The Great Polar Plunge of Deception Island

You know what they say – make the most of every opportunity, right?  Well, the day in our lives arrived when the chance to swim, or rather, plunge in the Antarctic ocean presented itself.  Filled with dread, we reluctantly donned our bathing suits…  just kidding!  Not a second of hesitation was involved.  We had been looking forward to it the whole time!

What we didn’t know was how forbidding of a place Deception Island is.  Seriously.  Does a more sinister place exist on earth?  We embarked onto the black sand beach among clouds of steam seeping through the sand from the thermal activity below.  Yes, Deception Island is actually the caldera of an active volcano, but simultaneously one of the safest harbors in Antarctica, which has a lot to say about the place.  The only things visible through the mist were distant, jagged black peaks of Neptune’s Window, decaying scrap metal, remnants of a whaling station, whale bones, and decomposing buildings and boats.  It was truly a bleak sight to behold, dreary to the point of sinister beauty, almost comical.

Tourists and penguins in front of Neptune’s Window.

Before we knew it, it was time to strip down and participate in the legendary Polar Plunge!  The “kids” decided to go in as a team, resulting in much hilarity, screaming and laughter.  While the island’s thermal activity provides nice, hot springs-like water for the first 3 feet or so, the deeper water is indeed every bit as frigid as one would imagine the Antarctic ocean to be.  Devin and I found it refreshing.  The Australians did not.  Everyone, however, enjoyed themselves.  We were there; we had to do it!

Happy to be back on the warm volcanic sand.

Obviously, we were pretty desperate to get back on the ship after that, especially since most people put their parkas back on directly over their soaked bathing suits.  After hot showers and cocoa, pressing news reached our ears.  The unveiling of the mysterious P³ had been approved for that very evening!  An emergency meeting was held and posters plastered on every imaginable surface, but due to dancing-induced fatigue from the night before, our collective wittiness scraped rock bottom at an all-time low.  Can you believe that not one of the seven of us thought of the phrase “jammin’ in our jammies”?  As pathetic as that fact may be, I still giggle thinking about the poster featuring the question “Fancy yourself a sheik of sleep?  The best in the rest?”  Also advertised, as entertainment, was a staring contest.  Word definitely got out, but due to awkward timing and proximity to the New Year’s party, we remained convinced that the seven of us would likely be the party’s only guests.

And with that, we embarked on a landing to Bailey Head, home to the smelliest chinstrap penguin colony imaginable, but nevertheless stunning.  I repeat myself, but the way penguins porpoise out of the water is just amazing.

Hey there!

…It stood out.

Penguins in flight on their joyous return to shore.

Alex enjoying what I imagine is precious time away from us tourists.

Then it was time to put on our pajamas.

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