Day 3 |
Nov 03, 2009

Niebla, Chile

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: S 39º 52.4’, W 073º 24.6’

Weather: Overcast and rainy

Air Temperature: 10ºC

Sea Temperature: 12ºC

Pressure: 1021 hPa

Wind: A strong breeze blowing from the north at 25 knots

Today the Prince Albert II dropped anchor at the mouth of the Valdivia River at 7 am. After breakfast I got on my Zodiac quite excited about driving again. We had not done much Zodiac driving lately and the conditions today promised to be fun. The ship’s bow was naturally pointing up river, however, a considerable swell was coming from the open ocean and hitting the stern of the ship. 

The combination of these contradictory conditions provided an interesting gangway disembarkation and ride ashore. We were going against the current but with the swell.  Unusual, but fun, and I dare to affirm that most of our guests enjoyed it; as a matter of fact for many of them it was the first time on a Zodiac and many were taking pictures.

Once ashore, the coaches were waiting and the tour started. Niebla is the most important beach resort of the area; although I might add, it is not quite what – you dear reader or I – would picture as a beach resort. In the past, Niebla was one of the most important Spanish fortifications to prevent attacks to Valdivia by pirates and corsairs. Due to its strategic location, in 1671, the Spanish conquerors decided to build a defensive fortress. There were as many as 10 coastal defenses and fortresses protecting the entrance to Valdivia.  As ships sailed around Cape Horn, Valdivia was the first good option for them to get fresh water and provisions, and the Spaniards feared that this circumstance would favor pirate attacks to their land further north.

We visited the fort, which overlooks Corral bay. The Prince Albert II was sitting proudly at anchor under a few rays of sun shinning on her white superstructure. We walked around the buildings and cannons of Corral, and visited the museum and interpretative center where Emilio, a local guide dressed as a 17th century Spanish soldier, explained the military strategies and battles fought there. 

Afterwards, the coach took us to Valdivia and crossed the bridge into Tejo Island. The second stop of the tour was made at El Saval, a public park with nice vegetation, a small lake, a nature trail and some award-winning sculptures. Then we moved on to the local university and its botanical garden, which has a variety of endemic species, among them, the lotus.

We then visited the Historical and Anthropological Museum Maurice Van der Maele. This museum depicts a very interesting collection of Mapuche artifacts and jewelry, as well as important pieces of the Hispanic and German periods.  The German influence can be felt in every corner of this city.  The first colonists arrived here in 1849, and worked hard to develop the area, turning it into one of one of the most productive ones of the south of Chile.

From the museum we could see the city center just across the river.  The coach took us to the fish market where we had time to check out the interesting and wide array of products on display, as well as the resident sea lions and birdlife that profit from the scraps and leftovers from the fish vendors.  Some of our guests visited a handicraft market.

From there we went to the Kuntsmann brewery for lunch. Lunch was good and the beer even better. (“Das Gut Bier!”) At 2 pm the coaches headed back to the pier in Niebla to come back on board.

I got off the coach and jumped on a Zodiac. This time I had the current in my favor but the swell against. A bit of a “splashier” ride coming back to the ship, but good fun nonetheless.

We spent the afternoon at sea and at 5 pm Richard Sidey gave a great photography lecture entitled “Tips and Tricks for better pictures”.

At 6:45 pm the Expedition Team presented a Recap & Briefing where some of us talked about the highlights of the day and our Expedition Leader Robin West told us about the plans for tomorrow in Chiloe Island.