This part of Patagonia, this maze of sea and ice and rock holds its own mystery, casts its own spell. It is a place to hold one’s breath, or it will be taken away.
Go. While it is still there, before we have destroyed it.
We boarded the M/V Stella Australis in Punta Arenas, Chile, which has wonderful, serendipitous, whimsical building mural art even down to the shadows of a ship’s anchor line and the constant wind blowing pedestrians’ hair. Take a look at the photos below.
The Australis holds about 235 passengers and was built in 2010 specifically for this environment. Our cabin, although on the lowest deck (determined by port size, although they were more like windows than ports) was more than adequate. The food and drink were also more than adequate, and the talks and zodiac trips ashore enlightening and informative.
Having transited the Panama Canal from the Caribbean/Atlantic to the Pacific for our circumnavigation, we obviously skipped Cape Horn. First of all it’s a loooong way down there, and the weather is generally foul so it was with great expectations that we anticipated our visiting Cape Horn on the Australis. The passengers were alerted that we might not be able to land there due to weather, but all was well, and we were ferried ashore. We had to keep our life jackets on (a requirement in the zodiacs anyway) because there was no place at the extremely steep-to shore to put them plus there was always the possibility that we would have to leave hurriedly because of a weather change, which in fact did happen. It’s something like 164 steps up to the wooden walkway that leads to the Albatross Monument and the lighthouse combined with the Chilean Naval outpost, where an officer and his family are stationed for one year. We enjoyed the visit, windy and cold though it was.
We transited the Magellan Strait, Glacier Alley, and Beagle Channel also, visited the Magellanic penguins, saw various species of albatross, cormorants, skua, and others. It’s a fascinating environment, unlike other places we have been such as Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska; trekking on glaciers in New Zealand; motoring through the fjords of New Zealand.