Thursday, February 3, 2022

February 2nd – Glacial Progress From Chile

Covid restrictions have meant that we haven’t got the best from our land experiences in Chile (Punta Arenas wouldn’t even let us off the ship!); but at least it gave us more chances to appreciate the stunning scenery in the south of the country.

We headed away from Punta Arenas a day early so that we could explore the dramatically bleak landscapes around the Beagle Channel, a place that’s like a geography lesson in glacial features. As we explored the network of channels and islands, it made you wonder how on earth the first European explorers down here in the 19th century ever made it through this dangerously windswept labyrinth of waterways, in what must be some of the most inhospitable environments in the world.

As the snow-capped mountains of the Cordillera Darwin approached, there was scarcely any vegetation clinging onto those barren hillsides, but there was plenty of birdlife to appreciate, and even the swish of a whale’s tail to get us excited (by some miracle, Tracy was taking a picture of something else, so you might spot it in the corner of her second photo).

We then reached the star of the Beagle Channel show – Glacier Avenue, where 5 different glaciers make their way down the hillsides to the sea. It’s always astonishing to see the deep cobalt-blue of the glaciers – dense ice packed so hard by the thousands of years since it started its downhill journey, that the daylight gets absorbed and the red light is filtered out, leaving only the light at the blue end of the spectrum to be transmitted through it.

These incredible natural sights have left us with a spring in our step before we head into the dreaded Drake Passage tomorrow – forecasts of moderately rough seas, are only slightly tempering our excitement for our arrival in Antarctica!