National Geographic : 1971 Nov
Deception's three recent eruptions. In 1967 the deluge pelted the three scientific stations at Deception and forced their evacuation by helicopters from rescue ships. "Fourteen months later, early in 1969, more vents exploded, opening a three-mile-long rift," Olav Orheim told us. "A flood of hot mud and rock utterly destroyed the Chilean base. Six men who had returned to the British station had to run for their lives with iron sheets held over their heads." No one remained on Deception for the 1970 blast. That eruption blew a chain of craters, one of them a quarter of a mile wide and 400 feet deep, through solid ice. On the ice cliffs thus exposed, the three glaciologists were reconstructing the history of Deception by charting the successive layers of ice and ash built up over the years (far right). "We have read back already to the mid 1700's," Olav said. "The glaciers show many eruptions that historians missed. In 1842, for example, a sealing captain reported seeing the whole south side of Deception on fire, with 13 volcanoes in action, but no one be lieved him. We know now that Deception had a major eruption that year." Steam rose from the base of the great rift slashing across the mountainside. A deep cave had melted out beneath the glacier. "Vkhod v ad!" Leonid Govorukha de scribed it. "Doorway into hell!" As we tried to scramble down into the cave, the heat drove us back. An earlier measurement, Olav said, had placed the rock temperature there at nearly 500° Fahrenheit. Hades indeed! Unbroken Snow Cloaks Hidden Hazards Another day, on another glacier, Olav and I both fell through doorways into danger. With Terry Hughes, we had roped together to cross a deceptively smooth snow slope, to remeasure ice-movement stakes set out two years before. Olav stabbed carefully with the point of his ice ax as we crossed a 1,200-foot high ridge. Then, suddenly, he disappeared. Where he had stood a second before, only a small hole in the snow remained. The rope led to the edge of the hole, and Terry was des perately braced, his feet straight out ahead of him in the snow. "Crevasse," he grunted as I helped take up the strain. With the rope anchored to our ice axes, Terry slid forward headfirst to peer down the hole. Olav had dropped more than 30 feet into a narrowing cleft in the ice; his feet were jammed into the crack. 640 Hotbox in an icebox: Its harbor the collapsed cone of a giant volcano, Deception Island still erupts periodically-three times since 1967. A 1969 eruption opened the 100-foot-deep rift (right), where layers of ash alternate with the snows of successive winters like the growth rings of a tree. By studying the face, scientists date past eruptions and changes of climate, and seek correlation with Northern Hemisphere records. This wall spans only 70 years, but in a huge ice crater blown open in August 1970, glaciologists expect to trace such layerings back to A.D . 1400. Fumaroles heat a Deception pool to 100° F. (be low), giving Russian scientist Leonid Govorukha a hot bath amid falling snow and chill air.