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Spotlight on Deception Island: Ghosts of Adventurers Past

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Just off the northwest Antarctic Peninsula in the South Shetland Islands lies Deception Island, once a bustling sealing and whaling station. One of the safest harbours in Antarctica, it's been a place of science and military interests from Britain, Chile, and Argentina, but was deserted when volcanic activity destroyed British Base B in 1969.

Today, Deception Island is a popular Antarctic tourism destination and a scientific outpost for summer research teams from Spain and Argentina. With a history rich in destruction and conflict, the horseshoe-shaped land mass can leave visitors with more than a touch of nostalgia and even the uneasy feeling that the island is true to its name – that everything here is not as it seems.

 

Deception Island Just Might Be a Paranormal Hotspot

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Many of the ghosts of Deception Island are plain to see – abandoned scientific research stations, airplane hangars, whaling operations and military bases are scattered around the island. Here, the remnants of lives lived out in rough conditions and extreme isolation are evident.

 The paranormal interest in Deception Island is such that SyFy channel's Destination Truth television show team camped out here to perform a supernatural study and night investigation. (Yes, they heard things going bump in the night.)

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Those with a keen interest in history or the paranormal will also want to make their way to Whalers Bay, between Fildes Point and Penfold Point at the east side of Port Foster. The oldest "ghost town" on the island, Whalers Bay is now a designated Historic Site or Monument (HSM) and as such, remains largely the way it was left prior to the 1970s, complete with remnants of generations of Norwegian and Chilean whaling stations, then British science and mapping activities.

 

Deception Island: Living Population = 0

Currently, Deception Island has a total population of exactly zero … zero living people, that is.

Its only permanent residents are a few dozen men buried in Deception Island Whalers Cemetery. Even it was buried in the volcanic eruption in the late 1960s. This is what it looked like before the island took it back:

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Image credit: Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren, NOAA Corps (retired) [Public domain]

Whaling first arrived on Deception Island in 1906, courtesy of the Norwegian founder of the Chilean Sociedad Ballenera de Magellanes, Adolfus Andresen. Whalers Bay was established as an anchorage for whaling factory ships. In 1912, the Hektor Whaling Company received a license to operate a shore-based whaling station, which grew to employ approximately 150 people.

In 1931, however, whale oil prices collapsed and in April, the station at Whalers Bay was abandoned for good.

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The giant, rusting tanks and boilers remain, alongside those men lost to the whaling industry and lost again to violent geological phenomenon. One would almost think the ghosts of Deception Island are warning new industry away.

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Image credit: Tim Kubichek

Whatever ghosts call Deception Island home, they don't seem to mind when we visit briefly and respectfully, leaving not a trace of ourselves and honoring those fragments of their lives still visible amongst the rotting boats, rusting structure, ice and volcanic rock.

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Image credit: Corina Hitchcock

A visit to Deception Island may leave you melancholy or even spooked, but never bored or unmoved. As we trek the black sand beaches stretching as far as the eye can see or take a polar plunge in the icy waters, you might even find that you've never felt quite so alive as you will on Deception Island.

 Interested in visiting? Our new interactive 2015.16 brochure is now online!

 

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Penguins and sea kayaks

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In this photo, an Antarctic local carefully navigates some rocks, sea kayakers and a Quark ship in the background. Looks like a perfect day in Antarctica!

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Feeling adventurous? Amp up your voyage with one of Quark’s adventure options. With seven activities to choose from, there’s something for every level of excitement. Have a look at our interactive Adventure opinions brochure today!
Photo credit: Elsa

Got an ice photo of your own to share? Post it to twitter and tag with #IcePhoto! Follow Quark Expeditions on twitter @quarkexpedition where we share photos and videos and chat about all things polar!

Follow us: @QuarkExpedition on Twitter | QuarkExpeditions on Facebook

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Fun facts about an Antarctic voyage

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Two Antarctic ambassadors on ice!

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Photo by passenger “BryantDuncan” from the Quark passenger slideshow on the November 30th 2012 Antarctic Explorer voyage aboard the M/V Ocean Diamond.

Fun Facts from this voyage:

  • Distance travelled-3,344.9 km
  • Or-1,794.5 nm (nautical miles)
  • Eggs consumed- 450 dozen or 5,400
  • Guests-181
  • Crew-91
  • Expedition Staff-21+ 2 Penguin Dudes
  • From Nationalities-37
  • Travel days-10
  • Sea days-4
  • Lectures, talks and other entertainments-35
  • Yoga sessions-10
  • Glasses of Wine Consumed-1,300
  • And one terrific time overall!
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An Iceberg Graveyard

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Today's ice photo is from the iceberg graveyard in Pleneau Bay, Antarctica - a place where icebergs have run aground and are slowly melting. It is almost impossible to take a bad photo here!

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, "Icebergs form when chunks of ice calve, or break off, from glaciers, ice shelves, or a larger iceberg. Icebergs travel with ocean currents, sometimes smashing up against the shore or getting caught in shallow waters."

Photo by Lisa Mclean, from our Antarctic Explorer voyage on the Ocean Diamond, December 2012.

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Got an ice photo of your own to share? Post it to twitter and tag with #IcePhoto! Follow Quark Expeditions on twitter @quarkexpedition where we share photos and videos and chat about all things polar!

Follow us: @QuarkExpedition on Twitter | QuarkExpeditions on Facebook

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Quark Expeditions Experts-in-Residence Announced

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Top image copyright Sue Flood

We are pleased to announce our Experts-in-Residence program for the 2013.14 Antarctic season! Renowned for the expedition team's expertise in the Arctic and Antarctica, our Experts-in-Residence program adds an extra layer of interest and insight to polar expeditions with best-in-class guests from the fields of polar history, scientific research, and photography.

This year we are thrilled to have the following polar experts join us:

Jonathan Shackleton 2013

Polar History

Back by popular demand, Jonathan Shackleton (cousin of Sir Ernest Shackleton) is a leading expert on the life and achievements of Ernest Shackleton and he is author of Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica and The Shackletons of Ballitore (1580-1987). Jonathan will be on four voyages this season:

 

Jonathan Shackleton was part of our Experts in Residence program in February of 2013 when he joined an Antarctic Explorer voyage on the Ocean Diamond with Falcon Scott. You can read all about that experience here.


Tom Hart - Experts in Residence program 2013-2014

Scientific Research

Dr. Tom Hart runs the Penguin Lifelines project at Oxford University and the Zoological Society of London. The on-going project monitors Antarctic wildlife using camera trapping, volunteer photos and population genetics. Tom's PhD at Imperial College and the British Antarctic Survey investigated penguin foraging behavior around South Georgia. www.penguinlifelines.org. Dr. Hart will be on four voyages this season:

Dr. Tom Hart has visited the Quark Expeditions office a few times over the past year and participated in "Ask a Penguinologist" - where he participated in a live web chat and answered questions about Penguin Lifelines and penguins in general. Here's a clip from his first chat with us:


Photography

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Sue Flood is a professional wildlife and travel photographer who has been working in the polar regions for over 20 years, and with more 30 trips to the Arctic and Antarctic. She won the 2011 International Photographer of the Year - prize-winner for best nature book. www.sueflood.com. Sue will be on three voyages this season:

 

How to Book
Quark is currently offering a $1000 air credit on select Sea Spirit voyages, including the 15-day Antarctic Peninsula East & West voyage, January 24, 2014 featuring Jonathan Shackleton. Book before July 31, 2013. Some conditions apply. Click here for more details.

For more information contact a Quark Polar Travel Adviser at 888-892-0073 or visit www.quarkexpeditions.com.

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Penguin Highway

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Make way for the penguin highway! Penguins create these little trails while moving up and down from the water to their colonies, carefully stepping around each other when necessary. It is very important to always give penguins the right of way in Antarctica - we are just there to visit and observe!

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