The Oldest Ghost Town in Antarctica

An old building at Whaler's Bay

A real ghost town – an old building crumbles at Whaler’s Bay

Whale Oil was a growing industry in the early 1900’s. The oil was used in oil lamps and to make soap and margarine. Because of the demand Whaling ‘stations’ were popping up in Antarctica and one of the booming ones was at Deception Island. Deception Island was the perfect place to set up a whaling operation since it’s unique horseshoe shape provided great shelter for the ships and since it was volcanic it actually had the chance of being warm at times.

According to Deception Island History
In 1912 the Hektor Whaling Company was issued with a license to establish a shore-based whaling station. Approximately 150 people worked at the station during the austral summer, producing over 140,000 barrels of whale oil. The station did not actually process whale blubber, which was done on the ships, but instead took the carcasses and boiled them down to extract additional whale oil, using large iron boilers, and storing the results in iron tanks.

Progress leads to Abandonment

With the discovery of substitutes for whale oil such as kerosene and vegetable oils, the use of whale oils declined considerably. With most countries having banned whaling, the sale and use of whale oil today is almost non-existent.
Whale oil prices dropped during the Great Depression of the 1920s, and the factory ships were abandoned.

All that remains of the whaling station at Whalers Bay in Deception Island are some rusted out buildings, and whale skeletons. It’s strange to walk around the buildings and imagine what the area was like in it’s height of operation. Big boiling vats have since sunken into the ground, machinery has rusted, buildings are buckling, and a ‘memorial’ cemetery was erected to honor the cemetery that was destroyed in a 1969 volcanic eruption.

The perfect place to take photos.

Abandoned machinery

Abandoned boiling vats and machinery

Whaler's Bay landscape

Whaler’s Bay landscape

The remaining cemetery

The remaining cemetery at Whalers Bay

sunken machinery

Sunken Machinery

Storage vats

Rusty storage vats

A ghost town

A ghost town

Rusted and forgoten

Rusted and forgotten

See my other abandoned photography:

Photographing Abandoned Berlin

Graveyard of Fun – Spreepark 

Bombed Beirut 

You can follow in Sherry’s footsteps all the way to Antarctica. Plan your trip of a lifetime to Antarctica with ExpeditionTrips and save 5% on your voyage rate – exclusively for OttsWorld followers

Disclosure: ExpeditionTrips and G Adventures hosted my Antarctic Peninsula Cruise. However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own – as you know how I love to speak my mind!

Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Jessie says:

    Beautiful photos Sherry! It’s almost surreal how the reds pop out against such a gray landscape. I think my favorite is “Rusted and forgotten”, the colors and textures in that photo are beautiful! I’d happily frame that and put it in my office :)

  2. Fida says:

    Thanks for the Whalers Bay story and photos. Some of them look like paintings. You truly have a photographic eye!

  3. Wow cool story…Hard to imagine abandoned infrastructure on Antarctica

  4. Very eerie and rather bleak

  5. Dom says:

    Amazing – a monument to those who strived in what we today would call a misguided cause. The crosses ‘in conversation’ are most poignant…

  6. Wow! I have never even thought of photographing a ghost town… and you have done it… amazing!

  7. The vats were for water sure, or maybe it was not for that. It is incredible how the things were sunken in the grown.

  8. Deb says:

    Great shots Sherry. Deception Island is quite the destination. It’s eerie to visit, yet beautiful to photograph.

  9. Hello, your articles here Abandoned Buildings Antarctica Deception Island to write well, thanks for sharing

  10. Bob Ellis says:

    Hi Sherry
    I spent my first Christmas away from Maine on Deception Island in 1969 eight months after the volcanic eruption. We were guests at the Argentine base across the bay at Port Foster for over two months. I was a field assistant working for the Institute of Polar Studies(now Byrd Research) at the Ohio State university. We were there to study the effect of the volcano on the glacier through which it erupted. I wandered about the remains of the British base and the old “Hector”whaling station. As a serious photographer, it was a great opportunity to get a lot of images at a time when there were no restrictions. I am in the process of writing a photo book of my adventures there so It was fun to find your story and photos.
    Best wishes in you adventures.
    Bob Ellis

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks for the great info! Sounds like you had an amazing experience! Best of luck on your book – feel free to come back here and put a link in the comments if you’d like when it’s done. cheers,

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