Snow Island and Baily Head

Feb 18, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


Today was the first day of expedition in Antarctica. We began at Snow Island, which made for a beautiful landing with plenty of elephant seals, the largest of all pinnipeds. A couple of young fur seals, nesting giant petrels, and a few gentoo and chinstrap penguins were all accompanying us at the landing. Snow Island is in the southwest corner of the South Shetland Islands, an archipelago that forms the first landmass you encounter when you travel south from South America.

Deception Island is one of two active volcanoes in Antarctica. The caldera formed after a major volcanic eruption about 10,000 years ago, where a vast amount of lava blown out on to the surface led to an emptying of the magma chamber down below, and eventually resulted in a collapse of the volcano. The center part of the caldera is today flooded by sea water, through the narrow opening at Neptune’s Bellows.

Our Zodiac cruise this afternoon was on the outskirts of Deception Island, near Baily Head. This is an active nesting area for a chinstrap penguin colony which contains numerous shag nests on cliff edges. Baily Head itself is comprised of consolidated volcanic ash layers, altered to palagonite, the breakdown of which the chinstraps use to build their nests.

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About the Author

Andreas Madsen

Naturalist

Andreas was born in the village of Ebeltoft on the central east coast of Denmark and has spent his childhood years with the sea and open fields as neighbours. For a child of the North, fishing, bicycling, skiing, and hiking come along with your first steps and nature has always had a self-explanatory role in Andreas’ life. Between studies he left Denmark to travel and it was during his months in South America he discovered his curiosity and interest for geology. In 2013 he left Ebeltoft for the big(ger…) city Aarhus to begin his geology studies at Aarhus University. During his five years there he has been involved in different types of research projects, taking him to remote places such as Iceland, Svalbard, Greenland, and the Geographic North Pole. His latest research project, which investigates aspects of narwhal biology and ecology from a vessel in Scoresby Sound, Greenland, has been ongoing since 2017.

About the Photographer

Emily Mount

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Emily grew up in Niwot, Colorado and Pullman, Washington. Her love of nature began as a child during family vacations spent hiking, camping and exploring the mountains and deserts of the west. In contrast to her outdoors interests, Emily pursued an intensive young career as a classical violinist, culminating in degrees in history and music performance at the University of Washington.  

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