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ice in the land of fire

CHILE: CALETA MARIA, TIERRA DEL FUEGO — CALETA SANTA ROSA, ISLA NAVARINO (BY BOAT) — PUERTO WILLIAMS

Fair weather still holds as I board Alakush, at Caleta Maria, late in the afternoon. The boat belongs to Andres. He and Jorge (who was kind enough to offer me my passage) are in the process of researching the potential of the area between here and Puerto Williams for boat based trekking and kayaking tours. This is a stroke of good fortune for me because it means we will be visiting and exploring a number of spectacular glaciers and fjords on our way to Puerto Williams.

The calm sunny afternoon affords an uncommonly tranquil moment to the captain and crew of a boat that navigates the infamous Chilean Channels.

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Finally, we set sail into the gloaming.

Andres and his associates discuss the merits and attractions of various fjords and glaciers in determining our route.

Nautical charts are pure joy to an inveterate cartographile* like me. I love the inversion of positive and negative space - land remains a fatuous blank, while the inscrutable waters of the ocean receive all the attention. These channels were originally surveyed and charted by FitzRoy in the Beagle, with Darwin aboard. The icy cold waters - in many places hundred and hundreds of metres deep - were plumbed using weighted lines. Imagine.

I like to think that Captain Garcia has memorised the charts, although I suspect, in reality, that he has additional electronic aids such as GSP and radar.

Captain Garcia is at the helm all night and by dawn we have been transported to a new and icy world.

Accompanied by dolphins, we set out in the zodiac along the fjord...

... to where we can go ashore for a closer look at the glacier, which descends from the same enormous ice field that I already glimpsed in El Chaten and Calafate in Argentina. We try to find a way...

...across the braided streams running off the glaciers...

... but the going is not particularly easy. The alternative to stream's treacherous quick sands is dense scrub.

These berries are edible. (I think. They taste alright, at any rate, but don't take my word for it!)

More or less thwarted in our desire to walk on or beside this particular glacier, we reboard the zodiac...

... and head off, into the ice...

...which requires some warding off, with the zodiac's emergency oars.

We manage to return, safely, to the Alakush where we find that the sacrificial lamb has been bisected and half is sizzling away on the barbeque...

... while hungry crew members stand by.

The following day, brings us a new larger glacier...

... and this time...

... we manage to get...

... close!

There plenty to look at here, in any direction you choose,...

...and so we spend the rest of the afternoon exploring.

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The true drama of a glacier is hinted at by constant creaks and groans and then suddenly revealed with an explosive crack as tons of ice break away from the shifting straining mass of ice in constant flux. It is an truly unforgettably awe-inspiring spectacle...

... and the suspense is constant.

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And then, the next day, there is more.

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Finally, the Alakush makes her way out onto the main channels,...

... and...

...cruises...

...the...

...Beagle Channel...

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... until we arrive at Caleta Santa Rosa on the north-west coast of Isla Navarino

* I despise GPS and electronic maps.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. karin and marten | June 19, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    very, very beautiful update

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