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Day 7 - November 9, 2008 - Cruise And Explore The Chilean Fjords

By Toby Musgrave

Noon Position: 51° 30’.75 S, 74° 01’.50 W
Weather: Cloudy, squally with occasional sunny spells, 7°C/45°F

Today was our second cruising the Chilean Fjords, and the morning began with a quite magnificent wake-up call, as at 07.00 the Captain stopped the ship remarkably close to the Brojo glacier, at the head of the same-named fjord. Cold it certainly was, but as with the night before, we were remarkably lucky with the weather inasmuch as it did not rain until the moment we left. However, we were still denied the sun we were all praying for.

The morning’s activities were two excellent lectures, one from Victoria on the History of Patagonia, followed by Chris’s introduction to the Land Birds of Chile, both interspersed with time spent on deck admiring the remarkable scenery. Perhaps more remarkable still was the appearance of the sun - the first we had seen since entering the fjords. And what a difference! The hills rising sheer out of the sea, and cloaked with their greenery of Nothofagus (Southern Beech), now appeared in the glory of their multifarious hues rather than the familiar monochromes. Moreover, we enjoyed distant vistas previously invisible. Not to say the landscapes had not been dramatic, certainly in their incarnation of greys they had a certain brooding majesty. But revealed in brilliant color, they reveled in their full glory! But this was not a balmy sunshine, rather one grudgingly given by a grumpy Mother Nature who also sent frequent heavy squalls and gusts of wind reaching 60 knots to remind us who is boss! Lunch followed by more viewings of landscapes and birds (Neotropic Comorant, Black-browed Albatross, and Southern Giant-Petrel were common sightings, with the occasional raft of Magellanic Penguins.) So, the afternoon passed engagingly, with your loyal correspondent offering a lecture on The Plant Hunters to break up the afternoon’s viewings and to provide an opportunity to warm up. Beautiful as the scenery was, the weather remained decidedly cool.

At about 18.00, we made a turn to port and prepared ourselves to pass through the Kirke Narrows (a word that means ‘church’ in Danish, which had me wondering what prayers were required!) The passage has to be made at slack water (i.e. when no current is running) and since the Chilean vessel that normally informs vessels of the timings was under repair, we dropped a Zodiac manned by our doughty Expedition Leader and photographer to measure the current, to report back when the Captain should ‘go for it’, and to make a visual record for posterity. At about 21.00, as a gloomy, grey and wet twilight descended, those guests in The Restaurant were treated to a roller-coaster ride as the Prince Albert II ‘shot the rapids’. It did not look like slack water and a couple of the islands that dot the very narrow passage appeared to loom quite close to the port side - for a moment I was convinced one tree in particular was going to come through the window and purloin my delicious duck. Nonetheless the Captain piloted us with magnificent skill and poise and we were able to able to enjoy our main courses!And he was greeted to a very well deserved round of applause when he made his entrance (as was the Zodiac team.) At about 23.00 we relievedly went alongside in Puerto Natales.

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