Sunday, March 05, 2017

Rounding Cape Horn and Other Sights in Tierra del Fuego

Our expedition cruise to Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego was unusual. The high pressure system that was blistering Buenos Aires in 90 degree heat had a pronounced effect in the latitudes of the 50s such that the weather systems moved from east to west. For this reason we approached the island of Cape Horn on its western side, normally the side that feels the brunt of Pacific storms. As we rounded the Horn from west to east, items flew off of my table in my cabin as the ship rocked and rolled. I knew it was an unusual event - we never feel rough seas when facing the east here.

Cape Horn! The southernmost point of land in the Americas. The rock type is diorite and is part of the South American batholith.

Looking northwest from the cape toward the snow-capped peaks of Hoste Island.

Waves batter the rocks. This was taken with my telephoto lens (300 mm) and so the distance is deceiving. Those waves are likely rising up 25 feet on the rocks.

I was standing on the 2nd deck here shooting right out into the waves, which rose up higher than I was.

An even bigger swell. To stand next to something this large and powerful is a humbling feeling. I was extra cautious standing out here on the open deck as any fall would certainly be a trip into the drink. Nearly 2,500 sailors are known to have lost their lives rounding the Horn, most of them in the winter when real A-1, first class storms rock the region. Staring into the waves was an eery feeling.

Later in the day we visited Beautiful Bay, called Wulaia in native Yagan tongue. My 2nd lecture was about the native people that once lived in these islands, a canoe-going group that wore no clothes in this harsh environment (clothing got damp and held disease). The Yagan were the ones who greeted the Beagle and Charles Darwin in the 1830s voyage through the Beagle Channel.

Low tide exposed these glacially rounded boulders covered in bright orange lichen.

This landscape is part of the Brecknock Peninsula. Note the light-colored granite set within a darker igneous rock.

A long glacier exiting from the Darwin Range Ice Sheet.

I have only seen Mt. Sarmiento (elevation 7,369 ft.) twice in all my years sailing down here and this was a fantastic view from the Agostini Sound.

Agostini fjord.

In Agostini National Park, we visited the Aguila Glacier, here seeming to plow through a grove of southern Beech trees of the genus Nothofagus.

Close-up of the Aguila Glacier. We walked through the forest to its base. Next stop is Torres del Paine National Park.

1 comment:

Walters Press said...

Just started following your blog as we're interested in Utah. We did a boat from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas a few years ago, rounding the Horn and visiting Wulaia Bay an the Piloto Glacier. Hope to do it again soon.