January 19, 2003

Chile flagRosemary was up early, but Paul was still a bit groggy from too much food the night before. However by 6:15 am we were both up and we went upstairs to the Yamana Lounge in the forward section of the third deck. We had travelled through the night to Bahía Ainsworth. The Strait of Magellan had been quite rough but in the protected fjords you would hardly have known the ship was moving.

That early in the morning there weren’t many people about, so we may have been the only ones on the ship to see the Magellanic Penguins, two adults and a young one. The skies were grey but luckily the clouds were high enough for us to see the snow-capped peaks of the Darwin Cordillera. As we travelled into Bahia Ainsworth we could see ever-expanding views of the Marinelli Glacier and many small icebergs that had come from it.

At 7:30 we decided we were a bit hungry, so we went down to the dining room to have a bit of breakfast. The buffet had a variety of foods, something to suit everyone’s taste. Then we returned to the Yamana Lounge for our lecture on marine mammals. When we disembarked in Bahia Ainsworth we would hopefully be able to see some elephant seals.

After the lecture we got dressed in our yellow waterproof gear and our life jackets, then returned to the Yamana Lounge for the briefing on how to behave during disembarkation. By this time the ship had come to a halt in the bay, but not too far in as the bay was full of ice, mostly bits less than a metre long. From the ship a fleet of Zodiacs shuttled us to a landing spot on the shoreline. Here we saw Kelp Geese, Blackish and Magellanic Oystercatchers, and Crested Ducks. We were organized into groups, so we opted for the “strong hikers” group.

At first we hadn’t noticed the elephant seal sleeping 100 metres away, but we could hear him sneezing. Our naturalist leader, Rodrigo, led us on a two-hour walk across the glacial flats and into the forest. Most of the trees in the forest were coigüe, which is the evergreen form of the southern beech tree. Before long we came to a beaver pond, where we learned that beavers had been introduced to Tierra del Fuego in 1945 by some enterprising Argentineans who hoped to make money in the fur trade. Unfortunately for them the weather was not cold enough, so the beavers did not make world-class fur and the Argentineans did not make any money. So the beaver were left to flourish on their own, which they did, becoming a pest species that is impossible to eradicate.

After leaving the beaver ponds we climbed a small hill which afforded us a nice view of the ship in one direction and the Martinelli Glacier in the other. And then we headed back to the starting point, where the elephant seal colony was. Since this is only an outlying colony, you don’t get the giant battling elephant seal males here. The main colony is on the east coast of Argentina. But there were a couple of juvenile males lounging on the beach quite close to us, maybe two metres in length. They didn’t seem to mind us being there.

At the Zodiac landing place we were offered whisky or cola with glacier ice, and there was hot chocolate too. This was a ritual that took place every time we made a landing near a glacier. Back at the ship we had lunch. Lunch was salad, soup, hake with king crab sauce, and Chilean beef stew with boiled potatoes, followed by an assortment of desserts.

After lunch we rested a bit, then went up to the top deck to watch the water. There was an Antarctic Giant-Petrel following the ship, and we tried to photograph it as it flew alongside. And then we noticed an albatross flying not far away, then two or three more. We hadn’t expected to see albatrosses, since we weren’t in the open sea, but apparently the Black-browed Albatross—which these were—is sometimes found in the channels. By the time the ship reached the Tucker Islets, there must have been a dozen of them.

As we embarked for a bouncy ride to the Tucker Islets, the weather seemed to be improving as we could see the tops of the Darwin Cordillera mountains. The Tucker Islets are a major nesting site for Magellanic Penguins and Imperial and Rock Shags. We got a close look at all of those, raising their chicks on the rocks and cliffs, along with hundreds of Chilean Skuas waiting to pounce on those chicks. The trip was a lot of fun, as the waves were only a bit over a metre high.

Dinner tonight started with scallops in a Parmesan cheese sauce, pumpkin cream soup, then baked salmon with a potato and piece of broccoli. Dessert was supposed to be raspberry kuchen but by the time our table had dessert we ended up with lemon pie. The pie was excellent and went well with the fish.

After dinner we went to the lounge to see a fashion show of year-round Patagonian clothing. Sweaters, hats, warm trousers. Then there was bingo, which neither of us came anywhere close to winning. And so to bed.

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