Deception Island and Snow Island

Dec 25, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

Christmas morning began with some scattered clouds and a stiff breeze as we made our way back across Bransfield Strait between the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands. While crossing the channel, we were treated to an engaging talk by our National Geographic photographer, Todd Gipstein, on how to tell the story of your expedition. His talk was filled with great tips and suggestions and finished with a slideshow he had made from a previous Antarctic trip.

Our first stop in the South Shetlands was a ship visit to Deception Island—the caldera of a volcano on the scale of Crater Lake in Oregon, but still very active. We entered through Neptune’s Bellows and shortly after saw steam rising out of the beaches due to the presence of hot magma near the Earth’s surface. We also saw the rusting remains of an old whaling station, long since abandoned and surrounded by piles of whalebones. In addition to the old whaling station, there was an active Argentinean research station and the remains of a British and a Chilean station both which were destroyed by eruptions in 1967 and 1969.

Our second stop in the South Shetlands was on the aptly named Snow Island where most of the island is covered with a glacier. We visited a point on the eastern side where we found a protected beach to land and explore. Here, we were treated to views of southern elephant seals, which included molting adults and young, very cute, “weaners”. We also saw several nesting southern giant petrels. Returning aboard, we were treated to a wonderful Christmas dinner prepared by our excellent kitchen staff, led by our head chef Sara Henstam.

After dinner we were treated to a showing of Icebound in Antarctica, a film made by expedition leader Jonathan Zaccaria about his experience overwintering at the Dumont d’Urville station. Adélie Land and the Adélie penguin are named after d’Urville’s wife.

Merry Christmas from National Geographic Explorer!

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About the Author

Michael Jackson


An experienced traveler, Michael has lived on several continents, including a year spent working as a naturalist and zoologist in Galápagos and three months in Kenya conducting a study of birds of prey. He is the author of Galápagos: A Natural History, a comprehensive guidebook which details the natural history of the plants and animals found on the islands. 

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