Saturday, January 31, 2009


Our final port of call during this two-week South American cruise is Puerto Montt, Chile in northern Patagonia ... population 150,000 in the lakes region, surrounded by the Andes Mountains, water falls and forests. It's an awesome aggregate of mother nature's most scenic architecture (see photos). But it is also a breeding ground for volcanoes and intense seismic quakes from the "Ring of Fire" -- in fact, the largest earthquake ever recorded (9.5) occurred here in 1960, with a force of 100 billion tons of TNT. The resulting tsunami drove waves at over 200 mph into Japan 10,000 miles away, and devastated Hilo Hawaii. Puerto Montt was settled in the 1800's by rugged pioneers from Europe, especially German immigrants looking for a better life. Today their ancestors live within the shadow of snow-capped volcano Osorno, where we made photos between openings in the dense clouds, and enjoyed a Chilean meal at a local resort -- Pisco Sours and wine, chicken salad, salmon, and crispy empenada's. Yummi. Another day at sea, then Santiago and the long ride home again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Amalia Glacier

Our very skilled and personable ship Captain Claus Andersen announced an unscheduled visit today, into the misty Chilean fjords of southern Patagonia's Andes Mountains to view the spectacular Amalia Glacier, also known as Skua ... part of a range east of the Archipelago Reina Adelaida. We steamed up the Nelson channel -- deep within a maze of islands and isolated fjords. We saw no other ship, house, or human. With so much mist, the predominent color is gray, with contrast only when we pass near rocks and small islands. The mist hovers over the treetops, and sweeps down to water-level, wiping out all visual details of the horizon.

We were expectant ... watching for any clues of ice flow. Turning a corner into the final few miles ... the face of the flow appears very blue due to the mass of weight squeezing out most of the oxygen, and it's massively wide. The Radiance of the Seas glides quietly closer, carefully cutting through the ice flow ... and aproaching closer than ANY previous ship, in fact, exceeding the border of depth soundings on navigational maps. This is a first. We were within 1,300 feet of an ice wall that extends 21 kilometers across the seascape, fed by a moving icepack, calving into the sea.

The mist miraculously lifts, turning into rain -- which nobody noticed in their awe of Mother Nature. The ship spends an hour in this bay, concluding with a full-circle turn, giving each passenger a full view from the top of the sun deck or the comfort of our balconies.

Without any doubt this is the most impressive glacial visit in our years of travel to icy locations in North America and Europe. Our gratitude to the Captain. Wow - it just keeps getting better. The downside? Amalia has been progressively receding since 1945 -- so far losing seven kilometers to global warming. See a glacier now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The glaciers along the Chilean Fjords of the Beagle Channel are simply spectacular -- especially five of them named after European countries. The blue ice starts high on the 5,000 - 10,000 foot mountain ridges, and flows within camera range into the channel, exposing bed rock and torrents of water threaded through ribbons of falls along the canyon walls. Our ship cruised the narrows slowly, which itself was once a pre-historic 150-mile long glacier. Not a hint of human life in these waters. We watched in awe as each glacier came closer than any we have seen in Alaska. A rare sun beam broke through the clouds, dancing on the ridges of the jagged mountain range. (Note: these are un-retouched photos.)

Monday, January 26, 2009


From the world's most southern town, Ushawaia, the gateway to Antarctica, we toured the Beagle Channel aboard a catamaran, poking our way into tiny rock islands inhabited by wild sea lions, seals, and birds like the Cormorant, a member of the pelican family. The sea wolves are either fighting for superiority of the harem, or posing for the photographers.


Today we disembarked the ship at the crack of dawn. (Seems like too many people who are beginning to look like the penguins.) The upside was a day of unbeatable wildlife at the 'End of the Earth,' Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most town of 60,000 people overlooking a 150 mile long body of water named after the British ship HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's missions of discovery in the 1800's. We were met by busses for transport to a picture post-card location of the Argentina National Park Preserve, which is set at the base of the Andes mountain chain in nearby Chile. Tonight we sail north through the Chilean fjords for a spectacular view of the remaining glaciers here ... most in melt mode for years. (See separate posting.) It's summer ... but many of the peaks are still snow-capped, and as they say --- "Winter is coat weather, and so is Summer." Neither is an extreme thanks to the tempering effect of the oceans, both Atlantic and Pacific.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cape Horn

We're at the southern-most tip of the world, Cape Horn, in the Drake Passage, not far from Antarctica, where it's about 45 degrees, calm seas (for now), but cloudy with dense fog.   Not another ship in sight, where the weather changes four times before lunch and where the albatross soar just inches above the water looking for dinner.  People are gathering in the rain on the heli-pad of our ship, awaiting a photographic moment of landfall.  A rock juts out of the water to mark the final tip of the Andes Mountains as they submerge into the sea, ( see photos attached) and east meets west, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans converge.
The weather thus far has been perfect, although a raging storm and huge low pressure system from Antarctica is expected tonight, as we hide among the Chilean fjords, archipielagos, channels and straits of the Cape and Tierra del Fuego.  This should be interesting. Given some improvement in weather, I'm hoping to kayak the Megallan Straits ... the same path taken by Darwin, Drake, Megellan and other explorers of the 16th century.  We'll see.