.
What are Deception Island’s key landmarks? Several bird species breed on the nearby cliffs around the caldera, including brown skuas, cape petrels, and snowy sheathbills. Plus, the area known as Bailey Head, designated an Important Bird Area by Bird Life International, is home to 100,000 breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins. Named after beard-like strap of black feathers under their chins, these (very cute) birds are around 27 inches tall when fully grown.
Take a hike If you’re planning on a hike, the trail from Whalers Bay to the 425-foot-high summit above Neptune’s Window and South East Point should not be missed. Another great hiking spot is Telefon Bay, located northwest of Port Foster. While you’re there, check out the stunning crater that resembles the moon’s surface. One major hiking advantage of Deception Island over other parts of Antarctica is that it's not completely covered with ice.
Exciting local activities There isn’t much of modern civilization on Deception Island, giving you even more reason to explore the haunting beauty of its abandoned structures. These include a derelict airplane hangar and a partially destroyed British scientific station known as Biscoe House. In Pendulum Cove, you can take a warm volcanic bath in a pool resembling a natural hot tub — what better way to relax after a day of exploring?
Don’t be deceived: Deception Island is a lot of fun
Don’t feel intimidated by its remote location and volcanic history — Deception Island is an enchanting place. Whether you’re taking a scenic hike, hanging out with thousands of penguins, or taking a few photos in front of an abandoned airplane hangar, there’s an experience for everyone.