Five Fascinating Deception Island Facts
Located off Antarctica’s northern tip is the tiny but important Deception Island. Famed for its horseshoe shape, the island provides much-needed shelter for vessels making the voyage to the wild Antarctic.
From the turbulent history of its ownership to the volcanic activity that created it, here are five interesting Deception Island facts.
Deception Island’s shape has a rather unique benefit.
Deception Island was formed by a huge volcanic eruption more than 10,000 years ago, explaining its unique horseshoe formation. Throughout modern history, it has been a safe haven for those making the often perilous journey into the Southern Ocean. The sea-filled caldera has a narrow entry point and acts as a natural harbor for ships seeking refuge from the wild waves.
Ownership of the island has been highly contested.
Deception Island was initially claimed by the British in the early 1800s, but was abandoned in 1842 after volcanic eruptions caused residents to flee. Norwegian whalers took up residence on the island in the early twentieth century before the British once again claimed ownership in 1908, asserting that it came under the Falkland Islands’ jurisdiction. While many countries have since staked a claim on Deception Island, it now falls under the remit of the Antarctic Treaty System.
It’s a base for important scientific research.
Since whaling was outlawed, Deception Island has become a popular tourist destination and an important research location. Chile, Argentina, and Spain all have outposts there, but because it is risky to invest too much money in large facilities due to the island’s volcanic activity, small, seasonal research centers have been established instead.
There’s a lot of life on Deception Island.
In spite of the inhospitable conditions, an exceptional amount of life flourishes on Deception Island. Eighteen different species of lichens and mosses grow there, two of which are unique to the wider Antarctic region. Various animals also call this volcanic island home, including nine different seabird species that go there to breed.
Baily Head, in the island’s southwestern corner, is known as the home of the world’s largest chinstrap penguin colony. Partly to protect this thriving wildlife community, many sections of the island were added to the Antarctic Specially Protected Area list, preventing them from being developed and limiting access only to those with a special permit.
Deception Island was a popular whaling spot.
Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the island was one of the world’s most prominent whaling spots. Countless ships flocked there to harvest the abundant whale population. Whaling around the island stopped in the early twentieth century, when a boom in whaling led to overproduction of oil and the industry’s eventual collapse. The remains of a station established by the Hektor Whaling Company are still present on the island, along with a cemetery for whalers, the largest cemetery in Antarctica.
Once a hub of the whaling industry, Deception Island’s rare geological composition makes it a must-see landscape for those visiting wild Antarctica.