Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet" and "Endangered Edens."

Mother Nature Gets Revenge!

deception-island-whaling

Marty’s photo of the day #2025: I just love it when Mother Nature gets revenge! You are looking at old whale processing equipment on Deception Island (just a little northeast of Antarctica), sunk in volcanic ash. Here’s what I wrote about this scene in my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents:

We arrived at Deception Island on Thursday morning. Sealers in the early 1800s named the mountainous island for its inhospitable outer shores. They could sail around almost the entire island—looking for a suitable place to land—before spotting Neptune’s Bellows, a narrow, windy inlet leading into an interior bay.

Deception Island is a dormant volcano. The interior bay is seven miles in circumference, and it’s literally a flooded, collapsed caldera. From the ship, I could see a ring of steep, craggy rock surrounding us. Even so, I had a hard time believing we were actually sailing inside a volcano. Perhaps if I had witnessed the 1923 eruption, when the water in the bay boiled and stripped paint off boats, I would have been more easily convinced.

When Olle mentioned that ongoing subterranean volcanic activity sustained semihot springs at Pendulum Cove, several of us volunteered for a dip. Unfortunately, whipping winds made a Zodiac landing inadvisable.

We went ashore instead at the more sheltered Whaler’s Bay. There we were able to see firsthand the devastation caused by the most recent (1967–1970) volcanic eruptions. Black ash and mud had engulfed a British research station, which was active at the time (everyone escaped), as well as the adjacent vacant Norwegian Hektor Whaling Station. Rather than rebuild, the countries left everything in place as an unattended outdoor museum. Included among the partially buried relics were whale-processing equipment, wooden fishing boats, and a rusty tractor.

Visiting Whaler’s Bay was a solemn experience. Not for the ruins, but for the remnants of the butchery that happened from 1911 to 1931 when the Hektor Whaling Station was operational. Perfectly preserved whale bones protruded from the volcanic-sand beach—a testament to a coldhearted industry that, if left unchecked, would have exterminated multiple species of whale. Perhaps the eruptions were Neptune’s way of saying, “Enough!”

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