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Puerto Yartou and sailing to Punta Arenas

It took the whole night to get out of Seno Almirantazgo and head along the Whiteside Channel (that separates mainland Tierra del Fuego from Dawson Island) towards Puerto Yartou, where after breakfast our activities of the ship were about to start. 

A long and exposed sandy beach is home to an old Estancia (Patagonian ranch) that nowadays is being restored and used as a tourist attraction, museum plus research center. But our goal was more for a wildlife and nature morning. 

Once the boats were launched, the first thing was to drive around one of the islets in the wide bay. There a bunch of Magellanic penguins still hanging around. Some of them finishing their moulting period, others ready to go into the seas until next spring, when it will be time again to return to their burrows and nest. Many of them already left the area, but we were lucky enough to see the ones that remained on the island. Standing at the rocky shoreline, at their back all the grassy slopes are burrowed with their nests. 

The gently rolling hills and the forests along the small valleys are all good terrain for interesting wildlife. Wrens, Tyrants, and Cinclodes all jump around the beach and the bushes. Perched atop a characterizing tall tree, a Black-chested Buzzard Eagle scouts the surroundings. Quite tame and not minding much the people around, it allowed for a real close approach. Close by another one of the trees that stands up from the woods seems to be the preferred one for the Crested Caracaras. 

Down below the hills, beavers have been busy building their dams and flooding the terrain to make it their home. 

Looking at the scenery, the low-lying Dawson Island is in the foreground, Brunswick Peninsula just ahead of us, and in the background the high mountains of Western Tierra del Fuego and the Darwin’s Range. 

A pod of about 15 Peale’s dolphins that apparently had been taking it easy along the bay, speed up towards the boats as soon as they hear them coming, accompanying us then all the way back to the ship. 

Southwesterly wind has been picking up in the meantime, so as soon as the anchor is home, many climb aloft to unfurl canvas. 

Along the Whiteside Channel northwards in the Straits of Magellan, we set sail to the city of Punta Arenas. The sailing afternoon was in fact gorgeous. It’s all an experience to use as much of the wind as possible, not hearing the noise of the engine all the way to the anchorage in front of the city port.  

The idea was to arrive there in the evening and just stay for the necessary time for a Chilean Pilot changeover before resuming our way. 

A bit of misdirection by port control and the presence of other boats in the area, made for heaving again and now under engine for a few minutes, re-position to a more suitable place for the port operations and the pilot boat to come alongside late at night. 

A city with a long history of colonization and an old port of great strategic importance for Chile. A country that took possession of the Strait of Magellan on May 23, 1843. President Manuel Bulnes ordered this expedition after consulting the Chilean Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins, who feared an occupation by Great Britain or France. The first Chilean settlement, Fuerte Bulnes, was situated in a forested zone on the north side of the strait and was later abandoned. In 1848, Punta Arenas was founded farther north, where the Magellanic forests meet the Patagonian plains. Until the opening of the Panama Canal, the town was an important supply stop for mariners. 

But not much time was spent there and as soon as the new pilots were on board, the Europa started her way again southwards along Brunswick Peninsula (the southernmost piece of land belonging to the South American continent) to her next stop for tomorrow morning, Eagle Bay and San Isidro Lighthouse. 

Written by:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader



wat een geweldige reis is dit. Dat is wat anders als door de Biesbos.

margriet  |  25-03-2024 11:52 uur

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