Isla de los Estados

Oct 22, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer


This morning we found ourselves in Puerto Cook, a deep indentation on the north coast of Isla de los Estados. There was some wind and light, intermittent rain. After breakfast, we headed ashore. The plan was to walk across the narrow, mile-plus-long isthmus to the other side of the island. 

Ashore, the wind was weak, and the rain had stopped. There was a well-marked trail, and folks from the Argentine Park Service accompanied us to point the way. We marched through the tall, grass-like rush (sedges have edges, grasses have joints, and rushes do not). The rush appeared to be one of the favorite foods (snacks?) for the introduced goats and red deer.

After passing some flowering holly-leaf barberry with beautiful orange flowers and small evergreen southern beeches, we arrived at my favorite spot on the walk, the Soft Camp Bog! Soft Camp Bog is flat, slightly springy, and composed of soft camp, a small cushion plant in the lily family, as well as some other, mostly small plants. Even though the plants are small, their roots are impressive. A plant only a couple of inches in diameter can have roots more than 30 inches long! This seems to be an advantage in a waterlogged environment.

What I was really searching for, however, was a much smaller plant, one that is red and smaller than a dime—the carnivorous sundew. The sundew is often found with the soft camp. Bogs tend to have only small amounts of certain, important nutrients necessary for plants. There are several solutions to this problem: One solution is to be evergreen, like the soft camp, and hoard the nutrients you have. But the sundew supplements what it can get from the ground by being a hunter. The red leaves of the sundew have a number of glandular-tipped hairs that attract, ensnare, and digest unwitting, small insects. I found the sundew while crawling on my hands and knees, and I gleefully pointed it out to anyone nearby. A great morning!

In the afternoon, we visited an unmanned lighthouse known as Faro San Juan del Salvamento. The lighthouse was built in the latter part of the 19th century, and its fame came about from a Jules Verne novel, “The Lighthouse at the End of the World.” Since publication of the novel at the turn of the 20th century, France has become a caretaker of the lighthouse. The inside of the house is due to be renovated next year. Visiting the lighthouse involved a hike of a couple miles with very pretty, dramatic views.

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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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