From the National Geographic Explorer in South America
Nov 7, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer
The Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego
Somewhere in our memories dwells a nursery rhyme, the source and author still buried deep with other childhood thoughts. Only fragments of sentences, random words can be retrieved but the image evoked is strong; clouds sailing across the sky like ships upon the sea. We were that ship on teal blue waters with wind-whipped waves and frothy white crests. From dawn ‘til dusk it took little imagination to see clouds of every shape and form as they dominated our day and our transit from Canal Ballenero to the ocean’s edge.
The Beagle Channel is a maze of twisted, contorted channels and one wonders how early navigators ever found their way. The muted light of early morning revealed snow like powdered sugar sprinkled on bare hillsides and fingering into the upper limit of greenery. Or was that view simply a dream? It disappeared rapidly into a filmy mist that nestled into valleys, turning mountains and islets into layers of shades of gray. Hillsides receded into the distance with the softness of a watercolor painting. Seno Garibaldi hid its icy climax from our eyes in spite of hints and promises. Waterfalls cascaded from unseen peaks and momentary glimpses were offered of hanging tributary glaciers. Growlers and bergy-bits floated past, another hint of the mystery at its head. But clouds of horizontal snow advanced towards us like billowing smoke until we were fully engulfed. Retreat was prudent, both from the fjord and from the vast outdoors.
Back in the Beagle, snow turned to sun filtering between swirls of charcoal and silver billowing across the sky. Periodically the sky turned blue but the vaporous vessels remained, borne on turbulent aerial currents. We toasted them with Santa and his elves serving glug and cookies on the deck, an early celebration of the holiday season. But then we remembered it is spring here in the southern hemisphere and Santa does not usually appear in association with snow.
There was education and entertainment aplenty throughout the day. We could partake of all or some or simply sit and watch the clouds sail across the sky.