Thursday, February 05, 2009

Rounding Cape Horn By Boat

I've been out of e-contact for the last part of this trip because of the lack of online services. After leaving Buenos Aires we flew south to Patagonia and the southern city of Ushuaia, Argentina. Here we boarded the Mare Australus for a cruise in the fjords of the Beagle Channel and chance to see the famous Cape Horn. We were not disappointed in these endeavors.

A look inside of our Explorer jet. There is lots of room but no place to stand and hang out. Everyone sits in a first class seat and there is a chef on board.

Flying in to Ushuaia, we got a great view of the mountains on the island of Tierra del Fuego. It is a fantastic place with usually stormy weather but our luck held and the views were spectacular.

Here is Mt. Olivia to the east of Ushuaia. The rocks here are metamorphic for the most part and formed in the Mesozoic Era (about 120 Ma) as part of the Pacific Ocean subduction complex beneath the western edge of South America.

Here it is - the southern end of South America - Cape Horn. We arrived on a rare cloudless, still day and were able to go ashore. This is a view south towards Antarctica only 600 miles away. The sea doesn't look like a washing machine on days like these.

The lighthouse at Cape Horn, manned by members of the Chilean Navy

Here is a monument to all of the sailors lost at sea while rounding the Horn. The number who lost their lives is estimated at 10,000 souls. Can you see what is represented in the monument?

Self portrait from Cape Horn monument. The answer to the question above - it's an albatross, symbol of those who lost their lives here.

After leaving the cape we sailed north to Wulaia Bay, visited by Charles Darwin in 1834. This was a rich gathering place for Yamana Indians, the worlds southernmost people. We hiked into a beech forest when I snapped this shot towards the bay.

The Yamana are totally extinct now, savaged by disease and a program of extermination in the late 1800's. Fortunately, photographs survive of these amazing people, who lived in a very cold place without the use of much clothing. This image is one I used in my lecture about Patagonia.

Looking towards an oncoming storm. This was one of the rare times we received rain on this trip.

Here's the Pia Glacier as it spills out from the Darwin Range on the island of Tierra del Fuego. It has receded a great deal in the last 30 years.

More Pia Glacier

Just 30 years ago, this rock was buried in ice. The glacial striations that were etched into it are evident and it was features like these that gave geologists the evidence for prior Ice Ages.

The rocks beneath the ice show evidence for massive amounts of compression in the creation of the Patagonian landscape. This cliff face, almost 1,000 feet high, shows how the rocks were bent almost 180 degrees.

Folding of the rocks (at depth where they are ductile and not brittle) is evident on many scales. This basalt intrusion was variably folded (see sandal for scale).


  1. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Great photos!
    What a trip... amazing!

    Small nitpick:
    Mesozoic = era, not period.

  2. RobertWest8@roadrunner.com8:08 PM

    Enjoyed your post. The geology inclusion was informative.


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