Day 11 |
Nov 13, 2008

Chilean Fjords, Garibaldi Glacier

By Rob Suisted

Position: 54° 44.11’ N and 69° 58.54’ W

Weather: Overcast skies with intermittent snow and rain showers. Wind variable, light to gusty in fjords.

We awoke to the ship nosing into a tight fjord and dropping anchor. We were surrounded by beautiful high peaks carrying a fresh dusting of overnight snow. The scene was amazing. Nothofagus southern beech forest cloaked the shore below, and rising above us were either high meadows of grasses, or bare rock walls rising thousands of feet to winter’s snows still present above.

Zodiacs were launched and we all became excited at the prospect of this last Zodiac cruise amongst such fine scenery. Our intended destination, Garibaldi Glacier, lay invisible some two miles further up the fjord. This boat trip was the hardest yet, requiring full cold weather clothing, but was also to become our best yet.

For two hours, groups of guests, eight per Zodiac, negotiated the peaceful nooks and crannies of this enchanted spot – quiet coves with deep turquoise water, waterfalls descending through the forest, and avalanche chutes fresh with new snow – before heading up the fjord to the main attraction, the massive glacier at its head.

While we sat and stared that this beautiful behemoth, regular thunderous cracks informed us of the huge amount of ice falling from the terminal face into the fjord. This fresh ice covered the sea out about one mile from the face with small sharp pieces of brash ice that completely covered the sea surface. Gentle maneuvering in Zodiacs through this ice gave everyone a rather ‘Antarctica-esque’ experience, the boats working like miniature icebreakers.

All too soon for most, we had to return to the Prince Albert II. En route, guests were treated to a nice surprise as the hotel staff had prepared drinks and nibbles in a floating bar. One of the ship’s large lifeboats was lowered and set up as a refreshment stop – quite an unexpected addition to our morning!

As if to cap off our visit to this spectacular place, 8-10 Peale’s dolphins appeared around the ship and Zodiacs, treating us all to an hour’s cavorting. These normally shy creatures really turned it on with their acrobatics as a light snow fell.

With a warming lunch, we weighed anchor and set sail for Port Williams (to clear Chilean immigration) before our arrival in Ushuaia, Argentina the next morning.

During the afternoon, Victoria Salem gave a spine-tingling lecture on the true story of Moby Dick, the demise of a whaling ship apparently attacked and sunk by a whale, in which several sailors survived a terrible ordeal, partly by the ‘drawing of lots’…

Prior to dinner, the Expedition Team gave their final recap and signoff, and Val, the onboard photographer, screened the photo presentation he has created for all. The guests gave our team, and all those onboard Prince Albert II who have contributed to such a fine voyage, a standing ovation. It was a kind farewell and an acknowledgement that we’ve all had a great journey together, one that will be in our memories for a long time.