January 23, 2003

Chile flagToday was an early rising with a scheduled 6:45 departure for Cape Horn. The overnight passage through Bahia Nassau had been a bit bumpy, but not seriously so. And this morning the weather was overcast but with very little wind. So the conditions for landing were basically ideal. The departure was old hat to us, but the passengers who had just boarded the previous day were a bit nervous.

As we waited in the Zodiac to land at the little stony beach, we were amazed to see that the little bay was full of hundreds of jellyfish. This was a difficult landing for the crew; there were even sailors in wetsuits pushing the Zodiacs in towards the beach and holding them in place. From the rocky beach we climbed the steep stairway, 104 steps with landing areas every so often. From time to time it crossed an old cargo railway that looked as if it hadn’t been used for years.

At the top of the stairway is a plateau covered with sedges, white daisy bushes, and heath. There is a battered boardwalk leading to the monuments to sailors. One of them is a beautiful large metal sculpture of an albatross, which is symbolic of seafarers. It was very crowded up there, with 130 people all trying to take photographs, but eventually everybody managed to get through. Today there was almost no wind on the plateau, which must be a very rare occurrence.

Besides the monuments, the island also contains a chapel, a lighthouse, and a small house where a Chilean navy couple lives for a one-year stint. The house is small but looks comfortable enough. For $5 U.S. you can purchase a certificate, signed by the navy man, stating you have been on Cape Horn. We were on the island for about an hour and a half in total.

On the way back to the ship there was a single penguin in the water. It didn’t look like the usual Magellanic variety; instead its head was completely black and it had a very small beak. That would make it an Adelie Penguin, at the very edge of its normal range. We had earlier seen three penguins leaping out of the water like porpoises, which we have never seen Magellanics do.

As we were standing in the lounge chatting with the other passengers, the Captain came up to our group and explained that we would not be rounding the Cape, because one of the passengers had fallen going down the steps and had badly injured his shoulder. Instead we were taking the shortest way back to Puerto Williams so the medics at the naval base could treat him. The doctor on board had given the man a painkiller but was unable to do much more for him. Needless to say we were all disappointed that we wouldn’t be rounding the Cape, especially as the weather was good—not much wind and reasonably calm seas. But the cruise company could hardly have made any other decision.

So the ship motored north at top speed, past Isla Herschel and through the open Bahia Nassau again. We had really not much to do now. Lunch today was chicken stuffed with vegetables, followed by lasagna or spaghetti with Alfredo or Bolognese sauce. Before lunch we had visited the bridge, which, since the ship was built in 2002, naturally had very sophisticated equipment. Or so it seemed to us. But it still had the old-fashioned wooden steering wheel to be used in case both sets of computers failed.

As we passed Isla Lennox and Isla Picton and re-entered the Canal Beagle from its eastern end, we opted for a nap. We were so tired that we slept until 5 pm, at which time we were arriving in Puerto Williams. We were told that we could disembark for up to three hours, but that the ship only had permission to dock for half an hour. So we thought that was rather cheesy of the navy, but at any rate we went off and posted ourselves a postcard. The public Internet connection was in use so we went off for a walk. This time we went out past the yacht club and along the road to the airport. We saw a family of Upland Geese, several Buff-necked Ibises, and numerous small birds. Luckily the weather was still not bad, so it was a pleasant walk.

When we returned to Puerto Williams we found why our ship had been sent away from the dock. A Chilean navy ship had returned from duty. There were smartly dressed sailors there, and recorded band music playing on speakers. (“The British Grenadier” and “Lili Marlene”.) Families of the crew were arriving. We watched for a bit, then went down to the beach to board the Zodiac that would take us back to the ship.

Tonight’s dinner was cream of tomato soup, then congrio with potato and peas and a tomato, followed by fruit salad and ice cream. The ship finally left about 9:30 pm and we heard that the man who had fallen was okay. The ship seemed to have developed a problem where its anchor cannot be raised completely. This required a sailor to go out in a Zodiac and push at it, perhaps to unkink the chain or something like that.

Tomorrow will be another early rising, as we arrive at the Pia Glacier at 6 am.

One Response to January 23, 2003

  1. What a shame not to have ’rounded The Horn’ after all 😦 Oh well, I suppose it couldn’t be helped. I didn’t realise it was really an island (but haven’t really studied the maps that hard I suppose).

    It must have been very cold down there?
    Carol.

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