Puerto Cook & Isla Observatorio, Staten Island

Oct 23, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

A number of us went to bed late yesterday as there was a good clear sky, granting us views of the Southern Cross, the False Cross, and other stellar bodies in the southern sky. We were also able to see Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury all close to each other and in a straight line. Being at anchor in the protected waters of Puerto Cook made all this even easier.

We woke up to another good day and, after breakfast, boarded our trusty Zodiacs to make the short trip to the landing. Close to the life jacket bags, there was a surprise waiting for us: a lone king penguin! A little farther on, we saw a number of old wooden struts jutting out of the boulder beach—remains of the old prison that was built here early last century. There were also some remains of old buildings.

After we had spent time with the lone penguin, we headed off across the island a short distance away. From the highest vantage point, we caught stunning views of Puerto Vancouver, the fjord on the other side of the island. Of course, there were, as always, many birds to enjoy along the way, but this was mostly an opportunity to enjoy plant life.

The afternoon plan was to visit San Juan de Salvamento, also called “the lighthouse at the end of the world,” but as we headed out to open sea, once again we were surprised by the great conditions outside and headed for Observatorio Island.

After a delicious Swedish lunch, complete with aquavit, we headed out for two rounds of Zodiac cruises along part of the shoreline of this wildlife haven. We were thoroughly bowled over by what we experienced: we saw South American sea lions, South American fur seals, and thousands of birds. The most notable species were tussac (or tussock) birds, dolphin gulls, Magellanic penguins, and many blue-eyed cormorants. Many of the birds were actively courting and preparing for the breeding season. We returned to the ship after a serious wildlife overdose. The bonanza had completely overwhelmed us.

During Recap and dinner, there was so much lively chatter as we went over the events of another momentous day in Patagonia. Among the topics of conversation was the incredible weather we have enjoyed throughout the voyage. Only one more day to go; let us hope for fair winds tomorrow.

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About the Author

Edward Shaw


Edward Shaw has travelled widely as a naturalist and guide. For the past 29 years he has lived with his family in northwestern Patagonia, initially working as a teacher and subsequently working in community projects before returning to expedition ships. Edward is deeply committed to the principles behind sustainable development. He is happily married and the father of five children.

About the Photographer

Steve Morello

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography.

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