Penguins on the beach framed by the rusting hulks of a historic whaling past
Information about Whalers Bay
A very popular destination, Whalers Bay is a small natural harbor on Deception Island, one of the South Shetland Islands. An active volcano, the crater forms a natural sheltered inlet that was historically used by sealers and then whalers from the 1820s. The geography makes it a perfect place for ships to shelter in rough weather, and Whaler’s Bay contains some of the most significant whaling artifacts and remains to be found in the whole of Antarctica.
As your ship sails through the narrow “break” in the volcanic caldera known as Neptune's Bellows, the wide, circular beach of Whaler’s Bay is found to the right. The beach runs uninterrupted for one and a quarter miles and was used as a runway in the 1950s and 1960s when the site was the main hub of British Antarctic air movements. The hangar that was built in 1960 can be visited at the northern end of the beach where you can also see a roller that was used to maintain the runway.
At the southern end of the beach are large, rusted oil tanks, and behind them are buildings from the period 1906 to 1931. There was a significant whaling industry here, with the sheltered and shallow beach making it an ideal place to land whale carcasses and process them.
While you explore all this remarkable human history, please remember that you are standing on an active volcano! The instruments you may see around the beach in the Whalers Bay area are seismic monitors, and the island is monitored for activity 24 hours a day. The last eruption was in 1969, and this was responsible for some of the mudflows and damage to the buildings and metal tanks that you see here. It creates a very eerie derelict industrial landscape, in Antarctica, even bleaker with the black volcanic cinder.
No penguins breed, but small numbers of Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins turn up on the beach and they can be surprisingly inquisitive. Later in the season you might encounter fur seals who have hauled out to rest and watch the humans. Other birds to look out for include Cape Petrels, giant petrels, skuas, Antarctic terns, and Kelp Gulls, that take the chance to feed on the krill and other prey stunned in the hot waters.
Guests often take the polar plunge here with the warmer layer of water with the heat from the steaming volcanic sands. There is also the walk up to the viewpoint at Neptune's window.
Interesting facts about Whalers Bay
The buildings, structures and other artefacts on the shore of Whalers Bay, which date from the period 1906-1931, represent the most significant whaling remains in the Antarctic. Other buildings, structures and artefacts of the British ‘Base B’ represent an important aspect of the scientific and aerial mapping history of the area (1944- 1969). The site is designated as Historic Site and Monument No. 71.
Unless you approach from a certain direction the entrance to the caldera is hidden, and sealers described it as being deceptive, hence the name, Deception Island. Jules Verne heard about the sealers stories and a hidden harbour inside the caldera of a volcano, and he when on develop the concept for the hidden lair of the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So, as you sail through Neptune's Bellows, into caldera, you are sailing into a Jules Verne novel!