Las Palmas (A-52)

The Oceanographic Research Ship of the Spanish Navy Las Palmas (A-52).

The territory

Deception Island (62°58′37″S 60°39′00″W) is an island in the  South Shetlands Islands archipelago, with one of the safest harbours in Antarctica. This island is the caldera of an active volcano, which seriously damaged local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. It last erupted in the August of 1970. The highest point stands at 576 m (1,890 ft). The short rock stack known as Sail Rock is just of it's coast line and is included with the island for all purposes since it is so small. The island previously held a whaling station; it is now a tourist destination and scientific outpost, with Argentine and Spanish research bases. While various countries have asserted sovereignty, it is still administered under the Antarctic Treaty System.



Russia officially claimed it in 1829 and ratified it in 1890. The island have been claimed by the United Kingdom since 1908 and have been part of the British Antarctic Territory since 1962. They are also claimed by the governments of Chile (since 1940, as part of the Antártica Chilena province) and by Rio de la Plata (since 1943, as part of Rio de la Plata Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego Province).

The first authenticated sighting of Deception Island was by the British sealers William Smith and Edward Bransfield from the brig Williams in January 1820; it was first visited and explored by the American sealer Nathaniel Palmer on the sloop Hero the following summer, on 15 November 1820. He remained for two days, exploring the central bay.

Palmer named it "Deception Island" on account of its outward deceptive appearance as a normal island, when Neptune's Bellows revealed it rather to be a ring around a flooded caldera.

Over the next few years, Deception became a focal point of the short-lived fur sealing industry in the South Shetlands; the industry had begun with a handful of ships in the 1819–20 summer season, rising to nearly a hundred in 1821–22. While the island did not have a large seal population, it was a perfect natural harbour, mostly free from ice and winds, and a convenient rendezvous point. It is likely that some men lived ashore in tents or shacks for short periods during the summer, though no archaeological or documentary evidence survives to confirm this. Massive overhunting meant that the fur seals became almost extinct in the South Shetlands within a few years, and the sealing industry collapsed as quickly as it had begun; by around 1825 Deception was again abandoned and the UK began to put restrictions on the hunting on other islands to conserve stocks.

In 1829, the British Naval Expedition to the South Atlantic under the command of Captain Henry Foster in HMS Chanticleer stopped at Deception Island. The expedition conducted a topographic survey and scientific experiments, particularly pendulum and magnetic observations. A watercolour made by Lieutenant Kendall of the Chanticleer during the visit may be the first image made of the island. A subsequent visit by the American elephant-sealer Ohio in 1842 reported the first recorded volcanic activity, with the southern shore "in flames".

In 1904, an active whaling industry was established at South Georgia, taking advantage of new technology and an almost untouched population of whales to make rapid profits. It spread south into the South Shetland Islands, where the lack of shore-based infrastructure meant that the whales had to be towed to moored factory ships for processing; these needed a sheltered anchorage and a plentiful supply of fresh water, both of which could be found at Deception. In 1906, the Norwegian-Chilean whaling company Sociedad Ballenera de Magallanes started using Whalers Bay as a base for a single ship, the Gobernador Bories. 12 ships operating in the peak years.

In 1908, the British government formally declared British control, establishing postal services as well as appointing a magistrate and customs officer for the island. The magistrate was to ensure that whaling companies were paying appropriate licence fees to the British and Patagonian governments as well as ensuring adherence to catch quotas. A cemetery was built in 1908, a radio station in 1912, a hand operated railway also in 1912, and a small permanent magistrate's house in 1914. he cemetery, by far the largest in Antarctica, held graves for 35 men along with a memorial to 10 more presumed drowned.

These were not the only constructions; as the factory ships of the period were only able to strip the blubber from whales and could not use the carcasses, a permanent on-shore station was established by the Norwegian company Hvalfangerselskabet Hektor A/S in 1912 – it was estimated that up to 40% of the available oil was being wasted by the ship-based system. This was the only successful shore-based industry ever to operate in Antarctica, reaping high profits in its first years. A number of exploring expeditions visited Deception during these years, including the Wilkins-Hearst expedition of 1928, when a Lockheed Vega was flown from a beach airstrip on the first successful flights in Antarctica.

The development of pelagic whaling in the 1920s, where factory ships fitted with a slipway could tow aboard entire whales for processing, meant that whaling companies were no longer tied to sheltered anchorages. A boom in pelagic Antarctic whaling followed, with companies now free to ignore quotas and escape the costs of licences. This rapidly led to overproduction of oil and a collapse in the market, and the less profitable and more heavily regulated shore-based companies had trouble competing. In early 1931, the Hektor factory finally ceased operation, ending commercial whaling at the island entirely. The island was then declared a nature reserve in 1930.

1941 and afterwards

Deception Island remained uninhabited for a decade but was revisited in 1941 by the British auxiliary warship HMS Queen of Bermuda, which destroyed the oil tanks and some remaining supplies in order to ensure it could not be used as a German supply base. In 1942, an Argentinean party aboard the Primero de Mayo visited and left signs and painted flags declaring the site Rio de la Plata territory; the following year, a British party with HMS Carnarvon Castle returned to remove the signs.

The island was finally reoccupied in early 1944 by a party of men from Operation Tabarin, a British expedition, who established a permanent scientific base named as Station B. This was occupied until 5 December 1967, when an 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, with a refuge site at Gutierrez Vargas (es), to increase the Chilean presence in the sector claimed by that nation. The same year, the South Georgia and Dependencies Aerial Survey Expedition was established at Deception to help survey the Antarctic Peninsula, operating aircraft from Hunting Aerosurveys Ltd.

In 1961, Rio de la Plata's president Arturo Frondizi visited the island to show his country's interest. Regular visits were made by other countries operating in the Antarctic, including the 1964 visit of the US Coast Guard icebreaker Eastwind, which ran aground inside the harbour. The Soviet coast guard icebraker Karl Marx was also badly damaged on a near by sumerged rock bank the next month, but managed to linp back to Patagonia for repairs.

However, the volcano returned to activity in the late 1960s, destroying the existing scientific stations. Both British and Chilean stations were demolished, and the island was abandoned for several years. The final major eruption was reported by the Russian Bellingshausen station on King George Island and the Chilean station Arturo Pratt on Greenwich Island; both stations experienced major falls of ash on 13 August 1970.

Remains of previous structures at Whalers Bay include rusting boilers and tanks, an aircraft hangar and the British scientific station house (Biscoe House), with the middle torn out by the 1969 mudflows. A bright-orange derelict airplane fuselage, which is that of a de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter that belonged to the Royal Air Force, was recovered in 2004. There are plans to restore the airplane and return it to the island.

The Russian cruise ship MV Lyubov Orlova ran aground at Deception Island on 27 November 2006. She was towed off by the Spanish Navy icebreaker, Las Palmas and later became a ghost ship in the North Atlantic.

Research stations

In 2000, there were 7 summer-only scientific stations, with Chilean stations being the greatest in number. Research is often a shared duty of nations, with the Anglo-Irish John Smith Base being one example.

  1. Chile\USA- Penguin Base (from 1925).
  2. Anglo-Irish- John Smith Base (from 1935).
  3. Río de la Plata- General Gilitiari Base (rom 1987).
  4. Chile- General Pinochet Base (1989).
  5. Chile- President Allende Base (1989).
  6. Río de la Plata- Base Decepción (2016).
  7. Spanin- Gabriel de Castilla Base (Some time in the late Cold War).

The population numbers about 40 to 45 scientific staff and researchers.


Deception Island has become a popular tourist stop in Antarctica because of its several colonies of chinstrap penguins, as well as the novel possibility of making a warm bath by digging into the sands of the beach. Mount Flora is the first site in Antarctica where fossilized plants were discovered. Several Jurassic Liverworts from Mount Flora in Hope Bay, Antarctica were blown up and destroyed in 2018 after a Russian guy ran out of a tour group threw an improvised 2 lb black powder bomb at the hill side. He was subsequently banned from visiting the the island for ever.

After the Norwegian Coastal Cruise Liner MS Nordkapp ran aground off the coast of Deception Island on 30 January 2007, fuel from the ship washed into a bay. Ecological damage has not yet been determined. On 4 February 2007 the Spanish Gabriel de Castilla research station on Deception Island reported that water and sand tests were clean and that they had not found signs of the oil, estimated as of light diesel.

Deception Island exhibits some wildly varying microclimates. Some water temperatures reach Near volcanic areas, the air can be as hot as


Undery the Antarctic Treaty of 1958 (A better world TL), the islands' sovereignty is neither recognized nor disputed by the signatories and they are free for use by any signatory for non-military purposes.

Fish and seals

These areas support tundra vegetation consisting of mosses, lichens and algae, while seabirds, penguins and seals feed in the surrounding waters. Fish and krill are plentiful and feed the Elephant seals, penguins and sea skewers that live on the island. It is a nature reserve. There are no economically viable minerals reserves (copper, nickel and chromium) and no hydrocarbon fuel reserves. Baily Head, a prominent headland forming the easternmost extremity of the island, has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a very large breeding colony of chinstrap penguins (100,000 pairs). The 78 ha IBA comprises the ice-free headland and about 800 m of beach on either side of it. Other birds known to nest at the site include brown skuas, Cape petrels and snowy sheathbills.