On one of the last days of our Antarctica expedition we visited Deception Island. This island, as part of the South Shetland Islands in the Bransfield Strait is close to the Antarctic Peninsula, is famous for a few reasons. First, it was an extremely prevalent fur seal and whaling station. For only a few years in the early 1800’s, millions of fur seals were slaughtered for their pelts to almost near extension. Fortunately, the industry was short-lived and extremely poorly managed. In the early 1900’s this bay was used for only a few years as a whaling station. Again poorly managed, this industry too was short-lived and soon abandoned. Extreme volcanic activity, with major eruptions in 1968 and 1970 once again curtailed the research work being conducted on the island. It is now part of the Antarctic treaty, making it a protected area and restricted to only human activity.
Below are images of juvenile male Arctic Fur Seals. The young males posing for my camera were the few dozens remaining in final preparations for their long journey northward to South Georgia Island. South Georgia is the primary breeding grounds for millions of Fur Seals. Every year their populations are growing. Without human intervention, that is not being slaughtered for their fur, populations are returning to extremely healthy levels. Eventually nature will take its course and their numbers will level off and should remain mostly stable.
Note the lowlands and hills. The lack of snow with the growth of so much grass, with winter rapidly approaching, is not a good sign. Every year unseasonably warmer weather, while comfortable for humans, is not beneficial to wildlife accustomed to cold and robust winds. More clear evidence of our warming planet.
Below you can watch and enjoy (as we did) the young males jousting for superiority. After a meal and a nap, they'll engage in this dance or play. While no one is injured or bitten, it's imperative they practice, for when they arrive at South Georgia everything changes. They will fight and bite and claw and scratch because - mating is serious business. Perhaps next year we can get some video of those behaviors.
Finally, an update from Happy Whale. Above is the latest record of the travels of the Humpback I photographed in Fournier Bay. I received an email from the very nice, but overwhelmed people at happy Whale. It seems there was another report of the whale being spotted. They are only now getting through the many, many images received on whales all around the world. I am enjoying this and hoping in a year or two there will be more sightings of this beautiful and massive creature.