Day 10 |
Nov 23, 2011

Punta Arenas, Chile 

By Michaela Mayer, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: 70° 54’ 24’’ W, 53° 10’12’’ S
Weather: temperate, partly cloudy with blue sky
Air Temperature: 7° C / 44,6 F
Sea Temperature: 5° C
Pressure: 988hPa
Wind: 21,3 km/h

In the morning we came into Punta Arenas, pulling into the central dock alongside another cruise ship. None of us could help comparing the two ships, and of course the Silver Explorer came out ahead. Personally, what tips the scales for me is the fact that we have more Zodiacs and the lecturers (not only officers) can drive. I love taking a group of people out in a Zodiac and exploring a new or familiar area along with them.

After we received clearance from the port, we boarded buses and drove out toward the Otway Sound penguin reserve. Punta Arenas is not a large city, and we quickly left houses behind and drove over a dirt road through the pampa. This was our first real chance to see the animals and birds of the interior, and we got great views of lesser rheas, upland geese, a crested caracara, black-faced ibis, and ducks in the shallow puddles alongside the road. We even saw a few rabbits (hares, to be exact) bounding through the scrub and alongside sheep and cattle.

The highlight of the day, however, was the colony of Magellanic penguins. These penguins are 70cm in height and have black and white breast-bands. Instead of building nests, they dig caves into the Patagonian sand. There they incubate their eggs, feed their chicks, and sleep. We walked along a boardwalk to the seashore, where about 50 adults and last year’s chicks swam in the waves, brayed, waddled, and got ready for the long trek inland to their burrows.

Back in town, I walked to the statue in the main square and touched the toe of the Fuegian. This guarantees that I will return Patagonia—hopefully next year—and explore more of these waters and shores.

Lecturer Luciano Bernacchi, a real Patagonian, shared photos and stories of this most southern land as we pulled away from Punta Arenas. Later, we enjoyed a farewell cocktail party, and as I raised my glass of champagne to the Captain’s toast, I realized what an amazing voyage it has been. Tomorrow, we visit Garibaldi Glacier, dropping our Zodiacs into the sea for a real exploration. I can’t wait.