From the National Geographic Explorer in South America
Nov 1, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer
Tierra del Fuego, Chilean Fjords
As National Geographic Explorer continues south the contrasts and extremes of Patagonia become evermore present. Leaving behind an arid, shrub dominated landscape of sweeping vistas and open skies we continued our push into the heart of Patagonia’s opposite extreme, the deeply sculpted fjord-lands and saturated climate of Tierra del Fuego.
Moving through this landscape of ever-changing weather we can always see what’s ahead. Squall is followed by brilliant sun and then replaced again by twisted clouds and silvery light. Beneath the confused climate lives an abundance of flora and fauna as hearty and diverse as the weather. Today may have proved that point more than any other as guests and staff alike were overwhelmed by Tierra del Fuego’s diversity. By lunchtime the number of Andean condors seen perched on rocky outcroppings or soaring overhead topped 20. With flight feathers so long they resembled elongated fingers trailing from their wings, condors of all ages, sexes and maturities could be seen from above or on ridgelines in every direction.
On the coastline southern elephant seals were confused for boulders until closer inspection revealed their hulking mass and poor manners. Belching and scratching seemed to take up most of the males’ time while a few mothers with pups nursed on the rocky beaches in the shade of the omnipresent southern beech trees that constitute most of the areas timber.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was a shoreline visit by one of the region’s most elusive species, the Patagonian (red) fox. As if as curious about us as we were of it, this small canid trotted confidently in the open for all to see, as if human presence were nothing new. But, rest assured, the twists and turns of Tierra del Fuego’s fjord-lands are not an easy destination and our sighting may mark this fox’s first interaction with humans in quite a while. So, may the fox and the region’s diversity continue to enjoy the pristine solitude we shared with it today.