Devil Island, Antartica


Devil Island was our first stop after Elephant Island. The images below (left to right, top to bottom) show our traveled path out of Elephant Island (in red) and our planned path to Devil Island (in yellow) when they gave us the daily update the night before.

Devil Island is in the James Ross Island group and is at the northeast tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. It has two volcanic peaks and is surrounded by talus. I’m not sure how it got it’s name, but it definitely showed it’s Devilish side while we were visiting….

Checkout Dive

We woke up early to beautiful conditions and small icebergs floating around.

The first dive of the trip was a “checkout dive” to make sure all of our equipment worked, we had the right weighting, etc. Therefore, I didn’t take my camera rig on the dive.

We departed the Hondius in the RIBs and made our way along lake-like conditions with no waves and no wind. We found a protected area, geared up, and rolled back over the edge of the RIB.

My buddy and I were diving along and after about 20 minutes, we started hearing engines revving and clanking. We looked at each other and thought “well, that can’t be the recall sound, it is so nice out.” After some confused glances, we decided to surface.

When we surfaced, it was chaos….the Devil had been awoken!

In that short period of time, the swell had picked up considerably, but even worse, the katabatic winds had whipped up and were blowing at 50-100 mph. I heard people yelling my name and telling me to hold on to the ropes on the RIB as they pulled me away from the surrounding icebergs. The problem was that the winds were pushing the RIBs around which complicated picking up divers out of the water.

We eventually all made it out of the water and into the RIBs; however, the winds and swells were so bad that we couldn’t return to the Hondius. It would be really unsafe to try to transfer from the RIB to the main ship with all that wind and swell. We could also see the wind was also pushing the Hondius around in the distance.

So, we had to wait it out. The four dive boats all jockeyed to find protected places behind icebergs in an attempt to find shelter from the howling winds. We were in a somewhat protected area (compared to the Hondius out in the open seas) and I could also see the other RIBs that had taken people ashore doing the same thing about 1/2 mile away. Meanwhile, those who had heated vests put some air into their drysuit, turned on their heat and we waited.

I snapped some pictures with the GoPro I had left in the RIB.

After about 90 minutes, we got the signal that we could return to the Hondius. I took a quick movie of part of our return trip. Remember that this was 90 minutes after the wind had started and it had died down significantly. In the beginning of the video we are still somewhat in the sheltered area that we had chosen to hunker down but by about one minute into the video, you can get a better idea of what it was like.

Heading back to the Hondius

Needless to say, it was quite an introduction to diving in the Antarctic!

However, it wouldn’t be the last time that we would see conditions change and deteriorate very rapidly…

Dive #2

The second dive of the day was on…then off…then on…

We ended up going to a different site after first trying a different site. The diagram below shows our movement from the first dive around to the east, then back west to where we planned to dive (yellow circle) before deciding that the conditions weren’t ideal. So, we moved to where the red arrow ends and dove a spot that apparently had never been seen (not surprising given how little of Antarctica has been dove).

Below is a photograph of what it looked like around the yellow oval that we ended up not diving:

We finally got to the dive site, got all the gear in the RIBs, boarded the RIBs, went hunting for a safe dive location and then got into the water.

The dive site involved a gently sloping area. We found some interesting things and saw some “channels” in the sand. I wasn’t sure what they were but we realized that they were probably made by icebergs getting wedged into the sand and then moving. Pictures of my first Antarctic dive with a camera are below.

I have used dry gloves a lot so I didn’t find too many issues with dexterity and taking photos. But, shooting in that environment does take some getting used to and I usually shoot only wide-angle and that wasn’t ideal for this site. I’m definitely not a macro shooter.

The area was covered with ” antarctic limpets” which I’m not sure what that really is (it isn’t an airplane engine part, that much I know):

Becky had a macro lens and got a good closeup of the limpet showing it’s “head:”

Below are photos of the “sand channels” that I believe were created by icebergs.

There were also some colorful starfish and other odd creatures living in the area:

Near the end of the dive, we spotted some fish that I’m sure have a complicated Latin fish kingdom name. I simply named them White Spotted Antarctic Fish:

The “White Spotted Antarctic Fish”

It was a good dive and I got to see some really interesting underwater life.

Next Up

The day ended with a nice sunset (photo taken with an iPhone through the window of the ship at dinner):

Our plan for the next day was to move the ship to Brown Bluff which is part of the Antarctic mainland.

Brown Bluff turned out the be a spectacular day with a lot of wildlife. Stay tuned…

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