The Beagle Channel

Dec 17, 2017 - National Geographic Explorer

This morning we awoke to a rare sight for most vessels: Diego Ramirez Island. A remote Chilean outpost located on a few small exposed islands off the coast of Cape Horn. Both albatrosses and penguins nest here, so there are scientists who work on the island doing biological research. We could see the birds about the island as we cruised past. Later in the morning we had a chance to see Cape Horn, another Chilean Island. This famous headland was the turning point for ships in the days of sail. It was quite treacherous to make a sailing ship go “the wrong way” from east to west around the Horn, and there are hundreds of shipwrecks in the area. Modern navigation and weather prediction means that expedition ships can now easily maneuver close to the islands that make up Patagonia. After the horn we ventured east to the Beagle Channel. This long, straight, and deep waterway defines the border between Chile and Argentina. It is also the geological border between the South American plate and the Scotia plate. This border runs all the way out into the central Atlantic Ocean.

The smell of green, of plants and trees filled our noses as we approached the land.  You don’t always appreciate something until it is absent. The lack of green in Antarctica sometimes goes unnoticed until the return trip is made across the Drake Passage and upon seeing the swaths of green foliage, the thought occurs to some, “Ah, yes the plants!”  The thick forests of southern beech trees greeted us as we made our way west towards the evening’s destination, Ushuaia, back where our expedition began some 10 days ago.

We are heavy with memories and experiences from this amazing voyage to the Great White Continent.  As we packed our bags this afternoon we also packed those memories, for they will be the stories we tell of penguins, whales, seabirds, ice, light, mountains, and most of all our fellow travelers who experienced the same wonder with us.

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About the Author

Jason Kelley

Jason Kelley


Jason grew up traveling with his oceanographer father and biologist mother, both of whom worked with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.  This led him to a job as a Zodiac driver while still a teenager.  After receiving a degree in geology from San Francisco State University, concentrating on unique sedimentary structures in the coastal range of Northern California, he went to work for the U.S. Geological Survey in their National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Laboratory (NEHRL).

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