The Land of Ice and Fire

Deception Island, Antarctica


Why is it called Deception Island?

Deception Island is so named because it appears to be an ordinary island while concealing an active volcano underneath. Its history began with a hunting expedition and later revolved around a British World War II base camp. Accessing the island itself can also be misleading!

The only thing that may not be deceptive of this island is it’s name. With a dark history of some of humanity’s most cruel acts of whaling, hidden in one of the world’s most isolated places, Deception Island offers a mix of both both natural beauty and a beastly history. The island itself is the upper rim of a still active volcano protruding from the ocean’s floor. The irony being that it’s situated just north of mainland Antarctica in the South Shetland Islands. It’s rim dips just below sea level in one section, which has filled the caldera with icy sea water. It’s one of the few volcanos in the world that large sea vessels can actually navigate inside of!

A Little Bit of History

Discovered during the seal hunting days in the early 1800s, the water contained inside the rim is shielded from the harsh waves of the sea outside. This made it an ideal spot to take refuge, rest and set up camp.  By the early 1900’s, there was more than a dozen whaling camps set up here. It was a prime hub for the hunt and slaughter of whales, which drastically reduced the world’s population to some of it’s lowest numbers ever! Here, they processed the Whale’s oils in large iron vats. Abandoned during the great depression, it was never reoccupied. After a small volcanic eruption in 1969, all that remains of those dark days are some of the rusted iron boilers and ship wrecks on the shore.

Deception Island’s Geography

Deception Island has a radius of approximately 12 kilometers, making it seem quite massive! As mentioned above, it has a part of the outer rim which dips below sea level making it navigable, and why it was an ideal place to port for the Whale hunts. There is still volcanic activity below the sea, making the snow capped peaks highly contrasted from the steaming black sands closer to the sea. Ships enter with caution, and often passengers are warned that if making a landing and the sea begins to bubble, the ship will evacuate immediately, leaving the landed passengers on shore.

A Couple Deceptions of Deception Island

Enter at your own risk – a group making a landing on Deception Island Antarctica!
Enter at your own risk – a group making a landing on Deception Island!
Walking amidst the old iron Whale Oil vats on Deception Island Antarctica
Walking amidst the old iron Whale Oil vats
Ship Wrecks from the Whaling industry on Deception Island Antarctica
Ship Wrecks from the Whaling industry
A Sea Lion Resident of Deception Island Antarctica – Thanks for letting us visit!
A Sea Lion Resident of Deception Island – Thanks for letting us visit!
Cruising along steaming sands on Deception Island Antarctica!
Cruising along steaming sands on Deception Island!
The Antarctica Polar Swim Team (check out the video below!)
The Antarctica Polar Swim Team (check out the video below!)

For some of the best photos I’ve seen of this island, be sure to check out Canada’s Adventure Couple article as well!

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GO – Getting There

This could be one of the greatest challenges of such an awe-inspiring destination. It’s not very easy to get to. In fact, without the proper type of sea-bearing ship, it’s pretty much impossible. Even the most sea-savvy sailors would have a hard time crossing the world’s most treacherous seas of the Drake Passage. It’s best to take an Antarctic passenger vessel with ample experience. There are of course dangers in going, and one should be aware of them prior to departure… and expect sea-sickness! There are a number of Antarctic outfitters out there, with ample experience, who make the crossing regularly. It’s best to go through one of them, when planning your dream vacation to Antarctica. Of course, there’s usually a hefty price-tag attached to the round trip journey. We like to look at it as an investment in your life’s experience, mind you.

Deception Island, Antarctica – Map
Deception Island, Antarctica – Map

View Where Sidewalks End in a larger map

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Do – Activities & Attractions

Coming Soon!

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Stay – Accommodation

Coming Soon!

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Eat – Restaurants

Coming Soon!

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Time – Seasonality & Schedules

Coming Soon!

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Safety – Possible risks

Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.

Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.

Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).

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Pay – How much does it cost?

Coming Soon!

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Responsible Travel – Best Practices

Coming Soon!

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Reality Check – Be Aware

Of course, it’s incredibly difficult to accidentally find yourself here, if not impossible. That being said, it’s an island few get to experience, making it VERY off-the-beaten-path. It’s rich in history (however dark), and truly one of the most unique experiences of a lifetime! I feel it’s one of the most beautiful, dangerous, and remote places I’ve ever been. I would highly recommend Deception Island to be included in your future travel plans. It gets Where Sidewalks End‘s ‘seal‘ of approval – pun of very nerdy taste intended.

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JOIN US! WSE Travel Packages

This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!

Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.

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Have you ever been to an active volcano… or Antarctica? What about a place which was a bit deceptive in nature? What were your expriences there?

Visit another historic ‘mankind’ landmark in Anartica with a rare trip to Port Lockroy!

Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!

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WSE Travel - Deception Island - Making a landing
Enter at your own risk – a group making a landing!

13 Responses

  1. I love the tabbed sections of the post, so easy to flick between segments of info. Deception Island sounds like a fascinating place, we’ve been exploring the geothermal heart of New Zealand recently and it has only fueled our desire to experience more examples of Mother nature’s phenomenal creativity!

    1. Hi Charli! Thanks so much for your comment (especially about the tabs – they’re BRAND SPANKIN NEW! and way too much work to implement, so I’m really happy you like them!! 🙂 Deception Island was really amazing. I love seeing the raw power of the Earth. I’d love to get down to NZ one day to explore some of the wonders that await there too!

    1. Thanks Jenna! I feel the photos only start to do it justice. The island is an incredible piece of eye candy, amongst other senses! Hopefully you’ll get the chance to get down there 🙂

    1. Thank you Karisa! It’s a new direction we’re taking with the blog to make it double as a resource guide, in addition to the added value of our personal experience. Glad you like it!

    1. That most certainly would be the very same guy who charged you…. when you were pretending to charge him! hahaha… one of the funniest moments on the trip!

  2. Something I’d expect to read in National Geographic. Loved it. Also loved the seal who came to play after you all left the water! 🙂

    1. It’s a pretty special place! I’d be surprised if Nat Geo hasn’t done a story or three on it already 😉 The seal was the icing on the very cold cake.

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