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Archipelago Madre de Dios

Worsening weather and gradually stronger Northerly winds hit us during late last night and today. Waking up in grey and rainy conditions at the anchorage where we arrived during nighttime, we are now relishing the characteristics of this Southwestern coast of Chile. Here a succession of islands of considerable extent, peppered with islets and rocks, give chances amongst them for good navigable channels. In no case are those more than 5 miles wide, the average width being just about 1.5 miles, many even narrower. The wind patterns in this maze become quite unpredictable. Nevertheless, the prevailing Northerlies sometimes blow strong. Despite that, the big swells can’t grow in these confined waters. 

But the most idiosyncratic and predictable feature in the weather here is not the strength of the wind, but the almost perpetual rain. Usually, day after day, there is this steady downfall, with just rare breaks of fine weather sometimes. An exception that we haven’t got today. Wind and rain, though annoying for any activity off the ship, keep the forests extremely lush and thick, and the nature of the islands unspoiled. 

Guides and crew already saw that a planned morning landing would be at least, so to say, challenging. Over 20kn of wind blows over the channel where the Europa is anchored, between Hocico de Caiman and Escribano Islands. A scout zodiac is launched to check any chance for a nice morning activity. Pouring rain doesn’t stop falling. Furthermore, all the impressive landscape around, the waterfalls, boggy hills, and steep rocky mountains appear shielded along the coast by the thickest, densest, and closest packed forests. For over an hour they steer in the channels and then along the north coast of Escribano Island in the wind and the rain, without coming across a spot relatively clear of the dense forest. While the blows increase and the precipitation falls stronger, it is decided to return on board, heave anchor, and continue our way north. Maybe by lunchtime, if the conditions are better we can try a landing or a cruise at the surroundings of Puerto Señoret. There, is a 3nm long and narrow bay that may offer some shelter to today’s strong northerlies. 

Like that, we heave anchor and off we go, motoring against the wind and seas to try our luck in the afternoon on that other spot. 

To get there, the ship rejoins the wide and long Canal Concepcion, where the wind increases, with gusts over 35kn and a rain that keeps falling. Slowing down on those headwinds, we reached a point following our track where lower staysails could be hoisted, trying to help a bit the engines, but it wasn’t for long until they had to come down again. 

But by the time we had lunch, seeking a bit of shelter around the islets and rocky capes of Estero Henderson, the ship finds a good place in Bahia Tóm to drop anchor and launch the boats. There will be an afternoon exploration of the area, an already classical combination of cruising and landing if somewhere interesting to set foot is found on the way.  

Soon we realize that we are going to be immersed in the typical temperate rainforest that covers the coast of these latitudes in the channels. It didn’t take long to spot several Hummingbirds when the zodiacs drove along the shoreline. Stopping here and there their frantic wing-beating to sit for a second and get a glimpse of us. Here we are the strangers, aliens in a world very rarely visited, besides ships just transiting along the main channels. Thorn-tailed rayaditos also get curious to see us around. Perched up high, on their favorite moss-covered tall tree, several Imperial shags rest. 

To walk a bit around, finding a weakness in the closely woven cloth that is here in the forest, is all of a challenge. 

The very few beaches, pocketed here and there amongst the rocky shores are all surrounded by the thick vegetation, making it almost impossible to penetrate inland. But during the cruise, a small corner was found to give a try to climb uphill and have a bit of a view from above. After a couple of trials, access across the thick and closed forest is found, allowing for a little hike. 

From there it was time already to come back to the Europa and resume our way northwards.  

But what a treat of an outing it was! Mostly after many of us had made their minds up thinking of the bad weather and the low chances of leaving the ship for a while today. But the afternoon goes by in dry conditions and calm seas once we cruise in the bays of the main wide channels. It is wonderful to see the well-preserved rainforest and its high biodiversity. Even higher on those lower latitudes than the area where we are coming from, the southernmost tip of the Americas.  

Once back to the ship, zodiacs on deck, anchor home, it is time to be on the way again. Canal Concepcion leads to Canal Wide, then the Canals Grapper and Escape join the Paso del Indio that leads to Puerto Eden. The remote settlement which we plan to visit tomorrow.

Written by:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader



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margriet  |  26-03-2024 16:10 uur

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