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.