Tortel, the Chilean Fjords

Our voyage northward through the maze of islands and waterways of the Chilean Fjords continues. This is an area first charted by Robert FitzRoy on two epic voyages of exploration aboard H.M.S. Beagle. FitzRoy’s charts and sailing directions were so thorough and accurate that they guided navigation for the next one hundred years. On the second of these voyages Captain FitzRoy shared his dining table with the young Naturalist Charles Darwin.

As we moved through the fjords, our appreciation of this area was expanded by Naturalist Ian Bullock, who spoke on the Indians of southern Chile, and by one of our two Chilean Coastal Pilots, Jorge Roman Fariña, who told of the navigation history of these waters.

When we arrived at our afternoon destination, the small and remote village of Tortel, we had reached 48° S. latitude, comparable to southern Washington in the other Hemisphere. Tortel is a small village of houses without internal roads, connected by a system of wooden boardwalks. Not a television antenna nor satellite receiving dish was to be seen. The traditional economy is based on the harvest of Southern cypress trees. It is one of the few places where this is still allowed. The boardwalks are lined with native vegetation, most particularly bushes of fuschia adorned with bright red and purple flowers that attract the attention of green-backed firecrowns, the world’s southernmost hummingbirds, and of numerous camera-wielding visitors. So too did the happy group of children seen above, playing with their puppy and happy to share this brief moment in their lives with the visitors from afar.