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South Shetland Islands |

Over night we started to return towards the North and in the morning we were at Deception Island which is just below the South Shetland Islands. What an eerie place. It is a volcano and the land is in a horse shoe shape with the crater below the sea, which meant the ship had to pass through a narrow 10m gap . Deception Island was one of two Whaling Capitals in these waters from 1914 to 1916, the other being South Georgia. 40,000 whales were killed during this time. As we arrived at the black sandy beach we could see the blubber tanks that were used. The odd whale bone can still be found on the beach. During their peak ´harvesting´, the island was covered with carcasses with just the blubber removed. After avoiding aggressive Antarctic Fur male seals that did not mate this year (and therefore quite cranky about it) we went in for our Antarctic swim as you do. We were told that due to the fact that thermal activity existed there would be thermal waters for us to swim. Wow, it was freezing. Supposedly 2 degrees Celsius but I must say I have my doubts. 35 out of about 100 took a plunge and now have a certificate to prove it. Definitely a moment of madness.... On exit we saw our last glimpse of whales for this trip. This was definitely the best time to see whales as they travel south to feed now on krill. Great to see them as they come up to the surface and show off their dorsal fin and tail.

After heating up on board we made our second landing on Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands. I wonder how many people have been both to the South Shetlands and the Shetlands above Scotland? I would say I am one of the few. Here we were introduced to the Chinstrap penguins. Thousands of them to greet us. Also a few Gentoo penguins and one Macaroni penguin. The latter penguin fascinated our bird experts on board as usually they do not travel to Antarctica and don´t breed here. They now wonder whether if a partner also arrived would they evolve to breed here. Quite fascinating! After dragging ourselves away from these amazing birds and seals and land we get on board and say a final farewell. An amazing trip. So much to remember to tuck into my memory. I may just have to return in the future. Its easy now to understand how it can get addictive! The return journey through the Drakes passage was full of lectures and talks from some of the expedition staff who have either followed in some of Shackletons routes in an identical boat or being part of the first team )Canadian and Russian) to travel from Russia through the North Pole to Canada by skis. Incredible.We made lots of new friends here and hope to meet some in Brazil and Santiago in June. A trip of a lifetime. One I cannot recommend enough!

Locations Visited: None specified.

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