Day 6 |
Mar 05, 2012

At Sea, en route to Ushuaia, Argentina

By Stefan Kredel, Geologist

Co-ordinates: 47° 48’ 43” S, 73° 32’ 42” W
Air Temperature: 10,7°C
Pressure: 1002 hPa

A “real” expedition day was planed for today. The word “real” stands in this case for the fact that none of us has been there before. We had to change our schedule, as in Puerto Chacabuco some political unrest was ongoing.

By our pilots we heard about “Caleta Tortel”. And the more research we did, the more excited we got. This small village with about 500 inhabitants is located deep in the fjords, just in front of some of the higher snow-covered Andes Mountains.

So at 07:00 we arrived in front of the village. It was still dark. In the daily onboard newsletter Conrad scheduled the sunrise for 07:35 today, and the sun was listening to him.
With the first light he went quickly out, scouting the area. We collected a lot of information over the last 5 days. But it is always better to double check if reality is like we expect it to be.

Our first activity was a longer Zodiac ride to the “Isla de lo Muertos” (the island of the death). The ride itself was already a nice Zodiac cruise on a river. On the small island, which is located in a river delta, is an older graveyard. Those people buried here were originally from Chiloe. They were here to build a road to Argentina, at the beginning of the last century. The project failed, and only the graveyard remains. As the graveyard is on an island in the river delta of the Rio Baker, there is a lot of erosion ongoing. So most of the graves were washed away over the years, and only 31 of the original more than 200 are left.

After lunch we went to the village Caleta Tortel. It reminded me a bit as some of the smaller villages in southeast Alaska. The village has no streets; all houses are connected by boardwalks. Just recently, about 5 years ago, there was a small road access to the Carretera de Austral built, but the main traffic comes still by sea.

There were different activities planed: A longer and strenuous hike, a birding and botany walk, and independent exploration through the village. Close to the landing site there was also some local music, empanadas and pisco sour available.

I had the honor to check the hike just before lunch, to be able to give our guests a realistic idea about its condition. It was a great walk, but it was strenuous, partly a bit difficult and pretty wet and muddy. So during lunch onboard Conrad gave our guests an update about the hike. We still had 21 guests who joined us on that walk. All guests agreed later on my judgment, but they were all happy that they did it. There were some great views, and also the landscape we walked through, was amazing. It was heaven for Hans-Peter, as there was so much botany everywhere.

Once the hikers were back in the village, they joined the rest of our guests at the plaza with the music, empanadas and pisco sour.
Quite some of the locals came as well. Partly to offer some of their locally produced souvenirs, but also “just” out of interest. Not too many ships like ours come here. It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere. And it was not easy to leave this lovely new place we discovered deep in the fjords. But Conrad has said already that we will come back soon! Sometimes you find these kinds of new places by “accident”. So our cancellation of Puerto Chacabuco became a big win for us in the end!

Back on board we had another Recap & Briefing. Will talked about all the hummingbirds we saw today. There were a lot of them, but all the same species. Hans-Peter was excited about all the plants he saw, far more than he had seen in the whole Antarctic season. Rapa Nui explained the origin of the name “Tortel”, who was a French soldier, pirate and a bit more. And I tried hard to get some questions about the geology …