Friday, December 2, 2011

Deception Island

Deception Island is an island in South Shetland off the Antarctic Peninsula, which has one of the safest harbours in Antarctica. The island is the caldera of an active volcano, which caused serious damage to the local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. The island previously held a whaling station; it is now a tourist destination and scientific outpost, with research bases being run by Argentina and Spain. Various countries have previously asserted sovereignty, but it is now administered under the Antarctic Treaty System.

Since the early 19th century, Deception Island was a favourite refuge area from the storms and icebergs of Antarctica. It was first used by sealers. In 1829, the British Naval Expedition to the South Atlantic under the command of Captain Henry Foster stopped at Deception Island, conducted a topographic survey and some scientific experiments there, particularly pendulum and magnetic observations. In 1906, a Norwegian-Chilean whaling company started using Whalers Bay as a base for a factory ship, the Gobernador Bories. Other whaling operations followed suit, and by 1914 there were 13 factory ships based there.

The station did not actually process whale blubber, which was done on the ships, but instead took the carcasses and boiled them down to extract additional whale oil, using large iron boilers, and storing the results in iron tanks.

Whale oil prices dropped during the Great Depression, making the station economically unprofitable, thus it was abandoned in 1931. Advances in factory ships made shore stations for carcass processing unnecessary, and so it was never reoccupied. Forty-five men were buried in the station's cemetery, but the cemetery was again buried in a 1969 volcano eruption, and the only remaining signs are the rusting boilers and tanks.

Other remains at Whalers Bay include an aircraft hangar with a bright orange derelict airplane fuselage outside (removed in 2004), and the British scientific station house (Biscoe House), with the middle torn out by the mudflows in 1969.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Argentina contested control of Deception Island with the UK with some removals of the sovereign flag and temporary occupation of the island.

On 3 February 1944, the British established a permanent base on Deception Island as part of Operation Tabarin, and occupied it until 5 December 1967, when another volcanic eruption forced a temporary withdrawal. It was used again between 4 December 1968 and 23 February 1969, when further volcanic activity caused it to be abandoned.

In 1955, Chile inaugurated its station Pedro Aguirre Cerda at Pendulum Cove, to increase the Chilean presence in the sector claimed by that nation.

In 1961, Argentina's president Arturo Frondizi visited to show his country's interest. Argentine Base Deception

In 1963, the American Coast Guard icebreaker USCGC Eastwind (WAGB-279) visited Deception Island. There were two scientific stations active, a British and a Chilean. The Chileans had an air strip and flew a DeHavilland Beaver back and forth to Punta Arenas for resupply. There were active fumaroles spewing noxious gases and some fumaroles had churning volcanic ash in the depressions. The Eastwind ran aground inside the volcano which is likely the only time an American military ship ever ran aground inside an active volcano. The ship refloated with the rising tide.

In 1969, a violent volcanic eruption demolished the Chilean stations Pedro Aguirre Cerda and Gutierrez Vargas. The volcano has mostly destroyed other attempts to maintain permanent facilities, and as of 2000, there were only two scientific stations still in use, both summer-only; Spain has the Gabriel de Castilla, and Argentina has its DecepciĆ³n Station.
source: Wikipedia

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