The southern channels turn into the land of fjords and glaciers; of steep sparse mountain walls capped in snow, and floors of leaden water whipped by unpredictable winds.
Southern Chilean Channels
The Pio X1 glacier, in Seno Eyre, has a face nearly 4 km wide.
Distances can be deceptive in an enviroment lacking the visual cues we are accustomed to.
The dinghy from which these photos were taken is kept at a safe distance from the danger of calving…
The channels are home to a variety of interesting and hardy wildlife. The patient photographer may be rewarded.
Icebergs come in different colors and textures. Black ice can cause concern when mistaken for rock.
The Campo de Hielo Sur (Southern Patagonia Icefield) is one of the largest ice caps in the world, and dominates the unseen heights walled in by the channels’ mountain guardians. Colossal glaciers bleed its ice.
These regions have impressed foreign sailors before. Conrad Martens was the illustrator onboard the HMS Beagle as she carried Charles Darwin up the Chilean channels, destination the Galápagos Islands. He recorded their expedition in water color much as we do with photography: this painting depicts Mount Sarmiento towering over the Canal.
Away from such heady heights, creatures go about their more earthly business…
…including the local inhabitants of supposedly higher order. This Chilean submarine surfaced in order to navigate the channel safely with Kiwi Roa passing through in the same direction.
Tensions with neighboring Argentina are maintained, and the Chileans are keen to display a strong naval presence up and down the channels and especially in the Straits of Magellan, where they are seen routinely every day. Their crews however are very friendly.
Quetro no volador, flightless steamer ducks, have developed a curious method of surface propulsion.
The resulting speed is impressive. These birds are seen in pairs in nearly every caleta on the way south.