January 20, 2003

Chile flagBut we were awoken at 1:15 am by the sound of the anchor being lowered. The ship was anchoring by the Serrano Glacier, and pointing a floodlight at the glacier. This made the glacier look like the lights of a distant city. The ship had anchored here in Fjordo d’Agostini so that in the morning we could see the sunrise on the Serrano Glacier. This was not to be, as once again it was cloudy. This area of the fjord has numerous large glaciers, some of which come down almost to sea level.

We travelled further down the fjord to view the d’Agostini Glacier from up close. From the upper deck the glacier was very impressive. Every so often chunks of the glacier would calve off, sending waves towards the ship.

For breakfast, besides the usual buffet, there were jars of calafate jam for us to put on our toast and croissants. Calafate is a bush that grows all over Patagonia. It’s a member of the genus Berberis, so it’s related to the Oregon Grape bush of North America. But unlike that bush, its berries make very tasty jam. It tastes much like black currant jam.

This morning we had a lecture on glaciology before getting ready for our excursion. This morning’s trip was to the Condor Glacier. This glacier is at the head of a little fjord that has been formed within the last 25 years as the glacier receded. It has been so named by the cruise line because of the many condors they saw while exploring the area. It is mainly populated by Imperial Shags, but we saw one Skua as well.

On entering the Condor Glacier’s fjord we floated carefully over the terminal moraine, then weaved through the ice floes almost right up to the foot of the glacier. The drivers turned off the engines and we all sat quietly just listening to the silence. From time to time there were small cracking sounds as little bits fell from the glacier’s snout. We were wondering what would happen to us if a big bit fell off, but it didn’t.

We returned to the gravelly beach in the fjord to go for our walk, and once again set off with Rodrigo in the “fast” group. As we started along the shore, we saw a couple of vultures soaring in the distance. No white on top of the wings as you would expect for Andean Condors, but no Turkey Vulture’s white flight feathers underneath either. But immature condors don’t have the white, and Turkey Vultures would have been mere specks at that distance, so they must have been condors.

The walk through the forest was challenging but not very long: up and over fallen logs, through mud holes, back down to the beach. Not much vegetation in the wet forest, but its floor was an impressive collection of lichens, ferns, and mosses, all different shades of green. And Rosemary did find an orchid.

Lunch today started out with salad and continued with pastel de choclo. This is a standard Chilean dish, a baked pie with beef and corn niblets. Dessert was an assortment of pastries.

There were no more excursions today, so that the ship could cruise on to tomorrow’s destination. So we attended several of the scheduled events. There was even a culinary demonstration, where the head chef showed us how he carves cucumbers, carrots, and red peppers into things like birds and flowers, using just an ordinary kitchen knife. Most amazing. There was a lecture on the birds of Patagonia, a lot of which we hadn’t seen yet. And there was a presentation on the optional tours that were being offered in Puerto Williams and Ushuaia. The prices were actually quite reasonable so we decided to sign up for one in Ushuaia.

By late in the afternoon the ship was at the south end of Canal Cockburn, where it is exposed to wind and weather coming from the Pacific Ocean. The ship was pitching considerably, so we went up to the open top deck to stand outside. It was impossible to stand in the wind, but in the sheltered spots it was fine. We watched the Giant Petrels following the ship; at one point there were six of them. And the albatrosses! Too many to count. Some of the passengers were murmuring about seasickness, but after the ship turned in to a calmer channel heading east, and dinner began, we noticed few empty seats in the dining room.

Tonight’s dinner started out with a smoked salmon appetizer followed by a delicious potato cream soup. The main course was Pollo Supremo, which was a breaded chicken breast stuffed with cheese. Dessert was chirimoya and orange ice cream with Chilean papaya fruit accompanying it. Suddenly the cry of “Whale!” was raised, so we all rushed to the windows to look. The whale, a small humpback, spouted twice and then dived.

Instead of attending the karaoke session, we opted to get to bed earlier. Tomorrow’s excursion gets under way at 6:20 am.

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