Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • San Juan de Salvamaneto, Staten Island

    Waking in the protected harbor of San Juan de Salvamento, we began our operations for the day in true Patagonia weather: a bit cloudy with strong winds. We took our Zodiacs to the landing to visit the “Lighthouse at the End of the World.” After a winding hike through low southern beech trees, we crested the top and were treated to a view of the cliffs below and an ever-present fog hanging just above our heads. After lunch, we sailed back to pick up a few researchers we had dropped off in Isla de los Estados a few days prior. The conditions looked favorable, so we were able to make a short Zodiac cruise to see steep cliffs with nesting rockhopper penguins.

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  • Cánepa Bay, Staten Island, Argentina

    Franklin Bay, our first stop in the morning, proved to be too much for us to make a landing. Winds gusting to 50 knots are regular in these latitudes and we had to go to plan B. Cánepa Bay proved to be well-protected from the “furious fifties” and we explored this magnificent fjord system for several hours. In the afternoon our plans to visit another location were interrupted by a group of killer whales that was prowling the rocky coasts where several hundred South American fur seals were resting, afraid of getting into the water. After an hour of quiet observation, the whales finally decided to catch one of the seals, right under our bow! The day ended on the sheltered waters of Puerto Cook, our intended destination for tomorrow morning.

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  • Cape Horn

    The road signs in Ushuaia proudly declared the town to be the southernmost in the world: Fin del Mundo. Chileans may choose to disagree but this lively township (at least in the summer season) on the Beagle Channel has an interesting history. When Captain FitzRoy of HMS Beagle surveyed this passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the south of Tierra del Fuego, he had captured some members of the native population to take back to England between voyages. Jemmy Button, York Minster, Fuegia Basket, and Boat Memory were dressed in contemporary English costumes, taught English table manners, and even presented to the royal family before being returned to Tierra del Fuego in the company of Charles Darwin on the voyage that departed from Plymouth in 1831. (Boat Memory sadly died while in England, as a consequence of a well-intentioned smallpox inoculation.) What ensued was a fascinating case study in the relative strengths of nature versus nurture, with the released Fuegians (as FitzRoy called them) quickly reverting to their former habits, an occurrence noted with horror by Darwin.

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  • Garibaldi Glacier and Bahia Pia

    This morning we awoke deep in the fjords of Cordillera Darwin. There were tall, sheer walls around and finally a bluish tidewater glacier, the Garibaldi Glacier, with its snout in the sea. The sky was overcast, yet bright enough—a perfect morning for a Zodiac cruise at the glacier’s face. There was plenty of ice in the water: brash, growler, and bergy bits. The accumulated remains of larger ice, the small brash ice makes snap, crackle, and pop noises as pressurized air escapes the weakened brash. Brash is the technical term, but I call it bash ice, which is what I do when driving through it. Despite being a navigational hazard, the much larger growlers (ice chunks rising no more than a meter above the water’s surface) are often quite beautiful, from white to blue to clear. The biggest and rarest ice in the water here is the bergy bit. While bergy bits sound small, they can be the size of a modest house, rising one to five meters above the water’s surface. It is not a true iceberg unless it rises more than five meters above the water.

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  • Karukinka Private Reserve | Patagonia

    A morning at sea after what seems to have been weeks of exploration was a welcome rest today. We filled the hours with interesting talks from the natural history staff, punctuated by delicious meals from our galley team. We were heading in the direction of Karukinka Private Reserve. The park is a well-protected area managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which received the land from Goldman Sachs after mining investors failed to meet the terms of their lease, and the land was seized. Now Chile and the WCS jointly manage the massive private park. It was our privilege to get to visit the area in the afternoon and make a landing amongst scores of Andean condors and southern elephant seals. In the evening, we set sail for the southern reaches of the Darwin range on Tierra Del Fuego.

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  • Underway, Strait of Magellan, Chile

    After a wonderful day at Torres del Paine National Park yesterday, we got underway this morning from Puerto Natales at 5 A.M. We needed to time our departure carefully in order to arrive at Kirke Narrows, the third narrows through which we need to pass on this voyage, at slack tide at 7:30 A.M. Kirke Narrows is a beautiful setting with snow-covered mountains all around and a glassy sea in the channel. We again sent a Zodiac ahead of the ship to confirm that the tidal current had stopped completely before we proceeded through. A South American sea lion escorted us, and we then entered the west end of the Strait of Magellan. This long, narrow passage through the southern end of South America was first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520 when he was searching for a passage to the Pacific.

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  • Torres Del Paine National Park

    Waking up at five in the morning is never pleasant, but sometimes the rewards make it more than worth the effort. Besides, you can sleep in the bus! Our tiredness soon disappeared as the scenery around us started to change. As we drove through the grasslands, we anticipated what lay ahead of us at one of Chile’s premier destinations, Torres Del Paine National Park. Breath-taking views and chances for incredible wildlife awaited us, and any discussion of the early morning soon went away.

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  • Seno de las Montañas, White Narrows & Puerto Natales

    The deep purples and blues slowly gave way to reds, oranges, and yellows in the southeastern sky. The moon shone brightly in the west and close by the Southern Cross could clearly be seen with the two pointers. There was hardly a breath of wind. Thus began another beautiful day on our Epic Patagonia expedition.

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  • Southern Patagonia Icefield

    Patagonia is usually considered one of the windiest and wettest regions on Earth, but that was not the case today. Thanks to the high-pressure system working as a barrier out in the Pacific Ocean, we’ve been able to enjoy a lovely, unusually sunny and warm day as we sailed around the perimeter of the Southern Patagonia Icefield. This enormous icefield, spanning about 12,500 square kilometers and spreading across the border between Chile and Argentina, hosts a spectacular array of outlet glaciers and associated glacial landforms in an intricate network of fjords and channels.

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  • Tortel, Chile

    An early wake-up call alerted everyone to a photo opportunity and view of the full moon setting in clear skies among snow-capped peaks. We were approaching the small, remote community of Tortel. Spread out over a high, rounded hill south of the mouth and delta of the Rio Baker, Tortel consists of 500 inhabitants whose homes and businesses are connected by wooden boardwalks. A spur route off the Austral Highway connects the town to the outside world. But the road ends on the edge of the town and turns into boardwalks spiderwebbed throughout the village.

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