Friday, February 7, 2014

South America & Falklands - part thirteen

From Puerto Chacabuco on, Patagonian ice sheets meet channels and sea. Satisfyingly remote. That said, bar a documentary in the Arctic and assignment with John Paul II in the Northwest Territories, I haven't spent much time in my own country's more rugged parts. As do most Canadians, I huddle in the south and curse the snow.

A line in the water means the voyage's first glacier. Britons and Americans on board will doubtless debate whether it's a glah-cier or glay-cier.

Minerva is small so manoeuvres close to the Amalia Glacier. As we all gawk, captain and lecturers comment on the ice and rock formations. With global warming, the glaciers of southern Chile are all in retreat.

Lichen-covered rock and glacier.

A passenger videos the scene.

In the Messier Channel, this is the Captain Leonidas, a Greek freighter deliberately grounded. A failed attempt at insurance fraud in 1968.

Another day, another glacier, this one named Asia.

Another day, another wreck, the Grace Line's Santa Leonore. Navigational error, not insurance fraud, meant the American freighter, built in World War Two, ran aground.

Early morning in the Magellan Strait. Ahead is a liquid natural gas carrier.

The channel leads past a whale sanctuary. I see - with binoculars - a white tail, but too far and quick for a shot.

Eventually, you question recording any more peaks, uncooperative whales and condors so high they're dots. But I continue. So do people using iPads for holiday snaps. Looks inconvenient and droppable.

Ted, retired American oncologist and kite enthusiast, celebrates his passage through the Magellan Strait. The thought's not original, but what would have Magellan, who searched for 38 days to find this route, made of it?

As Ted flies his kite, we approach Cape Froward, southernmost point of the South American mainland. It has been four weeks and one day since we passed Punta Gallinas, Colombia, the continent's northern mainland tip.