Day 7 |
Nov 20, 2011

At sea and English Narrows, Chile 

By Kara Weller, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 48° 21’ N, 74° 30’ E (noon position)
Weather: partly cloudy, scattered showers and sun
Air Temperature: 6° C
Humidity: 868%
Pressure: 998 hPa
Wind: 15 km / h

The lumpy sea conditions during the night were not as bad as most people had expected, but there were still many who felt grateful when the ship changed course in the middle of the night to run downwind and straight south along the outer coast of Chile. In the morning while still out in the open sea, the mountains and islands could be seen lying ahead of us, the ride was smooth and many hundreds of seabirds flew around the ship to delight the early risers.

The seabirds were really an impressive sight. Huge flocks of southern Fulmars with their stout little bodies and beady eyes circled and swooped around the ship. Beautifully patterned Cape petrels with their speckled brown and white markings glided past. Skuas, those big brown birds always associated with cold southerly regions made an appearance. Giant petrels the same size as albatrosses swept regally past us on air currents that carried their massive dark forms over the surging waves. And albatrosses, the elegant black-browed albatross with their pure white bodies and dark wings glided along on updrafts that allowed them to circle and soar with hardly ever a flap of the wings. Dolphins were sighted in the water, and later in the day some sightings of sea lions were also reported.

Shortly before breakfast, the islands in the distance became larger and larger as we re-entered the protected waters of the fjords. The green and vegetated mountains loomed high on either side of us, and we admired the snow-capped peaks with their dusting of what was very fresh snow that had fallen only during the last few days.

Today was a day at sea, and when not outside admiring the scenery going past, a full lecture program was on offer. Luqui gave a talk on glaciers, how they behave, how they form and where they are found. Our chef put on a cooking demonstration. In the afternoon Peter talked about Alexander Selkirk and his strange take of truth and fiction of being marooned off the coast of South America in the 1700s.

In the early afternoon we approached the English Narrows. This narrow passageway of only about 5 miles in length is one of the most challenging navigational channels in the world with some sections as shallow as a mere 10 meters, and with several twists and turns and islands in between. The sun was shining while we waited on deck for the cargo ship on the other side to pass through the narrows first, and then after the other ship had passed behind us and while the tide was in our favor we proceeded to transit through.

Though the passageway wasn’t long in distance or duration the scenery was spectacular with snowy mountain peaks high above us, forests stretching down to the edge of the sea and small green islands dotting the blue waters. In the sun and out of the wind it felt quite warm on deck but just at the southern end of the narrows the wind picked up speed, the cloud cover came down, and the rain began - chasing everyone back inside the ship. The hardy ones stayed on the back deck under shelter to continue admiring the views of this remote and wild landscape here at the end of the world as we continued to sail south.

During dinner the beautiful Pio XI glacier slowly crept into view and the ship’s anchor was dropped for a calm night in the fjord. Before the sun went down we could admire the views of this huge mass of ice and look forward to our Zodiac outing for even closer views of it in the morning.