Isla de los Estados

Oct 24, 2017 - National Geographic Explorer


Morning looks good! Yesterday, at the end of the world, it was a bit windy. That is how it is here, we work with nature, and it is not a tour. Yesterday afternoon the weather was not good for the landing we wanted. We could have skipped it, but instead we made plan “B”—wait and go the next morning. Which turned out to be a very good idea!

This morning is mostly sunny, the wind has shifted 180 degrees at our anchorage. After an early breakfast, most of us go ashore and make a moderately difficult hike to the site of what is called the “lighthouse at the end of the world.”

Now we have some time for some packing and a final lecture, before my favorite hike, crossing the island between Port Cook to the north and Port Vancouver to the south. This is the site of a former penal colony. After a hundred years there is nothing left but a small graveyard and part of a building. It was decided that conditions were too difficult for prisoners and guards alike.

Today, it is a lovely walk. We are surprised to find a single king penguin right at the landing, and even more surprised to find another king penguin on the other side of the island after we cross to the southern beach. The day continues to be beautiful and I have a mission. I know there are sundews (carnivorous plants) somewhere here. I know their associates, soft camp, a strange tiny cushion plant that covers the ground like stiff grass. I cannot see the sundew while standing, so I must crawl across the soft camp. 

I am lucky that it is sunny making the eighth inch leaves of the sundew sparkle in the light, boldly red. People returning to the landing beach inquire about my mission and undignified posture, and to my surprise become enthusiastic participants in my endeavor.

It is late afternoon and we leave Isla de los Estados. It is briefly rough until we leave the island behind and head west, and now we realize how lucky we are to have had such a fantastic day. Really it’s not luck at all but planning and experience. This evening the captain says farewell for all of us.

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About the Author

Dennis Cornejo

Naturalist

Dennis began scuba diving during the mid-1970s as part of a research project. At the time he was a research associate at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, studying the population of winter hibernating sea turtles.  What began as a scientific study soon became a conservation project that expanded to three species of sea turtles along the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.  This project received major funding from the World Wildlife Fund and was eventually taken over directly by that agency with Kim Clifton and Dennis Cornejo as co-principal investigators.

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