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Day 6 - November 8, 2008 - Chilean Fjords & Pio Xi Glacier, At Sea

By Rob Suisted

Position: 49° 15’ N and 074° 02’ W
Weather: Overcast skies with intermittent rain. Wind, variable, light to moderate in fjords

We awoke to calm seas again upon re-entering the fjords this morning. The open sea section we travelled during the night kept many awake, and was a reminder that we are fortunate to be navigating mostly the calm seas of the Chilean Fjords. Little wonder it was a preferred route to Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean.

After breakfast, Robin Aiello, our onboard marine biology specialist, gave a riveting lecture of her time in Antarctica carrying out underwater research in the Ross Sea Area. Scuba diving under the ice in extreme conditions, living in a tent camp on the ice, and experiencing the wilds and wildlife of Antarctica was a great story, resplendent with all the details of personal life, the trials and tribulations.

Before lunch our onboard ‘Rockstar’, Juan, the geologist, gave us a lecture on the basic concepts of the geological forces at work in this part of the world. The raw ‘fabric and form’ of this landscape is so different to what most of us know, but the manner in which it was created is readily visible after Juan’s tuition.

We continued to travel through an ever-changing landscape of these fjords, twisting and turning between beautiful islands and high ridges – not knowing what is around each new corner, knowing only that there is no human habitation for many, many miles. It’s great to think that there is so much land like this here that remains largely untouched and unexplored by human – a tonic for some.

After lunch I ran, by request, a lecture on nature photography, showcasing some of my favourite Antarctic images, the photographic work I do in New Zealand, and a photography 101 session of tips aimed at equipping people with a few simple tips to enhance the photographic memories that may be taken from here.

A very topical issue for some here is the summertime hunting of whales by Japan in the Southern Ocean. In the late afternoon, we ran the ‘Great Whaling Debate’, a chance for people to be exposed to new information and both sides of the whaling debate. It was a chance for all to express their opinions and re-examine their views on the harvesting of these great mammals.

Around 6 p.m., the Captain took the ship up a side fjord on an excursion to view the spectacular Pio 11 glacier. Approximately 2.5 miles wide and many miles long, this monster river of ice was of great pleasure to many. The sight of many people from warmer climes, forgoing dinner (in dinner dress) braving the cool outside temperature to prolong their viewing time, while slowly turning a shade of blue, was testament to the fine spectacle. Occasionally ice would calve off the front of the glacier into the water, contributing to the small icebergs floating around the ship and fjord. The sea in the fjord was coloured a beautiful light turquoise blue from the rock flour (the fine silt suspended in the water column contributed from the grinding forces of the glacier on the rock below), that made for great photos.

During the day, a number of marine mammals were sighted, especially around the English Narrows, a nice confined passage between islands and high mountains above. Many managed to see South American fur seals, several Chilean dolphins, and later near the glacier some Peale’s dolphins sought out the ship to bow ride.

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