Deception Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

An abandoned whaling station building viewed from the shore in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

An abandoned whaling station building viewed from the shore in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Upon our departure from Ushuaia, Argentina, at the tip of the South American continent, we were cheered by the announcement from our ship’s captain that the weather looked good for our two-day passage cruising through the notorious Drake Passage to reach the South Shetland Islands at the northern extent of Antarctica.  As ships approach and cross the Antarctic Convergence (where the Pacific Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean) in the Drake Passage, they usually encounter stormy weather and waves of 18 to 30 feet (approximately 6 to 10 meters).  We could not believe our good luck – waves of 1 to 2 feet (under one meter) in calm seas!

But the weather changed for our Zodiac inflatable boat ride to go ashore at our first destination, Deception Island, one of the South Shetland Islands.  Situated on the edge of the Drake Passage, the South Shetland archipelago offers ships sailing south from Argentina the first sight of land after the crossing

Abandoned whaling station buildings and whale oil tanks viewed in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Abandoned whaling station buildings and whale oil tanks viewed in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

A recently active volcano, Deception Island is one of the most famous islands of the South Shetlands archipelago. Discovered by sealers in the 1820s, the island’s name refers to its deceiving donut-like shape.  The “donut” has a very small bite taken out of it, which forms a narrow entrance into the flooded caldera of the original volcano, known as Neptune’s Bellows.  Once the ship safely sailed into the caldera, we were able to go ashore in Zodiacs to the abandoned Norwegian whaling station from the early 1900s.

Abandoned whale oil tanks viewed in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Abandoned whale oil tanks viewed in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

“After being a base for seal hunting, the second phase of human activity at Deception began in the early twentieth century.  In 1904, an active whaling industry was established at South Georgia, taking advantage of new technology and an almost untouched population of whales to make rapid profits.  It spread south into the South Shetland Islands, where the lack of shore-based infrastructure meant that the whales had to be towed to moored factory ships for processing; these needed a sheltered anchorage and a plentiful supply of fresh water, both of which could be found at Deception.  In 1906, the Norwegian-Chilean whaling company Sociedad Ballenera de Magallanes started using Whalers Bay as a base for a single ship, the Gobernador Bories.” — Wikipedia

An abaandoned whaling station biuilding in ruins viewed in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

An abandoned whaling station building in ruins viewed in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

“Other whalers followed, with several hundred men resident at Deception during the Antarctic summers and as many as thirteen ships operating in peak years.  In 1908, the British government formally declared the island to be part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies and thus under British control, establishing postal services as well as appointing a magistrate and customs officer for the island.  The magistrate would ensure that whaling companies were paying appropriate license fees to the Falklands government as well as ensuring that catch quotas were adhered to.  A cemetery was built in 1908, a radio station in 1912, a hand operated railway also in 1912, and a small permanent magistrate’s house in 1914.  The cemetery, by far the largest in Antarctica, held graves for 35 men along with a memorial to 10 more presumed drowned.  These were not the only constructions; as the factory ships of the period were only able to strip the blubber from whales and could not use the carcasses, a permanent on-shore station was established by the Norwegian company Hvalfangerselskabet Hektor A/S in 1912 – it was estimated that up to 40% of the available oil was being wasted by the ship-based system.  This was the only successful shore-based industry ever to operate in Antarctica, reaping high profits in its first years.” — Wikipedia

Our intrepid explorer checking out the abandoned whaling station in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Our intrepid explorer checking out the abandoned whaling station in a blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

“The development of pelagic whaling in the 1920s, where factory ships fitted with a slipway could tow aboard entire whales for processing, meant that whaling companies were no longer tied to sheltered anchorages.  A boom in pelagic Antarctic whaling followed, with companies now free to ignore quotas and escape the costs of licenses.  This rapidly lead to overproduction of oil and a collapse in the market, and the less profitable and more heavily regulated shore-based companies had trouble competing.  In early 1931, the Hektor factory finally ceased operation, ending commercial whaling at the island entirely.” — Wikipedia

Chinstrap Penguins cavorting on the shore with our ship barely visible in the blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Chinstrap Penguins cavorting on the shore with our ship barely visible in the blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Chinstrap Penguins cavorting on the shore in the blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Three Chinstrap Penguins cavorting on the shore in the blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Portrait of a Chinstrap Penguin in the blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

Portrait of a Chinstrap Penguin in the blizzard, Deception Island, South Shetlands Archipelago, northwest of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula

 

El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Ushuaia, Argentina

El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

Following the establishment of a prison in Ushuaia, in late 1909 and early 1910 the railway line called the Southern Fuegian Railway or the End of the World train was established as a narrow gauge steam railway, replacing an old wood track railway drawn by bullocks.  The steam engine driven railway was built over a length of 25 km (16 mi) along the Maipu Avenue on the waterfront, followed the eastern slope of Mount Susana and branched through the middle of the Pipo River valley into Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (the Tierra del Fuego National Park).  The line was constructed with Decauville tracks of 500 mm (20 inch) gauge and connected the prison camp with the forestry camp (in what is now Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego).  The primary purpose of the railway was as a freight line to serve the prison of Ushuaia, and hence was known as the “Prison Train” or the “Convicts Train” and was used specifically to transport prisoners to the camps and transport the logged timber from forests.  The prison was closed in 1947 and the railway was finally closed in 1952, following the reduction in forest resources and an earthquake that damaged the tracks.

Train cars ready for passenger boarding at the station of the End of the World Train, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

Train cars ready for passenger boarding at the station of the End of the World Train, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

It was only in 1994, forty years after it had been closed as a Convicts Train, that the train was revived and refurbished with modern amenities, to be used as a heritage train. It is claimed to be the southernmost functioning railway in the world.

Traveling through the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park) on the End of the World Train, Ushuaia, Argentina

Traveling through the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park) on the End of the World Train, Ushuaia, Argentina

The park can now be reached from the outskirts of Ushuaia from the Fin del Mundo station (5 miles (8 km) west of Ushuaia) by the heritage railway line which traverses the park over 4.4 miles (7 kilometers) of track, covering the distance in about one hour.  We enjoyed our train ride, winding our way through valleys and verdant forest and alongside rivers and steep hillsides.  A highlight was to get out and hike up from Estacion Cascada La Macarena (Station Macarena Waterfall) to the cascading waterfall.

The first engine, Camila, (from the United Kingdom) of the restored El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

The first engine, Camila, (from the United Kingdom) of the restored El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

 

A new 2-6-2T steam locomotive (Camila, brought from England in 1995), another made in Argentina and three diesel locomotives serve on the line.

Tree stumps left after the devastation of the forest by prisoners cutting down the trees for timber at Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), viewed from El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Ushuaia,Argentina

Tree stumps left after the devastation of the forest by prisoners cutting down the trees for timber at Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), viewed from El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Ushuaia, Argentina

On our ride through Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park) we saw two types of environmental damage.  The first, to be expected, was the “Tree Cemetery” which resulted from the prisoners cutting down trees for 50 years.  Note the varying heights of the stumps.  This resulted from the varying heights of the snow pack upon which the prisoners stood in the winter to then cut down the trees.  The other damage, still active, is the damming of the rivers and steams by the abundant beavers whose ancestors were mistakenly brought to the area by early settlers hoping (erroneously) to build a fur trade.

A “portrait” of the first engine, Camila, (from the United Kingdom) of the restored El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

A “portrait” of the first engine, Camila, (from the United Kingdom) of the restored El Tren del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Train), Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

A residential community and recreational boats harbored in Ushuaia, Argentina

A residential community and recreational boats harbored in Ushuaia, Argentina

A last view of downtown and the Andes Mountains as our ship sailed out of Ushuaia, Argentina, heading for Drake Passage and the two days at sea to reach the Antarctic Peninsula

A last view of downtown and the Andes Mountains as our ship sailed out of Ushuaia, Argentina, heading for Drake Passage and the two days at sea to reach the Antarctic Peninsula

 

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

Shoreline view of Isla Redonda and the Beagle Channel, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

Shoreline view of Isla Redonda and the Beagle Channel, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park), Ushuaia, Argentina

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park) is a national park on the Argentine part of the island of Tierra del Fuego, in southwest Tierra del Fuego Province in the ecoregion of Patagonic Forest and Altos Andes, a part of the subantarctic forest.  The park was established on 15 October 1960 and expanded in 1966.  It was the first shoreline national park to be established in Argentina.

By the shores of the Beagle Channel are evergreen Guindo trees, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Argentina

By the shores of the Beagle Channel are evergreen Guindo trees, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Argentina

“The Beagle Channel or strait in Tierra del Fuego National Park is named after the British ship HMS Beagle, which sailed with the explorer Charles Darwin aboard in 1833–34.  The channel separates islands of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, in extreme southern South America.  It separates Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego from the islands of Nueva, Picton, Navarino, Hoste, Londonderry, Stewart, and other smaller islands to the south.  It is oriented in an east-west direction, runs for a length of 150 miles (240 km).” –Wikipedia

We had time on our visit to the park for a hike in the southern beech woods of the tall deciduous Lenga trees, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Argentina

We had time on our visit to the park for a hike in the southern beech woods of the tall deciduous Lenga trees, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Argentina

The park has dramatic scenery, with waterfalls, forests, mountains and glaciers.  Only a fraction of the park’s 155,676 acres (63,000 hectares) is open to the public – a micro-system of trails along the park’s rivers or through dense native forests rewards visitors with magnificent scenes.

A southern (hemisphere) brown pintail (a type of duck) on the shore of Lake Roca, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Argentina

A southern (hemisphere) brown pintail (a type of duck) on the shore of Lake Roca, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Argentina

Lake Roca and the Andes (mountains), Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Argentina

Lake Roca and the Andes (mountains), Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Argentina

The main island of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago was first occupied by man some 10,000 years ago.  In what is now Tierra del Fuego National Park lived the native Yamana people.  Their camps were above the beaches of the Beagle Channel where they could harvest the resources of the sea.  They moved around in small canoes made from laths and sheets of bark of the Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio), hunting sea-lions and harvesting molluscs, mainly two species of mussels.  Their shelters were temporary dome-shaped huts made of leafy branches and boughs. 

The extinction of the Yamanas is a direct result of their contact with the first Europeans and “criollos” explorers since 1890.  The main cause of the disappearance of these cultures appears to have been disease.  According to various chronicles, they were also hunted down by explorers and poisoned by colonists and sealers in order to have easy access to sea-lion colonies.  Population statistics are eloquent: of the 3,000 Yamanas who were living at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, there were but 1,000 ten years later and by 1910 there were but 100.

The southern tip of Argentina and South America is a long ways from home, regardless of where that is… -- sign post in downtown Ushuaia, Argentina

The southern tip of Argentina and South America is a long ways from home, regardless of where that is… — sign post in downtown Ushuaia, Argentina

 

Keats Glacier, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chile

A panorama of Keats Glacier, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chile

A panorama of Keats Glacier, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chilev

TAlberto de Agostini National Park is a Protected Area created on land that was formerly part of “Hollanda” forest reserve and “Hernando de Magallanes National Park” [in Chilean Patagonia]. It covers 5,637 square miles (14,600 km2) and includes the Cordiller Darwin mountain range, which is the final land-based stretch of the Andes before it becomes a chain of mountains appearing as small islands that sink into the Pacific Ocean and the Beagle Channel.” — Wikipedia

Keats Glacier flowing down into Keats Sound, near d’Agostini Sound, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Keats Glacier flowing down into Keats Sound, near d’Agostini Sound, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chile

“The park, along with Cabo de Hornos National Park, was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. As part of the Magallanes Sub-Polar (or Sub-Antarctic) Evergreen Rainforest, UNESCO highlights the area’s ‘mosaic of contrasting ecosystems and unique and singular characteristics on a world level.’ Several tidewater glaciers and steep fjords can be found in the park.” — Wikipedia

Waterfalls of melting mountain snow flowing into Keats Sound, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Waterfalls of melting mountain snow flowing into Keats Sound, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

Sailing thorugh d’Agostini Sound on the way to the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia, Argentina, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Sailing through d’Agostini Sound on the way to the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia, Argentina, Alberto de Agostini National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

 

Amalia Glacier (also known as Skua Glacier), Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Our first panoramic view of Amalia Glacier, also known as Skua Glacier, from our Zodiac inflatable boat, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Our first panoramic view of Amalia Glacier, also known as Skua Glacier, from our Zodiac inflatable boat, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Amalia Glacier, also known as Skua Glacier, is a tidewater glacier located in Bernardo O’Higgins Narional Park on the edge of the Sarmiento Channel.  The glacier originates in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.  From 1945 to 1986, its terminus retreated 4.3 miles (7 km), being, along with the recession of the O’Higgins Glacier, the most dramatic retreat of the glaciers of the mentioned icefield during that period.” —Wikipedia

The ice looks blue on a section of Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

The ice looks blue on a section of Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

For answers to the question, “Why is glacier ice blue?”, see our previous blog post on the Pio XI Glacier.

The weather has sculpted the surface of Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

The weather has sculpted the surface of Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Glacial ice sculptures carved on the top of Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile--

Glacial ice sculptures carved on the top of Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Calving (a large portion of a glacier breaking away and falling) at Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Calving (a large portion of a glacier breaking away and falling) at Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Nearly frozen ocean, icebergs, and “cliffs” at the face of Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Nearly frozen ocean, icebergs, and “cliffs” at the face of Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

The glacier (solid ice and snow) literally flowing down into the Pacific Ocean; Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

The glacier (solid ice and snow) literally flowing down into the Pacific Ocean; Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

Rock islands with vegetation and ice floes, seen from the Zodiac as we headed back to the ship from Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Rock islands with vegetation and ice floes, seen from the Zodiac as we headed back to the ship from Amalia (or Skua) Glacier, Amalia Sound, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Pio XI Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Sailing through the fjords in Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, approaching the Pio XI Glacier, Patagonia, Chile

Sailing through the fjords in Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, approaching the Pio XI Glacier, Patagonia, Chile

One of the first large icebergs we saw sailing through the fjords in Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

One of the first large icebergs we saw sailing through the fjords in Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

“The glaciers of Chile cover 2.7%, equal to 7,795 square miles (20,188 km2) of the land area of the country, excluding Antarctica Chilena, and have a considerable impact on its landscape and water supply. By surface 80% of South America’s glaciers lie in Chile. The largest glaciers of Chile are the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields. From a latitude of 47° S and south some glaciers reach sea level.” – Wikipedia

Cruising in one of the ship’s Zodiac inflatable boats, our first perspective view of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Cruising in one of the ship’s Zodiac inflatable boats, our first perspective view of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Located in Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Pio XI Glacier – named after Pope Pius the 11th — (also know as Brüggen Glacier, named after the German geologist Juan Brüggen Messtorff) is the biggest glacier in South America, now about 41 miles (66 km) in length. To put it in perspective, Pio XI is as big as Santiago, with a surface of 488 square miles (1,265 square kilometers), which grows 164 feet (50 meters) in height, length and density every day. This is a unique quality, as all the other glaciers in Patagonia and in most areas of the world are losing mass (due to a combination of melting and less new snow accumulation), whereas Pio XI keeps growing everyday.

A view the blue reflections from the ice on a section of the top of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

A view the blue reflections from the ice on a section of the top of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Almost everyone, upon seeing their first glacier (or large iceberg) asks, “Why is glacier ice blue?”  For the answer, we checked in with the Alaska Satellite Facility: “Glacial ice is a different color from regular ice.  It is so blue because the dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue – so blue is what we see!  Sometimes the glacial ice appears almost turquoise.  Its crystalline structure strongly scatters blue light. The ice on a glacier has been there for a really long time and has been compacted down so that its structure is pretty different from the ice you normally see.  Glacial ice is a lot different from the frozen water you get out of the freezer.  Glacial ice is not just frozen compacted snow.  There are other things in the ice that make it much different from the ice in your home.  Glaciers move through rock and soil as they carve their way down a slope.  This means the ice is going to have a lot more ingredients than just water.

“What would happen if you broke off a big chunk of ice from a glacier and put it in your glass of water?  Would it be any different from the ice in your freezer at home?  What would happen to all those air bubbles that have been trapped under pressure? 1) If your chunk of glacial ice melted in your glass of water, you would have dirt, gravel, and even organic matter [living stuff] in your water. 2) All those pressurized air bubbles would rush out so fast that they might explode your glass.”

A view of the extreme weathering of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile--

A view of the extreme weathering of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile–

 

Four of the ship’s Zodiac inflatable boats heading in for closer views of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Four of the ship’s Zodiac inflatable boats heading in for closer views of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Here you can see how the glacier (solid ice and snow) literally flows down to the Pacific Ocean over the permanent rocks & land;  Pio XI Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Here you can see how the glacier (solid ice and snow) literally flows down to the Pacific Ocean over the permanent rocks & land; Pio XI Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

 

Glacial ice sculptures carved by the weather on the top of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Glacial ice sculptures carved by the weather on the top of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

Our last panoramic view of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, from our Zodiac inflatable boat as we headed back to the ship, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Our last panoramic view of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, from our Zodiac inflatable boat as we headed back to the ship, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

 

A Zodiac inflatable boat heading back to the ship, zigzagging through the icebergs in front of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

A Zodiac inflatable boat heading back to the ship, zigzagging through the icebergs in front of Pio XI Glacier, also know as Brüggen Glacier, Bernardo O´Higgins National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

The Arrayán tree, commonly known as Chilean myrtle, is native to the Andes and was found throughout Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

The Arrayán tree, commonly known as Chilean myrtle, is native to the Andes and was found throughout Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

Parque Aiken del Sur (Aiken del Sur National Park), a privately owned 618-acre (250-hectare) nature preserve and botanical garden, is a short 15-minute drive from the port of Puerto Chacabuco, Chile in the Chilean Patagonia region.  The park has several hiking trails, including the nature trail to Lago Riesco (Riesco Lake), which we walked with a local nature guide.

The Arrayán tree, commonly known as Chilean myrtle (Latin: luma apiculata) is native to the Andes and was found throughout Parque Aiken del Sur on our nature hike.  “Its trunk appears twisted and contorted and has smooth bark, coloured grey to bright orange-brown, which peels as the tree grows. Its fruit is appreciated in Chile and Argentina and its flowers are important for honey production. The Chilean myrtle has medicinal uses for the [local native] Mapuche people.” — Wikipedia

After falling through the rabbit hole, "Alice" was dwarfed by the local ferns in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

After falling through the rabbit hole, “Alice” was dwarfed by the local ferns in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

 

 

The waterfall was one of the visual highlights on our nature hike in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

The waterfall (Barba del Viejo cascade) was one of the visual highlights on our nature hike in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

Ferns and a leaf vine growing parasitically on a tree trunk in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

Ferns and a leaf vine growing parasitically on a tree trunk in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

The forested nature trail ended in a flowering meadow just before reaching Riesco Lake in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

The forested nature trail ended in a flowering meadow just before reaching Riesco Lake in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

A flowering meadow overlooking Riesco Lake in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

A flowering meadow overlooking Riesco Lake in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

 

Riesco Lake, well known for its quiet and transparent blue waters, in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

Lago Riesco (Riesco Lake), well known for its quiet and transparent blue waters, in Parque Aiken del Sur, Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

Returning to the ship before it departed Puerto Chacabuco proved to be the most harrowing experience we had in all of 2015 (and we had some good adventures!). Our guide had arranged for our driver to meet us at Lago Riesco (Riesco Lake) at 4:15 p.m. in order to drive back to the port for us to catch a tender before that service stopped at 5:15 (the all-aboard time was 5:30 p.m.).  The appointed time came and went and after a few minutes, our guide found that there was no cell phone signal at the lake. I successfully broke into the lodge/dinging hall on the hill overlooking Lago Riesco and, excitedly, found a short wave (CB) radio. Much to our chagrin, the battery it was connected to was dead and the electricity to the building had been turned off and we couldn’t find the main switch. Getting more nervous about being stranded in Puerto Chacabuco with only the clothes on our back, no passports, hardly any money, and knowing the ship would be traversing the Patagonian fjords for four days before arriving at the next port (Ushuaia, Argentina), we decided to start the hour-plus long hike back to the park headquarters and visitor center. 

As we descended the hill toward the trail, it was with a huge sigh of relief that we saw two local policemen – whom our guide knew. They informed her that the gate on the road up to the lodge/dining hall/Riesco Lake had been locked closed and our car and driver were sitting (on the other side) there for over an hour. We jumped in the car and had a really fast drive through the park on dirt roads (nearly breaking an axle) and then sped down the highway back to the port. A ship’s tender had waited shore-side in case we showed up at the last minute – what a welcome sight! We boarded the ship at 5:29, greatly relieved that we had narrowly avoided the unwelcome adventure of spending four unscheduled days ashore with no cell phone, passport, money, or spare clothing – and no plans/reservations to get from Chile to Argentina. Later we did find out that the ship would have ferried our passports ashore and left them with the port agent so that we’d at least have our IDs and the ability to travel to meet up with the ship at the next port.

Needless to say, we were thrilled with the views as we sailed through the fjords of Patagonia that evening, knowing we almost got to spend an unplanned extra four days ashore…

Sailing through the fjords of Patagonia -- here, the Fiordo Aisen -- after departing Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile

Sailing through the fjords of Patagonia — here, the Fiordo Aisen — after departing Puerto Chacabuco, Patagonia, Chile