Perhaps the most dangerous landing site in Antarctica but it's rewarding for those who get there.
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Baily Head has the largest accessible Chinstrap penguin population in the Antarctic peninsula region. If that isn’t enough to get you going, with its large rugged headland, steep black sand beach, often roaring streambed and sheltered, rolling green slopes, it is also one of the most physically stunning locations in the South Shetland Islands. The scene of hundreds of Chinstrap penguins surfing ashore, then forming penguin superhighways through the narrow entrance to the breeding colony is worth a pre-dawn start, missed meal or salt-water soaking.
Where is it?
Baily Head is located on the almost-impossible-to-reach outside of Deception Island, on the southwestern end of the South Shetland Islands. The fact that it is on the sheltered side of the island means that every year, a lucky few do get there.
Bransfield Strait virtually always throws a rolling surf onto the very steep narrow coarse black sand beach, necessitating military precision and extreme nimble-footedness on the part of all going ashore. Once on the beach, the latter half of the season sees a wall of fur seals guarding the entrance to the penguin amphitheatre, as well as elephant seals blocking passage. The runoff stream can also impede access, occasionally making the trek through the narrow entrance a scramble over rough scree or a wade through fast-flowing icy water.
This is THE South Shetland location for Chinstrap penguins. Numbers may have been dropping a bit over the last few years, but up to 100,000 breeding pairs of Chinstrap penguins call Baily Head home. This number of penguins attracts plenty of scavengers and predators, such as Southern giant petrels, Kelp gulls and Snowy sheathbills. Cape petrels breed on the rocky stacks of the headland.
Baily head has long been recognised as an extremely special location for wildlife and geology, and so has attracted its fair share of visiting scientists, but there has been little or no real human activity on the outside of Deception Island.
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