Fiordo Garibaldi and Fiordo Pia

Oct 19, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

Our phenomenal luck with the weather in Chile’s Patagonia continued. Having traveled through the night, transiting various channels and sailing between islands of the archipelago, we entered the western end of the Beagle Channel before first light of day. The waterway is named in honor of HMS Beagle, the ship Captain Fitzroy used to chart many of the waters around the southern cone of South America. Beagle also carried the young Charles Darwin on his voyage a discovery and enlightenment.

Turning north from Beagle Channel, we entered a long, narrow fjord called Garibaldi. It quickly became obvious that it had been cold during the night, as around small bits and pieces of glacier ice a thin skin of new ice had formed. Called grease ice, the new ice reflects light and looks like a thin film of oil on the water. 

All around the ship was spectacular beauty. Much of the landscape was near-vertical slopes covered in dense vegetation—mostly temperate southern beech forest. But in many places rock was exposed, and we could see spots where, only recently, swaths of forest had slipped off the sheer slopes. 

As we continued slowly up the fjord, the amount of ice increased. By the time we could see the distant face of the glacier, the water’s surface was completely crammed with ice. But during breakfast the Zodiacs were lowered, naturalists took to the boats, and off we went, pushing slowly through to a safe distance from the glacier. The day had turned from light fog and overcast skies to totally clear. Topping off the scenery: dramatically rugged mountain peaks and ridges capped by a light dusting of snow.

We moved back down the fjord and out into the Beagle Channel during lunch. It was hard for many to stay inside as the day continued to be unbelievable. Our transit time to the next destination, Fiordo Pia to the east, was short. With the conditions still sunny and only a few clouds inflating in the sky and just a breath of wind, it was the perfect opportunity to kayak and experience the towering landscape from the serenity of a self-propelled watercraft. Some guests decided to sit quietly, not moving, and soak in the wildness and spring sounds of Tierra del Fuego. Other guests decided on an afternoon Zodiac excursion deeper into the fjord. The calm waters and sunny weather allowed the drivers to quickly cruise to the fjord where there was yet another spectacular view of a tidewater glacier. 

The scenery of the Chilean fjords and Patagonia never ceases to astound, but certainly, perfect weather blessed our experiences and filled our memory cards and our own personal memory banks—forever.

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About the Author

Bud Lehnhausen


Bud received an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology at Colorado State University. He then immediately went to Alaska where he worked and lived for 30 years. At the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Bud studied wildlife biology and received a master's degree conducting research on four species of alcid seabird nesting on a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska.

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