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Day 7 - November 7, 2009 - Chilean Fjords (Kirke Narrows), Chile

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 51°53.8´S, 72°30.9´W (Puerto Natales)
Weather: cloudy and rainy

It was a very calm night in comparison to the night before. The Chilean Fjords protected the Prince Albert II against the swell from the open ocean.

As was the night, this morning we enjoyed a smooth passage through the fjords. The vegetation consisted mainly of Southern Beech and it was interesting to observe how they were formed in their growth through the force of the winds in this region. Small, maybe 5 to 8 meters high inclined in the direction where the wind was blowing, they were only half of the size as when you find them in normal conditions. It was chilly outside with snow on the surrounding mountains, and it was hard to imagine that this should be or is spring here in Chile.

An interesting lecture program filled out this morning on board. After a delicious breakfast in The Restaurant, I went to the lecture of my colleague Victoria Salem on “A History of Patagonia”. She gave an excellent presentation on the highlights of the history of this region as she was talking about the natives, European explorers, settlers and scientists who visited the southern part of the continent. In the second presentation, my colleague Juan Carlos Restrepo talked about the much older history of South America: the geological formation of our earth in general and specifically of South America.

Shortly after midday, Captain Peter Stahlberg announced through the PA system that in about 15 to 20 minutes we would pass through the Kirke Narrow. This passage is the entrance to a fjord at whose southeastern end is situated Puerto Natales. The narrow is in fact very special from the navigational point of view, as it is only 70 feet wide and usually has a current running through it that actually inhibits the passage. To pass through, we had to wait for slack water conditions (the point when tide is changing from low to high or vice versa) in the narrow.

As we approached the narrow, nearly all guests were out on deck. The wind brought rain towards us and it seemed we got nearer that the Prince Albert II would not fit into this narrow passage. At the moment when we passed through, our guests stood on each side of the ship looking down the railing. Virtually there were no more than about ten feet left on each side of the ship. It was really an exciting moment and I could hear from some of our guests a relieving breath when we were on the other side of the famous Kirke Narrow.

At 17.00 our Expedition Leader Robin West informed the guests of our plan for tomorrow’s excursion to Torres del Paine National Park, and my colleague JJ showed a Diving Petrel that he found in the afternoon on Deck 5. After the briefing, our onboard photographer Richard Sidey presented the video of the voyage up to day five. Our guests were fascinated by the work of Richard and in my personal opinion, he once again, did a great job, as always.

At 19.00, Venetian Society members, guests who had been traveling several times with Silversea, were honored with a cocktail reception.

Afterwards, a Venetian Dinner was served in The Restaurant, an appropriate culinary highlight for an exciting day in Chilean Fjords.

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