Day 5 |
Mar 04, 2012

Pio XI Glacier, Chile 

By Christian Walter, Historian

Co-ordinates: 49° 15’ 47” S, 74° 83’ 25” W noon position
Weather: partly cloudy with occasional short showers
Air Temperature: 8,2 C
Pressure: 989 hPa
Wind: 22,2 kmh

Since we left the Montañas glaciers, the Silver Explorer had covered a distance of some 220 miles, and we were about to arrive in front of Pio XI glacier when my alarm clock rang at 06:15 a.m. Just minutes after the anchor had been dropped, Daniil, Will and Stefan left in the scout-boat to check whether we could offer a landing next to the glacier, or would just offer a zodiac-cruise in front of Pio XI.

At first it looked as if a landing would not be feasible. It definitely was not possible on the northern side of the glacier, but eventually a site was found on the southern side. It was very shallow and muddy at low tide, but as the tide was rising, the distance to be covered walking to and from the Zodiac to the glacier was getting shorter and shorter.

Almost everyone decided to have a look at the ice, and disembarked after a 45-minute Zodiac-cruise to inspect an ice-cave not too far from the landing site. Will saw a couple of humming-birds, and all in all this expedition-stop – which had not been tried in quite some years – was well received.

While we had been ashore, another ship approached the glacier and conducted a zodiac-cruise-only. We left for the English Narrows around noon, because the Chilean maritime authorities request that ships passing the Narrows should do so in daylight and at slack-tide, which would be at around 5 p.m.

After lunch, Juan Carlos continued with his talk “Ice on the Rocks”, ending with two interesting videos about ice – one of them showing the danger of being too close to an iceberg on a Zodiac.

This afternoon’s team trivia was given by Will; and the topic (as was to be expected) was birds. Apart from “normal” questions his ‘piece de resistance’ was witty plays on words.

Soon afterwards we were approaching the Narrows, but although the humidity was supposed to be only 68%, the falling rain stung like darts. Some 20 guests tried to withstand the rain on the deck in front of the Observation Lounge, but the wind-speed of 64 km/h soon had everyone looking for shelter inside the ship. A cup of tea or perhaps some cognac helped to forget the cold.

After we had passed the Narrows, the wreck of the Capitan Leonidas was visible on our portside. Some 50 years ago the captain of the Leonidas had tried to cash in on an insurance scam, but the ship did not want to sink – it is still high and dry, west of the shipping-lane…

Recap & Briefing started with Conrad explaining what was expected for us tomorrow at Caleta Tortel and Isla de los Muertos, then Juan Carlos gave a very interesting talk on the history of Pio XI glacier, which has been advancing instead of retreating. Then Aiello explained the presence of the many crustaceans that had been seen in front of the glacier.
My turn came at the end, and I gave a little preview on Isla de los Muertos and the history behind the many graves found there.

Dinner followed, and as we had to get up early for a scouting-trip to both Isla de los Muertos and Caleta Tortel, I decide to call it a night shortly before 11 p.m.