Monday, 5 December 2016

Returning across the Drake Passage

I'd kept up to date fairly well until our encounter with the Drake, then contemporary posts stopped. In the meantime, here's the short version. (Do I hear you say "For this relief, much thanks"?)

Events of Thursday, 1st December

I woke at 2.30 in the morning, aware that something had changed, although it took my addled brain a few moments to work it out: The erratic lurches of the ship had been replaced by a regular rocking, still quite strong but far less unsettling. By morning, the situation was quite tolerable and the dining room filled up for breakfast. Matters continued like this throughout Thursday.

Events of Friday, 2nd December

We docked peacefully at Ushuaia but had to leave the ship shortly after 8.39 a.m. because the crew had to prepare for another shipful of guests arriving later that day. I took the Silversea option of a tour bus all of 200 yards to the town where we had about 90 minutes to explore. I managed to visit two interesting, small museums on the foreshore then it was back on the bus for transfer to the small, modern airport. Having checked in, I waited outside the terminal with some of my new friends. The flight to Buenos Aires was very full and very tedious but, on arrival, I was greeted by a charming young girl and promptly transferred to my hotel, the Plaza. I'd hoped to travel on the city's Metro, also called 'Subte', as it had been some years since I tried it. I discovered it's all been modernised and ticketing is now by a 'credit card' which you 'charge' at any station. After some problems, I travelled on, I think, four of the city's lines. My interest is not purely technical. If you dress inconspicuously, you can 'people watch' and learn about the way of life by observation. By the time I returned to my hotel, I was very tired but pleased.

Events of Saturday, 3rd December

I was collected earlier than I would have wished for my internal flight to the Argentine airport serving Iguassu. The flight was less than two hours and my baggage arrived fairly quickly so I was quite optimistic until I discovered there was no guide. I made enquiries (sometimes another guide can locate the missing person) but, having drawn a blank, I decided after half an hour to make my own way to the hotel. My ignorance of the geography around Iguassu was such that I didn't realise my hotel was on 'Brazilian Side' and we would have to cross the border. Having pre-paid a taxi firm, we set off, went through Argentine Immigration, crossed the River Bridge which forms the actual border and were just conducting formalities at Brazilian Immigration when my missing guide arrived. Luggage was transferred to the new car and we continued to my hotel.

We passed the Helisul helicopter pad and, as the weather was rather overcast, my guide suggested I take my 10-minute flight over the Falls first and I enjoyed that.

The hotel is within Iguassu National Park so we had to stop and pay the park admission fee. We were still not finished. The hotel have their own entrance gate beyond which only certain vehicles can proceed. Oddly, the big buses providing public transport can go but my car couldn't so we had to transfer my luggage again to the hotel Shuttle Bus and I arranged a meeting time (at the gate) of 8.00 a.m. Sunday. At the hotel, I was expected and I was informed that I'd been upgraded to a splendid suite, with small balconies accessed by double=doors, one of which had excellent views of part of the falls. I went outside to watch the sunset but otherwise remained in my room with the balcony doors open, lulled to sleep by the continuous roar of rushing water.

Events of Sunday, 4th December

I quickly discovered why my guide has suggested an early start. We sailed through the border crossing back into Argentina which can involve long queues. We paid to go into the Argentine National Park and started a walking tour around the top of the Falls.

To be continued ...

Related posts in this blog

To see all posts on the Antarctic, Argentinian and Brazilian sectors this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Antarctic Peninsula but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

I've also made some additions to the 2006 collection on Brazil so show Iguazzu here.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Into the South Atlantic

Events of Wednesday, 30th November

We’d spent the previous night at anchor in calm seas just off Deception Island with the intention of letting the unfavourable weather system pass before we entered the unprotected waters of the South Atlantic and the uncertainties of the Drake Passage to reach our destination at Ushuaia.

We raised the anchor at around 6.30 a.m. and initially sailed north with Deception Island on our port side (left), turning west to pass to the north of Deception Island with the main South Shetland Island chain to starboard. The wave action was noticeably increased after our turn but conditions were still quite comfortable and I took breakfast as normal, although the restaurant seemed quieter than normal.

I attended the first lecture of the day by Hans Peter talking about Water but, once we were clear of Snow Island, the ship turned northwards to head for Ushuaia, passing through the Boyd Strait between Smith Island (to port) and Snow Island (to starboard). The wave action became significantly greater, with occasional waves much larger than the average. With some difficulty, I made my way through the ship to the restaurant for lunch. There were definitely far fewer people taking a meal and the buffet selection on offer was less than normal. The expedition team estimated the waves at 4 to 5 metres. The meal was punctuated by the occasional crashing noises as tableware was deposited on the floor in different parts of the restaurant in response to a lurch from the ship. Although I took only a carefully-selected light lunch, a little later I started to feel rather queasy and decided to rest in my cabin, in the hope of attending another lecture later in the afternoon.

The amplitude of the larger waves must have increased further because loose items started to move around in the cabin. All my papers with notes on the trip were swept from the desk and fanned across the floor. Dozing off, I was rudely awakened as an unused wine cooler and cake stand (provided as standard cabin equipment) became dislodged and loudly rattled across the floor. On a few occasions, daylight was suddenly excluded from the cabin for a couple of seconds as a larger-than-normal wave completely obscured the rectangular window. Once, the sea water was thrown against the window with such a loud ‘bang’ that I half-expected the very-thick, toughened glass panel to shatter.

I didn’t attend the lectures in the theatre, although I did switch the television to channel 9 which gave the sound-track of the lecturer plus the associated slides being displayed in the theatre. The rest of the time, I would normally leave the television on channel 1 which gave a moving-map display of position, speed, heading and wind.

The Drake Passage had been kind to us on our way south but seemed to be living up to its fearsome reputation as we returned north. However, I think my first passage south through the Drake Passage back in 2008 was probably worse.

I decided to remain in my cabin for the evening and take only a very light snack, eventually taking one of the little blue Meclizine tablets supplied by reception for motion sickness. Within 30 minutes or so I felt incredibly drowsy and the erratic lurches of my world seemed less important. I lay on top of the bed and succumbed to sleep.

Related posts in this blog

To see all posts on the Antarctic sector this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Antarctic Peninsula but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Visiting Deception Island

Events of Tuesday, 29th November

Overnight we had headed away from the Antarctic Peninsula to intercept a unique island, Deception Island, which lies south of the main South Shetland Group. Early explorers considered the island ‘normal’. It was only later that a narrow passage (‘Neptune’s Bellows’, around 230m wide) was identified establishing that the island was, in fact, horse-shoe shaped, offering a protected anchorage around 9 km by 6 km within the horse-shoe. The misleading appearance of the island gave rise to the name ‘Deception Island’.

The whole island is an ‘active’ volcano, where an earlier eruption had caused the side of the cone to collapse, allowing the sea to flood the caldera, producing the present arrangement. The island provided a useful refuge to the early sealers and whalers then, in 1906, a base was constructed in Whalers’ Bay, which supported 13 whaling factory ships by 1914. The role of the onshore plant was to boil whale carcasses to extract whale oil but, following the price collapse during the Great Depression, the base was abandoned in 1931, to be later used by the British for a time as a research station.

Whalers’ Bay

We were encouraged to be on deck for around 8.00 a.m. to observe the passage through Neptune’s Bellows. Starting at 9.00 a.m., a wet landing by Zodiac was offered, allowing walking around the extensive, flat area of black 'sand' leading back from the sea. The buildings and equipment in Whalers’ Bay are in derelict condition and a decision has been made not to attempt restoration. I spent my time walking from the landing point to the abandoned aircraft hanger and back, making a photographic survey of the buildings, equipment and wildlife.

I didn’t take the guided walk to a viewpoint called Neptune’s Window as I’d done that on my earlier visit to Deception Island in 2008.

Near the Zodiac landing, steam could be seen rising and, in places, the water and black 'sand' was pleasantly warm, attesting to the ‘active’ nature of the volcanic site (the last eruption was in 1970). However, I declined to take the ‘Polar Plunge’ by swimming in the (hopefully) warm water as I’d done that in 2008, although a number of my fellow guests did accept the challenge.
< br> After a very enjoyable shore visit, it was back to the ship by Zodiac, in time for lunch in the restaurant. Whilst we enjoyed lunch, the ship re-positioned to Telefon Bay, also within the caldera of Deception Island where we had a final opportunity to go ashore.

Telefon Bay

It was quite cold when we made our landing on a windswept beach of black ‘sand’. A 1 km walk was offered to inspect the crater formed during the 1970 eruption. Most of the route was covered in soft snow which made walking very tiring. I was on the point of turning back when Steffan from the Expedition Team pointed out how close the crater rim was so, after a breather, I persevered and was rewarded with an impressive, if bleak, sight. Quite a few guests continued on a further 2 km hike which they concluded with a slide down a snow-covered hillside on their way back to the landing point. I decide to retrace my outwards route back to the Zodiac, in the company of quite a few guests’

The wet landing at Telefon Bay was the last trip ashore before we left the South Shetland Islands to cross the Drake Passage to our final destination, Ushuaia in Argentina. However, the weather forecast for the area was not promising, so the Captain decided to move the ship outside the caldera of Deception Island and anchor overnight, hopefully allowing the unfavourable weather system to pass before we attempted our passage.

In the evening I attended the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party in the theatre followed by the Captain's Farewell Dinner in the restaurant.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Antarctic Peninsula but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Visiting the Antarctic Peninsula (3)

Events of Monday, 28th November

Brown Bluff

Brown Bluff is located on the Antarctic Peninsula, facing the Antarctic Sound. A rust-coloured, steep-sided, flat-topped mountain towers above a shingle beach which is home to Gentoo and Adelie penguin rookeries. The Zodiac ride led us through numerous large pieces of ice to a wet landing on the beach. The wind was quite sharp and it was snowing, so I was well wrapped-up.

Although some of the penguins were nesting around the large rocks at the foot of the cliff, most were congregated near the shore so we were asked to take a patch higher up the beach. We passed colonies of both Gentoo (readily recognised by their white ‘ear muffs’) and Adelie (no head marking but with piercing eyes). Both species on the beach were either standing, perambulating or, in a few cases, lying on their front. The Adelie has a very urgent way of walking (“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date”) and they seem very sheep-like, walking one after another, single-file. One of my new friends suggested their behavioue was “lemming-like”. Puzzling is the way there can be a sudden change of plan, where the direction of travel is suddenly reversed. At times, a column of Adelies would end at the water’s edge and, one after another would dive in, apparently in pursuit of fish. But, on at least one occasion, we saw a version of the ‘change of plan’ behaviour where, almost as soon as the penguins had entered the water, they were hastening out again.

We had been offered a guided walk by Hans Peter to the moraine area of the adjacent glacier. I started on this walk which started by climbing a rather steep diagonal patch up a hill from the beach over loose ‘scree’. There were good views from the top of this climb but, looking ahead as the path crossed the moraine and continued up the ice at the edge of the glacier, I decided that it would be more prudent to return to the beach, particularly as the snow flakes were getting larger. So, having discussed it with the Expedition Team, I very cautiously made my way back over the loose rock to the Zodiac Landing point. Back on the beach and finding partial shelter behind large rocks, I was happy to remain on the beach taking in the scene for some time before joining other returning passengers on the ‘Zodiac Shuttle’ service back to the ship. Once again, the morning’s activities had given me a good appetite for lunch. Whilst we enjoyed our meal, the ship moved along the coast to Hope Bay, which is the location for Argentina’s Esperanza Station.

Esperanza Station

Esperanza Station is a civilian settlement and research station built in 1953. In winter, there are 55 inhabitants, including a number of children.

At the kind invitation of the Station Commander, we made a wet Zodiac landing on a pebble slipway adjacent to a small jetty. We were welcomed by the Assistant Station Commander and divided into two groups for a conducted tour around some of the station’s 43 buildings. Although some areas are roped off and reserved for the penguins on the island, because they are used to humans, they wander unconcernedly across the Station.

Some large artefacts from the early days of the Station, such as a ‘Snowcat’ and sledge have been preserved outside. Smaller objects were indoors in a nicely laid out museum building, including an incubator for human infants as used in the early period when there were at least eightg births at the Station. Outside the museum, a series of cast brass plates listed the residents of the Station year by year.

We were invited into the school building (not in use when we visited although I saw some young children by the jetty. The well-equipped building was kept heated so is also used for other functions. I was intrigued that the main room of the school was decorated with balloons but the schoolmaster explained that it had recently been used for his wedding to the lady teacher carried out by the Station Commander. The school provides pre-school, kindergarden, primary and (using distance learning) secondary education. The distance learning, of course, requires internet and a number of satellite dishes could be seen around the station providing voice, data and television services.

After we’d visited a small, nicely decorated Roman Catholic church, we were invited into the main meeting room provided with table tennis and pool tables, a seating area and bar. Trestle tables had been set along one wall with light refreshments for the visitors. Tables near the opposite wall were selling souvenirs relating to the Station. Everybody was most friendly and I was quite sad when we made our way back to the Zodiac landing point after a fascinating visit. The day ended with the ‘Recap and Briefing’ followed by a specially-themed buffet meal.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Antarctic Peninsula but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Visiting the Antarctic Peninsula (2)

Events of Sunday, 27th November

Cierva Cove

Overnight, we had moved back north at slow speed towards Cierva Cove., located on the west coast of Graham Land. The cove was named in 1960 in honour of Juan de la Cierva, inventor of the ‘Autogyro’, regarded as the first successful rotary-wing aircraft. When I got up, visibility was poor because it was snowing and the temperature was around minus one or two Celsius

90 minute Zodiac tours were offered, with groups 3 and 4 leaving the ship at 8.00 a.m. and groups 1 and 2 leaving the ship at 10 a.m. Since I was in group 1, I had plenty of time to work on the computer before getting ready to leave the ship.

I was in a smaller Zodiac with just six passengers and Steffan driving. It was still snowing but not hard and the sheltered location in the long cove minimised the wind so I found it quite pleasant, although the contrast with the previous day’s weather was very pronounced.

Tall snow-covered mountains loomed on both sides of us, with bare rock outcrops in places. There was brash ice and icebergs of various sizes in all directions. We were quite close to an Argentinian Research Station on the mountain side called Base Primavera which carries out botanical research during the summer but did not appear to be staffed this season as yet. What was noticeable was the apparent good state of maintenance of the cluster of wooden buildings forming the base and the number of tall radio transmitting masts which appeared to be required. There were various groups of penguins near Base Primavera, some standing statue-like, others lying on their front.

As we moved further along the cove, the sheer variety of icebergs was noticeable, both in size and in the fantastical shapes they acquire as they thaw, roll in the sea with the change of centre of gravity and then re-freeze. Unless there’s a man-made object, like a Zodiac, nearby it’s very hard to determine how big any lump if ice is, but the tendency is to underestimate scale – the human mind is reluctant to accept how large a chunk of frozen water can be. Perhaps most striking aspect of icebergs is the blue colouration that parts of the ice, particularly crevices, can display - not a faint, bluish tinge but often a bright, electric blue as if emanating from some internal source of illumination.

We came upon a flat piece of sea ice, roughly fifty feet across with a single Weddell seal stretched out on top. He opened his eyes to survey the strange creatures approaching but showed no interest in disturbing his relaxation as we sailed around his temporary ‘home’ twice.

Further into the cove, we found a group of five Gentoo penguins relaxing quietly on a humped section of sea ice about fifty feet across. It the background, we could see the glacier front of the Sikorsky Glacier. This glacier appeared to have a very ragged, overhanging front so we were not surprised, a few minutes later, when a rumble like thunder announced a calving. Presently, we could clearly see the small wave propagating across the surface of the sea produced by the ice collapsing from the glacier face. When this wave passed the mass of sea ice with the penguins, it set the ice slowly oscillating. This motionappeared to disturb one of the penguins who made his way towards the edge of the sea ice and the others followed, as if playing “follow my leader”. The leading penguin dived into the water followed, in turn, by each of the other penguins, as if performing a synchronised swimming display.

Mikkelsen Harbour

Whilst the guests enjoyed lunch, the ship sailed towards Mikkelsen Harbour - a rocky islet in a bay on the southern side of Trinity Island in the Palmer Archipelago. Once again, the variability of Antarctic weather asserted itself. The entrance to the bay is via a narrow channel and, on our approach to this channel, the Captain determined that the local wind was too strong for the ship to enter in safety. Since the wind was expected to abate, it was decided that our ship would wait an hour or so in the hope of entering the channel and still making a landing.

After around one hour’s wait, the wind did lessen and we passed through the channel, intending to anchor in front of the islet where we could see the Argentine emergency refuge hut. However, sea ice in the area started to move, preventing anchoring. Since there was deemed to be insufficient clear water around the ship to ‘hold station’ without anchoring, the Captain decided that, on safety grounds, the planned landing would be abandoned. So the ship was turned and exited through the narrow channel, then continuing north again.

Instead, Luke gave an interesting lecture titled ‘Fishing in Antarctica’ at 5.00 p.m., there was a ‘Recap and Briefing’ at 6.45 p.m. and the accustomed splendid dinner in the restaurant at 7.30 p.m.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Antarctic Peninsula but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Visiting the Antarctic Peninsula (1)

Events of Saturday, 26th November

Cuverville Island

Overnight, we had cruised towards Cuverville Island, which is situated just voffshore the Antarctic Peninsula itself. I was up early and on the Observation Deck as we approached our anchorage. The temperature was around zero Celsius but the wind chill made it appear cooler. I was happy to return inside for breakfast and then ‘suit-up’ for a ‘wet landing’ on the beach by Zodiac at 7.45 a.m.

The sheltered location of our anchorage and the appearance of bright sun meant that conditions were much improved by the time I reached the shore. I had decided that the “difficult hike” on offer would be too demanding. The bay we were in was picturesque, littered with oddly-sculpted icebergs of various sizes, patrolled by birds of various Antarctic species and criss-crossed by Gentoo penguins continuously making their (to human eyes) clumsy progress between the various colonies on the snow-clad hills and the sea where they are instantly transformed into the most elegant and athletic swimmers. Since the weather was so inviting and untypical of the Antarctic Spring, I decided to move only a few hundred yards from the landing site, sit in the snow and contemplate this world. It’s hard to convey what a special experience this was. I remained there, perfectly warm in my multiple-layers of clothing for around two hours, occasionally taking photographs but mainly trying to ‘absorb the moment’. I was so comfortable that, from time to time, I lay back in the snow, listening to the calls of the penguins, looking up at the blue sky tinged with wisps of clouds (which would have counted as a memorable Summer’s day back home in England). The gentlest hint of breeze carried the odour of the ‘guano’ from the large number of penguins but, where I was located, it was distinctive but not unpleasant. In the past I’d discovered that, near large colonies of penguins, the smell can be almost overwhelming.

From my spot, I could see fellow-guests clambering aboard Zodiacs to be returned to our ship, which I could also see across the bay. I watched the hikers return from their more strenuous excursion but, noting the ‘Last Zodiac returns to Ship’ time we’d been advised, I was still reluctant to break the spell Antarctica had cast. Eventually I rose from the snow, which was at least two feet thick but nowhere near as solid as it appeared (injudicious movement could result in collapse of the snow into a deep depression, as I’d seen happen to a fellow passenger earlier). I made my way back to the landing area, in plenty of time to avoid rebuke, but ferried back to the ship in the last or last-but-one passenger Zodiac. We took the ‘scenic route’ back to the ship, cruising amongst the strange shapes of the scattered icebergs. Since we had the Ship’s ‘Videographer’ Ray aboard, we took a little longer to complete the trip – at one point he was using a ‘Go-Pro’ waterproof video camera attached to a trekking pole to take underwater shots illustrating the submerged bulk of icebergs. I boarded the ship, elated at the experience of the morning, quite ready for a mug of boullion to sustain me until lunchtime.

Once everyone was back on board, the ship moved south, heading for Port Lockroy. Antarctica is, of course, in the Southern hemisphere with the seasons reversed compared with my home in England. This trip to Antarctica was ‘Silversea’s’ first of the spring, when the winter’s sea ice starts to thaw and access to some areas is still uncertain. From Cuverville Island, there were two possible routes to Port Lockroy – a shorter, northern route and a longer, southern route. The Captain attempted the northern route but decided that there was too much sea ice remaining (the ship is ice-hardened but is not an icebreaker). So we diverted to the southern route. But this, too, still had quite a lot of sea ice. However, we did get some good sightings of a group of Orca whales before the Captain decided that the visit to Port Lockroy be abandoned. The Captain and Expedition Team then had to review the various possibilities to re-plan the next part of the trip.

Jean-Baptiste Charcot

Whilst the ship was re-positioning, a lecture on the French expolorer Charcot was given by Peter in the theatre. This lecture was originally advertised for earlier in the trip but had been cancelled on that occasion because of our ‘extra trip’ to Cape Horn.

Enterprise Island

The ship cruised to Enterprise Island where we were offered a late-afternoon Zodiac Cruise in a picturesque bay with snow-covered mountains, icebergs, birds, penguins and the possibility of whale sightings. In the middle of the bay lay the wreck of the whaling ship ‘Governoren’, which was accidentally set on fire at a party to celebrate a successful season. The amount of whale oil on board ensured the complete destruction of the ship.

Because of the altered timing of the events, the planned recap and briefing was cancelled.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Antarctic Peninsula but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The South Shetland Islands

Events of Friday, 25th November

Aitcho Island

Having entered the Drake Passage with benign weather conditions on Wednesday evening, we had spent the whole of Thursday continuing the crossing and the weather remained good. Around 6.30 a.m. on Friday, we started to see the South Shetland Island chain. We anchored in the English Strait in the Aitcho Island group at about 7.30 a.m. 'Aitcho’, we were told, stands for ‘H.O.’ or ‘Hydrographic Office’. A ‘wet landing’ was announced for 8.00 a.m. There was some confusion in calling groups to Reception on Deck 3 but, eventually, my group was boarded on one of the larger Zodiacs to be taken ashore with Peter Damisch driving. The sea was quite lively and there was a cold wind. Although Peter took a roundabout route to shore to minimise the spray, we received a fair soaking. Hans Peter took us on a conducted tour of the Gentoo and Chinstrap penguin breeding colonies. It was overcast and started to snow – “A typical day in Antarctica” commented Hans Peter. We saw Skuas patrolling between the penguin nests, looking for a chance to steal an egg. A little later, two inquisitive Skuas walked right up to our group, reminding us that they are quite large birds. We passed a time-lapse camera set up on a short pole in the one colony, part of an ongoing research project tracking changes in penguin numbers. Hans Peter then indicated an area we could explore freely (with the usual restrictions applicable to Antarctica) and we spent the rest of the time on shore as we wished, before returning by Zodiac to the ship for an early lunch whilst the ship re-positioned to Halfmoon Island which is also part of the South Shetland Islands.

Halfmoon Island

It had been hoped that we would reach Halfmoon Island by 1.00 p.m. but adverse wind meant it was around 1.30 p.m. when we dropped anchor and the start of disembarkation to shore was similarly delayed. A weak sun was shining and a fairly sheltered location meant that it was much more pleasant. Various walking routes had been identified with red flags. Most of the areas were covered with snow but, fortunately, it was not actually snowing. Deviating from the trodden path by even a few inches risked a wellington-booted foot sinking into the snow up to the top of the boot but I’d taken a trekking pole on this landing and that helped a lot. In places, our marked path crossed ‘penguin highways’ extending from the shore to the top of the adjacent hill and, at these locations, penguins had right of way. The colonies were Chinstrap apart from a single Macaroni Penguin who, we were told, is an annual visitor. Near one of the beaches, a Weddell Seal (with the attractive, innocent face all Weddell’s seem to have) was relaxing on the shingle. When the Expedition Team suggested that we should make our way back to the landing site, I carefully complied and was ferried back to the ship by Zodiac. I was in time to enjoy tea with scones.

At 6.45 p.m. we had our usual recap and briefing. Plans for the following day were somewhat flexible because of uncertainties about the weather. Then, I enjoyed another splendid dinner in the company of an English couple and our knowledgeable Guide and Historian Peter Damisch.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Antarctic Peninsula but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Friday, 25 November 2016

The Drake Passage

This trip to the Antarctic Peninsula is a continuation of my trip to the Chilean Fjords.

Events of Thursday, 24th November

Having entered the Drake Passage with benign weather conditions on the previous evening, we spent the whole of Thursday continuing the crossing and the weather remained good. The sea state was also moderate, although, as we traversed the Antarctic Convergence (where the warm water from the north meets the cold water from the south) the sea water temperature dropped from 10 degrees Celsius to zero degrees Celsius.

Sheri gave a most interesting lecture of the Antarctic Treaty and its provisions which makes Antarctica a unique example of co-operation between many countries in the administration of a continent.

One of the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty relates to the preservation of the environment and, to comply with this, there was a Biosecurity Inspection, item by item, of all guests’ outer clothing before going ashore in Antarctica.

After lunch, the ship’s bridge was open to visitors for a time so, of course, I re-acquainted myself with the modern systems which control the ship.

Once the ship’s internet service had been resumed, I managed to sort out problems on my laptop which I think were partly caused by earlier intermittent internet service. By the time I’d checked e-mail and updated the blog, it was time for afternoon tea, which a particularly jolly affair as one of the waiters from the restaurant, Allan, gave a “Barista class with Cappuccino and coffee art demonstrations”.

At 5.00 p.m. Peter Damisch gave one of his invariably stimulating and meticulously-researched lectures titled “Shackleton, By Endurance We Conquer”.

The Recap and Briefing at 6.45 p.m. reviewed recent sightings and outlined the plans for the following day at the South Shetland Islands.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Chilean Fjords but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Cape Horn

On Monday 21st November, I got in a muddle with the dating of events, which I’ll correct as soon as possible but now we’re in the Drake Passage, we also seem to have had some trouble with internet access.

Events of Wednesday, 23rd November

The previous evening, Kara, the Expedition Team Leader, had announced that we were to take an alternate channel through the islands of Terra del Fuego which should save time, allowing a closer look at Cape Horn, which the Chilean Navy had approved.

Our first few days travelling south from Valparaiso had enjoyed good weather and this had continued overnight. On Wednesday morning Kara announced that, with a following wind, we had made good time overnight. As we continued our transit to Cape Horn, I was able to spend some time outside on the open deck without the need to wrap up.

IAATO Briefing

At ten o’clock there was a mandatory IAATO Briefing in the theatre. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) was set up by the industry to regulate tourism in Antarctica so as to comply with the objectives of the multi-governmental Antarctic Treaty System which has developed from the original Antarctic Treaty of 1959 designating Antarctica as “a zone of peace and science”. The briefing outlined guests’ roles in:-
Protecting Antarctic wildlife
Respecting protected areas
Respecting scientific research
Remaining safe
Keeping Antarctica pristine
IAATO has a website here.

Learning about Whales

A feature of the Silversea Cruises is the regular lectures by members of the Expedition Team. At 11:15, Luke’s lecture on whales and identifying species was warmly received and was followed by many questions from the audience

. Approaching Cape Horn

The afternoon lecture by Peter on the little-known Polar explorer Charcot was postponed as we approached the impressive bulk of Cape Horn. The decision to divert to Cape Horn had introduced a complication: We’d had two Chilean Pilots on board since leaving Valparaiso and I think the original plan called for us to release the pilots at a small port to the north of Cape Horn. The small manned station actually at Cape Horn, we discovered, is serviced by the Chilean Navy and the revised plan called for us to ‘drop’ the Pilots at this station, from where the Navy would transfer them to an airport for an internal flight back north.

So we ‘Rounded the Horn’ and could then see the lighthouse on the next headland where the manned station is located. As we came closer, the ‘Albatross Memorial’ could be seen near to the station. Of course, all of this was very unfamiliar to most passengers (and, indeed, most of the Expedition Team). The plan was to put the Pilots ashore by Zodiac and assess whether it would be safe for the guests to make a landing. As we anchored a few hundred yards from the steep cliffs, we could see a tiny, boulder-strewn beach with a daunting-looking set of wooden steps zig-zagging up the cliff face.

Our survey Zodiac reported favourably so those wishing to go ashore dressed warmly for a ‘wet landing’. Since the landing groups rotate, on this occasion I was in one of the last Zodiac groups. Our Zodiac driver went bow to the shore, with two members of the Expedition Team holding on to the Zodiac whilst passengers clambered over the side of the boat into a foot or so of water. The first couple of yards over large, round stones was tricky, but help was at hand from the Expedition Team members. Then it was onto well-constructed wooden stairs with a handrail – a stiff climb but with wonderful views from the top. I was surprised to find a working funicular railway provided to carry stores from the landing site to the top of the cliff. There was a modern brick building, with a huge Chilean flag facing the sea which housed the electric motor and winch for the funicular railway. Nearby was a fuel tank and a helicopter landing pad. A long boardwalk with some steps led to the lighthouse building with a modern extension serving as office, visitor centre and accommodation for the family in residence. Just outside was a small, rustic wooden church. Another boardwalk with steps led to the ‘Albatross Memorial’ commemorating all sailors who lost their lives near Cape Hoorn.

A Navy launch arrived and anchored near our ship to collect our Pilots and one man from the station. The Captain of the launch and three of his men took the opportunity presented by their unusual assignment to come ashore and take pictures. The Naval Captain chatted to us in excellent English. We had plenty of time to enjoy this very special visit before returning to the ship.

With everyone back on board, we set off on our long crossing of the Drake Passage which would take the rest of Wednesday, all of Thursday, making landfall at the South Shetland Islands sometime Friday morning.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Chilean Fjords but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Visiting Punta Arenas

Events of Tuesday, 22nd November

I slept well with the ship moored against the jetty at Punta Arenas. My cabin on the port side was away from the quay, looking across the bay, so I was not disturbed by any lighting on the jetty. The programme offered a trip titled ‘Living Heritage in Punta Arenas’ by tour bus, lasting around 5 hours. By no means all of the guests took this trip – I think the duration discouraged some.

On leaving the ship at 8.00 a.m. we first had to walk to the landward end of the jetty past the activity on the dock where one cargo ship was unloading some sort of packaged marine-related product onto a curtain-sided lorry. At the gate I’d used the previous evening, we were then directed through the Punta Arenas Passenger Terminal (the inevitable steel-framed warehouse with souvenir shop) where we passed through a metal detector arch and all backpacks and similar hand-baggage was X-rayed. Two modern tour buses were waiting outside, each with an English-speaking local guide and members of the ship’s Expedition Team.

Modern Government

The Region Magellianes has its own local government and, because of the remoteness from Santiago, Chile’s capital, the people are fiercely independent. There is a regional flag and a popular movement for further independence.

The bus drove to a viewpoint on La Cruz Hill where we had a few minutes to admire the town laid out below us. Then we set off north through the town, just starting to come alive in the leisurely way I’ve come to expect on this continent. It was a surprise to see just how far the town has spread out around the bay – we must have travelled two or three miles on a dual carriageway before we came to the end of the development, passing attractive detached housing, schools, hospitals and university buildings. I believe that there are three state universities in Punta Arenas, plus private facilities. One university campus had an open air industrial museum attached. We turned back towards the town centre when we reached the military base near the Asmar site which appeared to be a ship repair yard.On the way back, I had a good view of the public cemetery donated by the successful Braun family. The bus stopped outside the Maggiorino Borgatello Museum (the limit of my exploration the previous evening) and we spent a too-short 45 minutes touring the museum’s four sections.

Notes on the history of the museum

The indigenous peoples of the area around the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego were the Kaweskar, Tehuelches, Selk’nam and Yamanas. In the 19th century, the Jesuits promoted an initiative to these areas, the Salesian Mission, to convert the indigenous population to Christianity. In 1893, one of the priests, Maggiorino Borgatello and Coadjutor Angel Benove started the museum to form a record of the fast-disappearing indigenous cultures.

The first section of the museum deals with the archaeology, paleontology and fauna of Patagonia.

The second section covers the now-extinct indigenous peoples and the Salesian Mission.

The third section presents a history of colonisation, immigration, evangelisation, the whaling industry and the exploration of the Antarctic and housing artefacts used by the indigenous cultures.

The last section deals with modern industrialisation of the region, covering the extract ion of gas and oil and the development of aviation.

The museum has a website here.

Plaza de Armas

After our brief museum visit I boarded our bus with some reluctance and we drove to the Plaza de Armas (which I’d also reached on foot the previous evening) where we had 30 minutes to explore. It was much busier than the previous evening but still with the same relaxed feeling. It was a warm, sunny day which, we were told, is very unusual for Punta Arenas where the normal weather is dull and overcast.

Our bus then continued south to the edge of town where we were to visit a sheep farm. On the way we passed two old ‘nodding donkey’ oil well pumps and a locomotive boiler displayed, near where the hulks of a number of old ships had been beached. The largest ship had four masts and what looked like an iron hull.

El Galpon Estanza

The area we saw was a ‘demonstration farm’ but the owner who conducted the tour also has 30, 000 sheep! We were invited into a large, modern wooden barn with tables and seating for perhaps 100 which could clearly be used when required as a function room for full meals. Old farming and domestic artefacts were displayed everywhere. The was a display of a number of cast iron doors from old wood burning stoves and one large complete wood burning stove made by ‘Smith … Columbian Stove Works … London Liverpool Glasgow & London’ now just used as a serving table. After a brief introduction, the owner showed a short video on the history of the area and the introduction of sheep farming. The owner then led us up the hillside through a nature walk set up by him to re-introduce various local flora and past a small field with a group of sheep and llamas to another wooden barn set up to demonstrate sheep shearing.

One end of the shed was provided with tiered wooden benches, theatre-style, to accommodate at least 100 people. This faced a shearing area with five shearing sets. One set had an electric ‘Lister Shearing 3-speed Shearing Set’ made after Lister became part of Hawker Siddeley which offered speeds of 2000, 2850 and 3200 r.p.m. (by manually shifting a drive belt connecting the motor pulley to the driven pulley). However, there was also an common overhead drive shaft to the shearing sets and a large single cylinder ‘Lister’ stationary water-cooled diesel engine which an elderly assistant laboriously hand-cranked into life, where upon the farm owner (who, it was becoming clear, was quite an enthusiast for preserving the old ways and equipment) slipped a drive belt around the Lister’s flywheel to power up the shearing sets connected to the overhead drive shaft. A retired shearer was then introduced to us and a sheep was brought in, which three minutes later has had its fleece removed in virtually one piece. We were then invited into the other half of the shed which served as a garage for the farm owner’s collection of cars and an early ‘Evinrude’ outboard motor for boats which we were invited to examine.

The owner then led us to another similar wooden barn, this one laid out as a museum of the history of the area. What was particularly interesting was a section devoted to the owner’s family with photographs and artefacts. Finally, we returned to the first barn where we sat and were given drinks and a snack. Then it was back onto our two tour buses for the short drive back to the Passenger Terminal at the Port (which I believe is operated by EP Austral) and the walk along the jetty to ‘Silver Explorer’.

Leaving Punta Arenas

At our scheduled departure time,2.00 p.m., two tugs were standing by next to the ship – ‘Beagle’ which had attended our arrival the previous day and ‘Calafate’ (replacing ‘Pelicano II’ from the previous day), but bunkering was still in progress from a large, articulated tanker parked next to the ship. The tanker did not have pumping facilities so it was supported by a pick-up truck towing a rather home-made trailer. This trailer mounted a large automotive engine and gearbox coupled to a pump to transfer fuel via hoses from the tanker to the ship. Once pumping operations had finished, the ship prepared to leave. The tanker driver made rather a business out of reversing the articulated vehicle along the jetty, not made easier by the pick-up towing the pump trailer making rather a mess of turning round and then sneaking out ahead of the fuel tanker. As expected, no assistance was required from the tugs as the Captain manoeuvred the ship away from the quay. One puzzle was that a very noisy small tug ‘Atlas’ came bow-first against the opposite side of the jetty with power applied as we left, almost as if our departure was expected to displace the whole jetty sideways,

Later in the afternoon, I attended Sheri Bluestein’s lecture titled ‘Cool Science in Cold Places’ outlining some of the research work being carried out at the various Antarctic Research Bases.

There was a special, short briefing at 6.15 p.m. where Kara announced a change of plan. Instead of followed the intended route to the Drake Passage via the Strait of Magellan, we were to follow an alternate channel through the islands of Terra del Fuego which was actually shorter and the time saved might allow us to have a closer look at Cape Horn, with the Chilean Navy’s blessing. All would depend upon wind and weather.

At 7.00 p.m. there was a Venetian Society cocktail party in the theatre. The Venetian Society is the charity set up by Silversea’s owners. Repeat travellers with Silversea are enrolled upon agreeing to a modest daily donation whilst on board.

For me, the last event of a busy and enjoyable day was dinner in the restaurant. Some guests liked to go on to the Panorama Lounge for a ‘nightcap’ but I usually spent some time sorting out photographs or writing text for my blog whilst the memory of the events was fresh.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Chilean Fjords but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Cruising to Punta Arenas

Events of Monday, 21st November

At some time during the early hours of Tuesday, we left sheltered waters for a time and the wave action became more pronounced. It didn’t greatly disturb me but other guests reported minor accidents with loose items sliding around. We were cruising south-east in the Strait of Magellan, a channel with steep, grassed sides and some exposed rock. Traces of snow remained on the peaks and mist hung on the mountain tops. The weather was overcast but surprisingly warm in locations sheltered from the wind. After a leisurely breakfast, I attended an informative lecture ‘Antarctic Biodiversity: An Overview’ by Hans Peter.

Before long, lunch was upon us followed by a choice of lectures in the theatre during the afternoon. I missed the lecture on Vulcanology by Steffan since it conflicted with our transit past Cape Froward where the Strait of Magellan turns northwards to reach Punta Arenas. Strictly speaking, Cape Froward is the southernmost point on the South American continent since Tierra del Fuego on the opposite side of the Strait of Magellan is an island and the better-known Cape Horn is on a further island, south of Tierra de Fuego.

Favourable winds meant that we were able to dock in Punta Arenas earlier than anticipated at around 20:30 on Tuesday evening. At the Recap and Briefing, the Expedition Leader announced that it should be possible for passengers to go ashore to explore late evening on Tuesday, in addition to the planned excursion on the following day. I decided to skip dinner at 19:30, in order to be able to watch the docking at the jetty and then be ready to go ashore.

Punta Arenas revealed itself as a large town which had originally developed along the shore but now extended into the low hills on the landward side. A single, straight jetty extended into the sea and, as we approached the quay, two modern, powerful tugs appeared and ‘shadowed’ us in. As I watched the ‘Pelicano II’, the tug just astern of us on the port side, three dolphins breached the water in synchronism in between our ship and the tug before disappearing again, repeating this performance two or three times, each time nearer the bow of the tug. After a short pause, the dolphins repeated their leaping further forward on the port side before moving to the bow of our ship and delighting a new audience.

Apparently, the dolphins were not alone in wanting to display their prowess in the water. The second tug accompanying us was ‘Beagle’, matching our speed and keeping station on the port side near our bow. Then, for no obvious reason, the manoeuvrable tug turned through 180 degrees and matched our speed travelling astern! Once having proved the point, ‘Beagle’ turned again and once again matched our speed going ahead. I indicated my appreciation of this manoeuvre by a very small nod of my head, which was rewarded by a broad smile from the deckhand on the ‘Beagle’, after which we exchanged friendly waves.

Using the control panel on the starboard bridge wing, our Captain gently eased ‘Silver Explorer against the quay watched by the various shore parties waiting to receive the mooring lines from the ship. One of our two Chilean Pilots who had travelled with us from Valparaiso was also on the bridge wing, using a handportable radio. Within a few minutes, our ship was secured and the gangway was set up between Deck 5 and the quayside.

Once the ship had been cleared by Chilean Customs, passengers were allowed ashore. The credit-card sized room key was also used to tally guest movements on and off the ship using a laptop computer, both via the gangway or Zodiac. We were allowed to walk the length of the jetty and were then waved through the entrance gates by port security staff.

The town square (Plaza de Armas) was only a few hundred yards away and I’d determined to explore at least that far. A small group of passengers disembarked at the same time and fanned out in various directions. Punta Arenas developed to support Atlantic – Pacific shipping via the Strait of Magellan but the opening of the Panama Canal, of course, damaged that trade. There was a short-lived Gold Rush but sheep farming provided more enduring traffic. The population is now around 150,000 and the town is clean and pleasant, a mixture of modern and more classical French and Spanish styles of architecture. Having reached the town square, I decided to explore a little further and I reached the Maggiorino Borgatello Museum before deciding to return to the ship by a slightly different route. On the way back, I started to pass many more guests who had decided to take dinner on the ship before venturing out.

Back in my cabin, I had a club sandwich, chocolate mousse and English breakfast tea from room service, after which I retired to bed.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Chilean Fjords but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

[Date of events corrected: 24-Nov-2016]

Monday, 21 November 2016

On to the Strait of Magellan

Events of Sunday, 20th November (Afternoon)

After lunch, I worked on the computer for a while before going to the Panorama Lounge for afternoon tea. Another Trivia Quiz was in progress but since the subjects were ‘Prehistoric Animals’ and ‘Food around the World’, I didn’t feel that I could contribute anything. However, the quiz rather ended in disarray following an announcement over the Public Address that Orca whales had been spotted to starboard and encouraging all passengers to come out on deck. There was a mass exodus towards the observation decks, fore and aft. Many of the passengers, including me, were only in indoor clothes but it was a warm afternoon with no wind in the sheltered waters so it was very enjoyable.

On an expedition ship like ‘Silver Explorer’, it’s not unusual for plans to change at short notice so I was not surprised when the ship abandoned its original course and turned to place us nearer the location of the sighting. An extraordinary period of half an hour or so followed as the guests gasped in amazement each time the massive creatures appeared at the surface.

There was a pod of at least four whales, identified by the Expedition Team as South Atlantic Orcas, probably sub-type A. We were told that it’s unusual to find them this far north. To avoid disturbing the whales, the ship did not attempt too close an approach but our sighting as rated as ‘very good’ by our field experts. Certainly the whales made no attempt to move away, although they would certainly have been aware of the ship. Eventually, the whales were seen to be slowly moving northwards so the sighting was terminated and the ship resumed its southern route. I'm afraid I didn't have my camera with me to record the scene but, in any case, neither my camera nor its owner are very suitable for nature photography.

The Orca sighting had overlapped the planned start of the five o’clock lecture, which was duly deferred to 5.15 p.m., when we were entertained by an informative and amusing lecture by Peter Damisch, the historian on the expedition team, entitled ‘Search for the Unknown Antarctic Continent’. A little later, the usual ‘Recap and Briefing’ took place in the theatre, where the programme for the next day was laid out (we were to have another ‘day at sea’ as we continued to Punta Arenas). There was then discussion and questions regarding the whale sighting and the birds observed to which a number of members of the Expedition Team contributed.

Another splendid evening meal followed which I enjoyed with a couple originally from England but now retired to Australia. During the meal, we passed a small cargo ship with three self-unloading cranes going north but I failed to identify it. This was the first ship I’d noticed since we came through English Narrows.

This was not quite the end of the evening. The friendly and attentive restaurant staff urged my companions and I to go the Panorama Lounge at ten o’clock where three members of the restaurant staff forming ‘The Crew Band’ were to sing for the guests to the music of the resident pianist. It was a jolly end to the evening before retiring to bed.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

I’ve uploaded a few pictures to the album Chilean Fjords but, because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, most of my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date.

[Events date and Orca type corrected: 24-Feb-2016]

Pio XI Glacier

Events of Sunday, 20th November (Morning)

I awoke to a glorious sunny morning at our anchorage a mile or so short of the glacier front of the Pio XI glacier, originally called the Bruggen Glacier. This glacier is the largest outflow to the west from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

Glacier theory

Glaciers are produced in land areas where annual snowfall exceeds the rate of annual melting. Over a long period, as the thickness of snow increases, gravity crushes the lower layers of snow, expelling entrained air bubbles and creating dense, clear ice under pressure. Gravity also causes the dense ice mass to slowly slide towards lower ground at a speed determined by the topography and the frictional resistance to the ice movement presented by the underlying rock. This rock becomes fractured and ground by the ice and carried along with the glacial movement, often as a dark-coloured ‘moraine’. Where a glacier meets a fjord, pressure from the glacier further ‘upstream’ on the unsupported ice causes fracturing and the creation of an exposed glacier front. As pressure is relieved within the ice, the glacier front continues to fracture and ice breaks away in a process called ‘calving’.

The location

Pio XI is the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica at about 64 km long. Whilst most glaciers are currently ‘in retreat’, between 1945 and 1976, this glacier advanced by around 5 km. The glacier face is 4.5 km wide but gives the impression of being smaller because, viewed from the fjord, there is little to give a sense of scale. In the case of Pio XI, the glacier is set between green, wooded hills and the proximity of mature trees offers some hint as to the true size of the glacier but it is difficult to avoid underestimating the scale of such an unfamiliar object.

The Zodiac Cruise

Conditions were ideal for a Zodiac Cruise. Since it was planned that we would be on the water for 1.5 hours, we were warned to wear sufficient clothing to remain warm whilst sedentary. I made sure that I had a substantial breakfast and was ready in good time for when my group was called by public address to deck 3 for boarding the Zodiacs.

The first Zodiac away from the ship was driven by botanist Hans Peter in one of the larger Zodiacs. I was in the second Zodiac, driven by Luke and, with just 8 passengers, we had plenty of room. We sailed towards the glacier face which rose like a cliff from a ‘beach’ of ground-up rock of moraine materials.The glacier face was heavily fissured as pressures within the glacier had been relieved by cracking. Quite frequently, a loud rumbling like thunder could be heard as the glacial ice ‘re-arranged’ itself and, on a few occasions during our Zodiac cruise, this was accompanied by a visible fall of ice producing a white spray as the internal pressure produced an explosive release of material. The internal pressure had also resulted in crevasses in the top surface of the glacier leaving a very uneven appearance.

As we came a little closer, the sea was littered with ice ranging from a few inches to a few feet across which had fallen from the glacier front. Sometimes the shape of the ice suggested a shard which had broken away from the glacier face, but often partial thawing and re-freezing had produced a strangely-shaped object, like some example of modern art. Only around 10% of each lump of ice is visible above the surface so care is needed when passing through ice debris called ‘brash ice’ and ‘bergy bits’.

Luke identified two types of ice. The first type has a white appearance, like frozen snow. The colour is produced by small air bubbles trapped in the ice. The second type is translucent without bubbles where pressures within the glacier have expelled the trapped air, leaving frozen water. This type of ice, in a large piece, takes on a bluish tinge because of the differential light absorption of water and water/air.

Luke also demonstrated the effect of holding a small, flat piece of ice containing air bubbles between both palms. As the body heat warms the ice, release of trapped air produces a series of audible ‘pops’, each accompanied by a slight vibration which can be felt. The air may have been imprisoned for thousands of years and laboratory tests now exist for releasing the air from samples of ice and analysing it to determine changes in the earth’s atmosphere.

Hans Peter, the botanist, presented our Zodiac with a piece of Kelp he’d found floating. Kelp grows rapidly as a series of broad leaves a couple of metres long, interconnected by flexible stems with air bladders. Each leaf is green, slightly corrugated and covered with a thin layer of mucous material. Normally, one end of the plant would be anchored to rock but wind and tide can break the stem, as had happened to the sample we examined.

We spent some time cruising across the face of the glacier but keeping a respectful distance and examining the floating ice. At one location, the ice contained moraine material and was dark coloured. As the sun melted the ice, the crushed rock was released as sediment.

Crew Safety Drill

We had been advised that the ship’s crew were carrying out a safety drill whilst we were on the Zodiac Cruise but we didn’t know the details so, looking back at the ship, it was a surprise to see that one of the lifeboats had been launched. At the same time, a strange noise alerted us to the fact that we were being filmed by Ray from his drone hovering above us! I was delighted when we headed towards the lifeboat as I had not seen one in the water, only stowed on the davits.

Silver Explorer has two motorised lifeboats, each capable of holding 150 people. We drew alongside the lifeboat and I was amazed to see various members of the restaurant staff on board who presented us with a glass of champagne, cake and a variety of sweetmeats. The captain had agreed to let an essential training exercise serve a second, delightful purpose.

Our Zodiac then returned us to the ship after a wonderful cruise. Noticing that the lifeboat was about to be recovered, I hurried to the observation deck in time to see the electric winch lift the lifeboat out of the water and swing the davit arms and lifeboat into the ‘stowed’ position. Once all the passengers were back on board and the Zodiacs recovered, we set off south again, this time on a ‘leg’ of 447 miles to Punta Arenas which would take more than one day. Meanwhile, I had a little time to work on the computer before lunch and a programme of lectures was offered during the afternoon.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

Because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date, I’m afraid.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Cruising Chilean Fjords

Events of Saturday, 19th November

Saturday was to be a day on the ship as we continued south. The previous evening, the ship had emerged from behind the protection of the chain of islands to cross an area of open sea called ‘The Gulf of Pain’ because of the poor sea conditions which can exist. Fortunately, the area failed to live up to its name and, by the time I took breakfast on Saturday, the ship was already entering more sheltered water and cruising towards the Iceberg Fjord.

There were two illustrated lectures in the theatre during the morning and I attended both. At 09:45 Luke Kenny gave a fascinating talk on salmon, which has become the mainstay of the Chilean aquaculture industry. At 11:15 Claire Allum described the indigenous people of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego and the impact of European immigrants. Her interesting talk included short clips of motion picture film and still photographs from the 1920s illustrating a way of life which has disappeared.

Whilst I was enjoying lunch in the restaurant, we entered Iceberg Fjord so once I’d finished my meal, I wrapped up warmly to watch proceedings from one of the open decks.

Iceberg Fjord

Correctly, the term ‘Fjord’ is applied to a location where “current or past glaciation extended below sea level before retreating, to leave a characteristic U-shaped narrow, steep-sided inlet filled with sea water”. Although we could see snow on the distant mountains, the sides of the Iceberg Fjord were a mixture of rock, grass and trees. However, there is a glacier called Tempanos at the landward end of the fjord, supposedly because of the noises created by the glacial ice cracking. The ship travelled to within a mile or so of the glacier front at the end of the fjord. The observation decks were crowded with guests taking pictures of the glacier but I elected to observe from the foredeck on level 4, where the anchor winches are located, because this area of deck is only available to passengers occasionally and it is usually less windy than the higher decks. Suddenly, to the delight of guests, the public address announced that an unscheduled Zodiac cruise would take place, allowing closer views of the glacier front.

Zodiac Cruise

Before long, I was boarding one of the Zodiacs. I discovered that not all the guests had decided to take the unexpected cruise. With dry weather, a temperature of about ten degrees Celsius and intermittent appearance of an unexpectedly warm sun, the cruise closer to the glacier front was very enjoyable. We saw one fall of ice from the ice front as the tremendous pressures in the ice were relieved by cracking. At another time, we heard one loud explosion, like a single crack of thunder, as glacial ice cracked. After a 45-minute cruise, we returned to ‘Silversea Explorer’, in time for me to take afternoon tea in the Panorama Lounge whilst the ship turned and cruised back along Iceberg Fjord.


Following afternoon tea, I wrapped-up again and went to the forward outside observation deck in time to watch the ship leave Iceberg Fjord and turn towards English Narrows. At around 6.15 p.m. we passed the grounded shipwreck of the ‘Captain Leonides’ lost when carrying cargo of sugar. Investigation established that the loss was, in fact, an insurance fraud and the captain at the time had his “Master’s Ticket” cancelled.

English Narrows

‘English Narrows’ is the name of an ‘S’-shaped narrow channel with strong currents between a cluster of islands. Ships cannot pass in the channel, so a one way system is in operation and the channel is only used in daylight. Two Chilean Pilots with extensive experience in the waters we were traversing were aboard to assist the Captain in locations like English Narrows. Our transit was due to start at 7.00 p.m. but this was slightly delayed, waiting for a small Chilean cargo ship heading north to clear the channel (northbound traffic has right-of-way). As it passed, I was able to identify it as ‘Seivag’ before we threaded our way through the twisting channel. Apart from the expected channel markers, there were three statues of the Madonna protecting travellers but I only saw one of them.

Having successfully negotiated English Narrows, it was time for our evening meal. There was always a ‘set’ menu, usually offering a ‘Flavours of Chile’ collection of dishes but I usually found myself selecting from the wide ‘A la carte’ range. The ship continued south during the night so as to reach an anchorage off the Pio XI Glacier early on Sunday morning.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

Because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, my pictures will have to be uploaded at a later date, I’m afraid.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Aiken del Sur Nature Park

Events of Friday, 18th November (continued)

In the earlier post here, I described our journey from the ship to the Aiken del Sur Nature Park. The information issued in the ship’s daily programme of events ‘Chronicles’ waxed quite lyrical about the attractions of the nature park we were to visit:-
The natural beauty of the Aiken del Sur includes Reisco Lake, waterfalls, indigenous perennial forests, caducifoliae, humid variety ferns, moss and litchen; prairies of myrtle and turf mingled with wild fuschia and calafate shrubbery; as well as macal and mallines or swamps. Breath-taking views of the lake, hills and nearby mountains as well as the chance to spot some of the local birds such as the “chucao” and “hueta” are also amongst the attractions.
According to a local information board, the 250-hectare Aiken del Sur Nature Park and the Hotel Loberias in Puerto Chacabuco are privately owned by Detroit Chile S.A. who state that they are committed to “respect the ecological guidelines and legistlation concerning the Park’s existence, as well as to take any steps required to reforest damaged areas for the joy of future generations.”

The size of the groups meant that we set off in a long crocodile which was less than ideal when our guide was trying to make explanations but it was, nonetheless, a very pleasant walk. The rain held off, the area was (unlike the ship) protected from the wind and later in the morning a warming sun appeared.

Almost immediately, our trail led us over a broad stream, the Estero El Salto, via a substantial steel bridge. We then continued on a circuitous gravel path threaded through the larger trees heading generally north-west, staying fairly near to the east bank of the stream.

One of the most prolific plants was the Giant Rhubarb, with leaves up to one metre across. The stem is edible but better in the younger plant, otherwise the oxalic acid content increases. In places there were large bushes of Chilco (Fuchsia magellanica), with bright red flowers dangling and some striking examples of the Firebush tree, with myriad bright red flowers. The largest tree in the forest was the Tepa, with a trunk two or three feet diameter in mature specimens. The most distinctive tree was the Arrayan (Luma apiculata). This develops multiple trunks with a smooth brown bark often rubbed away to show a grey, almost white trunk.

Eventually we crossed back to the west bank of the Estero El Salto by another steel bridge just below an impressive waterfall, 22 m high, provided with two viewing platforms near the base of the falls before finishing the trail at a large, modern, wood-built assembly hall called a ‘Quincho’ where there were drinks and a snack to the accompaniment of “local folkloric music”. A number of whole sides of lamb, hung vertically, were being slowly cooked above a wood-fuelled firepit in the centre of the building. Large windows gave panoramic views of the mountains and Lake Reisco.

I decided to follow the zig-zag path to the lakeside which involved a number of wooden steps but the peace and tranquillity made the effort worthwhile. I returned to the ‘Quincho’ in time to watch Ray, the “Videogrpher”, demonstrating his photographic drone but he had to cut the flight short because of low battery on the drone. Then it was time to board the waiting tour bus for our return to the passenger terminal at Puerto Chacabuco.

As we boarded the Zodiac for the return to our ships, I noticed a large new Chilean Navy Rigid Inflatable Boat mounted on an 8-wheel trailer. Moored at the dock was an odd-looking vessel ‘Biomasa IX’ whose function I couldn’t readily discern. Another puzzle was what looked like some sort of a bulk materials handling conveyor which seemed to discharge into a large flexible hose which disappeared underwater near a pontoon with a small machinery house and what may have been the other end of the large flexible hose. I suspect all these curiosities may be related to handling wood chips for energy generation (once ‘flavour of the month’ for sustainable generation but now going out of fashion).

Back on board

The morning’s activity had left me with a healthy appetite for buffet lunch in the restaurant. There were two lectures during the afternoon but, instead, I tried to record my impressions of the morning whilst the memory was fresh. But I found time for civilised afternoon tea in the Panorama Lounge where there was also a rather odd trivia quiz on ‘Beards’. At 18:45, there was the usual Expedition Team Recap and Briefing in the theatre. Then I joined Graham and Julie from Australia and two American guests for an enjoyable dinner.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

Because I’m currently using relatively slow satellite internet, my pictures will be uploaded at a later date.

Puerto Chacabuco

Events of Friday, 18th November

The land of South America, of course, tapers as you go south. Chile occupies a relatively narrow ‘sliver’ of territory extending inland from the West Coast into the Andes mountains which run through South America like a backbone. Argentina occupies the land from the Andes mountains to the east coast.

After our visit to Chiloe Island on the 17th November, my ship, ‘Silversea Explorer’, continued south. There is a complex string of islands off the west coast, which allowed us to cruise down the channels between the islands and the mainland, enjoying much smoother water. The coast of the mainland is perforated by the estuaries of various rivers which descend from the mountains, called fjords, in a similar manner to the coast of Norway.

We sailed south throughout the night and anchored at the head of the Aysen Fjord a little before 8.00 a.m., as I was finishing breakfast in the restaurant. We were overlooking a port area called Puerto Chacabuco. Until 1960, the port for this area was 15 kilometres north-east at the important town of Puerto Aysen. The Chilean earthquake that year destroyed much of the port facilities and town. The town was rebuilt but permanent changes in levels resulting from the earthquake made it impractical to reconstruct the port on the original site. A new port was constructed at Puerto Chacabuco, connected to Puerto Aysen by a decent road.

From the windswept observation deck, I surveyed the bay we'd anchored in. Off to our left, the elegant lines of the rusting remains of a substantial beached steamship – the ‘Vina’- were visible. Otherwise, the vessels, port facilities and associated buildings were modern. To our left large passenger ferry in a striking livery of orange, white and blue operated by Havier Austral lay at anchor. Also to our left was a large, modern steel-framed building I took to be engineering workshops marked ‘Oxxean’ (probably the port operators and presumably pronounced ‘OCEAN’). On the hard standing next to this building or moored at the adjacent quay were a number of smaller vessels. In the background, there was an extensive tank farm. In front of us was a large, modern passenger and vehicle ferry in the red and white livery of Navimag. I’d spotted the Navimag ship in the distance the previous afternoon when, like us, it was heading south. At the dock to our right lay a cargo vessel with two large self-loading/unloading cranes. Further round the bay was a group of smaller launches, vehicle ferries and unidentified craft. In addition, close to our anchorage was a medium-size container ship, also at anchor. Off on the far right I could also see a fish farm, probably producing Atlantic Salmon. All-in-all, quite an impressive port.

At about 8.30 a.m., Zodiacs started to take guests from the ship ashore. We disembarked at a modern, floating steel landing stage (covered with anti-slip matting) which led to a new and attractive wooden terminal building marked ‘OXXEAN’. Backpacks were subject to X-ray and inspection by the Agricultural and Livestock Service within the terminal building but I only had my camera with me, which was waved through. Three tour buses were lined up outside the terminal to take us to the Aiken del Sur Nature Park.

We drove away from the port in convoy past an industrial area, a school, a Fire Station and an area of housing. The coaches took the road towards Puerto Aysen but, after 4 km, we turned right onto an unmetalled road which we carefully bumped along for 5.5 km to reach the entrance to the Aiken del Sur Nature Park. The coaches parked at the Visitor Centre at the starting point of our nature trail. We were offered the choice of a “moderate” or “more challenging” trail. Almost everyone opted for the latter, at around 2 km in length and 2 hours duration. We were divided into two groups of around 30 for the longer trail and a third group for the short trail, each with a guide from the Nature Park and members of the ship’s expedition crew.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

My connection to the internet on the voyage is by satellite which is relatively slow so, at present, my pictures are being stored on the hard disk of my laptop (with a backup on a plug-in hard drive). I’ll upload them to ‘Flickr’ when I can and provide illustrations on the blog, but it may be a while.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Achao and Castro

Events of Thursday, 17th November

By sailing south, leaving the coast of Chile on our left, we reached Chiloe (pronounced ‘CHILL-O-WAY’) Island around 7.30 the morning. Having reached a suitable anchorage just off the small port of Achao, the ship dropped anchor whilst the guests enjoyed breakfast. Achao is located on a smaller island called Isla Quinchao which lies to the east of the much larger island Chiloe.

Chile takes the protection of the land, forests and animals from the accidental introduction of foreign species or disease very seriously. The Agricultural and Livestock Service examines any baggage landed from ships or aircraft. At Niebla the previous day, Chilean officials had come aboard to examine passenger’s rucksacks before we left the ship but at Achao the Agricultural and Livestock Service had set up a tent on the jetty so the Zodiacs were able to start ferrying passengers ashore for the ‘Chiloe Highlights Tour’.

At Achao (population around 2,500), the simple jetty inclined down from the road across the beach and into the sea supports a total of nine ferry services which use small passenger ferries to link the town to outlying islands. According to the importance of the destination, the service frequency varies from daily to four days in a week. As I disembarked from the Zodiac, a motor launch on one of the ferry routes arrived at the jetty and disembarked around 16 local passengers.

The Silversea guests were met by a local guide with excellent English who suggested walking a few hundred yards through the town to Achao Church. Built in 1730, this is the oldest surviving wooden building in Chile and a World Heritage Site. Local boat builders adapted their construction techniques to produce a durable church completely out of wood for the Jesuit missionaries. Local houses were built using similar methods and were clad in wooden shingles where each family developed its own distinctive shape for the shingle.

There is a second wooden church in the town which we were unable to visit as it was temporarily closed for termite eradication.

We then boarded one of three tour buses to see more of the island. We drove north west through a relatively-prosperous landscape which offered tantalising views of the sea and, again, was reminiscent of Cornwall. Eventually we descended a steep hill and came to an abrupt stop with the channel dividing us from Chiloe Island in front of us. A car ferry which crosses the channel was loading but there was insufficient space for us. Within a few minutes, another ferry arrived but this one was smaller and provided with a loading ramp at one end only. The smaller ferry unloaded and refilled with waiting cars and pick-up trucks which all had to reverse up the ramp onto the ferry. After another short wait, a larger ferry with two loading ramps appeared allowing our coach (with all passengers remaining on board) to drive forward onto the ferry and, after a crossing of about ten minutes, to continue forward, leaving by the second ramp. We were immediately in the small town of Dalcahue on Chiloe. Our tour bus dropped us at a large market building crammed with locally-made craft products.

Dalcahue also has a wooden church which is a World Heritage Site but this building had required some restoration recently. The nave had a simple barrel-vault ceiling supported by a series of wooden posts which had been clad and painted to represent the arcading and marble columns of a stone building.

Our bus then drove us to the main city of Castro, using Route 5 which forms part of the Pan-American Highway. Arriving in Castro, our coach paused at a viewpoint overlooking the series of buildings built out into the water on tall posts called the Palafitos of Gamboa.

After a short drive, we left the coach and walked to a local restaurant also built on posts over the water (although the state of the tide meant that there was no water during our visit). Here we enjoyed “a snack and typical local music”. Outside, considerable interest was created by Ray, the “Ship’s Videographer” who was using a radio-controlled drone to collect aerial pictures.

In the shallows, a number of locals were collecting seaweed – the ‘green’ variety is used as a fertiliser and the ‘white’ is used as a source for Agar Jelly, widely used for culture-growing in laboratories.

During the morning, we’d travelled many miles by coach from Achao to Castro. Rather than requiring us to drive back to Achao to re-join the ship, in an innovation carried out for the first time on our trip the ship had sailed from Achao to Castro and, as we watched the seaweed collectors, ‘Silver Explorer’ appeared round the headland and slowly moved to an anchorage only a few hundred yards from Castro’s jetty. The ship lowered a number of Zodiacs into the water in order to collect the guests from the shore.

Tour buses were on hand to take guests from the local restaurant to the jetty, with the option of instead walking to the jetty. Since the sun was shining brightly and the distance was only a few hundred yards, I and a number of the guests decided to walk. After passing a row of houses, we came to a large covered dry goods market incorporating a fresh fish market. Having spent a few minutes touring the market, I examined three incomplete ‘portable engines’ on display outside in an incomplete state.

A portable engine is similar to a traction engine except that it is not self-propelled. It has to be towed into position, when its steam engine can be connected by belt drive to a piece of unpowered machinery like a threshing machine or a sawbench. Two of the portable engines were made by Ransomes in England but the manufacturer of the third was unclear.

A further short walk took me to the small Castro Terminal Building. Once through the building, I was on the jetty, with a few other guests from the ship. We took the last Zodiac back to the ship and were back on board a few minutes after one o’clock.

I found I was ready for lunch in the restaurant after the exertions of the morning. There were two lectures during the afternoon but I worked on the computer instead. Just after four o’clock, I took afternoon tea in the Panorama Lounge with two new friends from Australia before continuing on the computer until the Expedition Team Recap and Briefing, which reviewed the day’s outing and outlined the plans for the following day. Then it was time for a leisurely dinner with another new friend before retiring.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

My pictures

My connection to the internet on the voyage is by satellite which is relatively slow so, at present, my pictures are being stored on the hard disk of my laptop (with a backup on a plug-in hard drive). I’ll upload them to ‘Flickr’ when I can and provide illustrations on the blog, but it may be a while.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Niebla and Valdivia

Events of Wednesday, 16th November

Around 7.30 a.m. we dropped anchor in a broad estuary with the town of Corral to our right and Niebla hidden round a bend to our left. Wooded hills reached down to the water on both sides, reminding me of some of the Cornish estuaries. A large bulk carrier ship was moored to buoys on the shore to the right, suggesting mining activity I couldn’t identify, but the left shore appeared undeveloped.

The ninety-odd passengers on the ship had been allocated to one of four groups for going ashore by Zodiac inflatable boat. I was in Group 1 which would be the first group to go ashore to Niebla but on the next landing Group 2 would land first and the order of Groups would rotate throughout the trip.

Landing was planned to start at 8.00 a.m. but there was a slight delay waiting for the coaches to arrive at the landing site. Our anchorage was at the confluence of a number of rivers so the Zodiacs navigated by channel markers for the Valdivia River, the river on our left, and carried on for a few hundred yards to reach the public jetties at Niebla, provided with a concrete ramp for the vehicle ferries and two floating landing stages for small passenger ferries. We overtook one of the vehicle ferries ‘Cullamo’ which was heading for Niebla, I think from Corral. We landed at one of the passenger landing stages, stepping directly onto the landing stage (a ‘dry landing’). By the time I’d walked up the gangway from the landing stage, a passenger ferry had arrived at the adjacent landing stage and ‘Cullamo’ was preparing to unload vehicles. Niebla town may be small, but Niebla Terminal is a busy place.

Three modern tourist buses were waiting in the car park for the arrival of the ‘Silver Explorer’ passengers for the ‘Highlights of Valdivia Tour’. We had a local guide plus members of the ship’s Expedition Crew. The journey to Valdivia, we were told, would take about half an hour. The road continually curved this way and that, following the left bank of the Valdivia River upstream. The setting was very beautiful, again reminiscent of Cornwall. At first, the houses were spread apart. They appeared to be mainly wooden framed, clad with chipboard and then with a clapboard or other outer layer. But as we came nearer to Valdivia, there were four-storey apartment blocks and gated communities of detached houses generally in an ‘Alpine’ style.

A little background

The Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valvidia founded the city in 1552, making it an important location in Spain’s South American colony. But the takeover was not accepted by the indigenous Mapuche Indian population and in 1598 it was abandoned by the Spanish, to be occupied in 1643 by the Dutch as a base for attacks on the Spanish Empire. The Dutch, too, left Valvidia following conflicts with the Mapuche. Later, the Spanish re-occupied Valvidia, this time protecting the area by the construction of a number of fortifications, holding the area until 1820 when, during the fight for Chilean Independence, the Englishman Lord Thomas Cochrane (admiral of the Chilean navy at the time) overwhelmed the Spanish by a stealth attack.

More recently, in 1960 this area of Chile was the epicentre of the strongest earthquake recorded to date and much of Valvidia was destroyed. The movement of the sub-sea floor created a tsunami which spread across the Pacific. As a result, most of Valvidia now comprises fairly new building.

In 2007, Valvidia was made the administrative capital of the newly-created Los Rios Region. The population is now around 155,000 and it is home to three major universities (plus smaller private foundations).

My Visit

Our tour bus first parked in the grounds of the Historical and Anthropological Museum, situated on the Cultural Campus of the University. During the 19th century, Germany developed industry and influence in the area and the present museum building dates from that period. Although it suffered some damage during the 1960 earthquake, the building represents a time capsule of that period, crammed with artefacts of gracious living in the downstairs rooms whilst Mapuche artefacts and jewellery can be seen in the upstairs displays. Steps at the front of the house lead down to the west bank of the Valdivia River, with the modern city on the east bank.

We rejoined the tour bus to explore a little of the city, crossing the river using the Puente Pedro de Valdivia bridge (a 1940s concrete and steel affair) which survived the earthquake. The Plaza de la Republica is regarded as the centre of the city, with trees, flower beds, broad walkways and a magnificent bandstand. Nearby, a man operating a shoe-shine business was patiently waiting for trade. We walked past the post-earthquake cathedral to reach the river bank, made into a wide promenade and serving as the loading point for the numerous trip boats which offer river cruises to tourists.

Towards one end of the promenade, a modern, tall tower provided by the Centre for Scientific Studies at the University featured a Foucault’s Pendulum, topped with a navigation light. Nearby signage gave brief information on the pendulum and the Fresnel Lens used in most navigation lights, together with a map showing the location of ‘Chilean Glaciers in Antarctica’. A little further along the river, a rather abandoned-looking submarine was moored, but I didn’t discover more.

Along the promenade near the bridge we’d crossed, I visited the fish and vegetable market. Here, fish are gutted on concrete preparation benches next to the river, encouraging birds to perch on the railings awaiting discarded pieces of fish. Numerous bird species were represented, including pelicans. Even more improbable was the group of South American sealions, either relaxing in the sun on a nearby floating pontoon or actually on the concrete floor of the fish market, squeezed between the railings and unused gutting benches.

On the recommendation of our Chilean guide, a group of us crossed the road to look inside the modern municipal market, which seemed to house two or three cafes and numerous stalls selling tourist souvenirs. Meeting up with our guide, we walked along the river bank, under the road bridge and past a modern floating restaurant under restoration. Next to the restaurant, an attractive steam launch was moored. A little further along the river bank, what appeared to be an abandoned wooden landing stage was occupied by around eight sealions, basking in the sun, watched attentively from the bank by two dogs. We then crossed the road to reach a sea food restaurant where we enjoyed a buffet lunch.

After our meal, our tour bus picked us up and returned us to Niebla Terminal. As I walked to the landing stage, vehicle ferry ‘Pitipulla’ was loading the last vehicle, which reversed up the loading ramp and reached the main deck with a loud ‘clang’. Within minutes, the ferry departed, as yet another vehicle approached the concrete ramp with another full load of vehicles including a huge lorry with the load space sheeted-over.

Once aboard the Zodiac, I enjoyed a high speed ride of about one mile back to ‘Silver Explorer’. As soon as everyone was back on board and the Zodiacs had been lifted aboard, we got under way for our next destination , Chiloe Island.

Related posts in this blog

To see all the posts on this trip, click here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Day at Sea

Events of Tuesday, 15th November

Our first port-of-call was to be at Niebla, almost 500 miles south of Valparaiso so Tuesday was a day at sea. Three lectures were on offer during the day in the well-equipped theatre.

Weather conditions were good with some sea swell. I was unaffected by the movement of the ship but a surprising number of guests felt unwell.

I spent some time wrestling with an unco-operative laptop compter. My Hewlett-Packard had performed well in Santiago but it had apparently performed an automatic Windows 10 Update during the session and when I tried to connect to the ship’s satellite internet system, I discovered that those nice people at Microsoft had made all sorts of changes to the operation of my computer including swopping my default browser from Chrome to Microsoft Edge. I finally managed to collect my e-mail but then Google complained that I was using an ‘unsupported browser’. Because of the other Microsoft ‘improvements’ I couldn’t find how to change my default browser back to what I wanted and had to enlist the support of the ship’s resident I.T. expert who, after a bit of experimenting managed to get things back (almost) as I wanted.

I did a blog update but didn’t manage to attend any of the lectures. Then, at 5.00 p.m., there was a Mandatory Zodiac Briefing and Destination Briefing in the theatre. It was back to the theatre at 7.00 p.m. to meet the Captain at her ‘Welcome Cocktail Party’. This was followed by dinner in the restaurant and interesting conversations with other guests at my table which went on quite late. We were almost the last table to finish!

The following morning, we were due to anchor off Niebla where we would go ashore.

My connection to the internet on the voyage is by satellite which is relatively slow so, at present, my pictures are being stored on the hard disk of my laptop (with a backup on a plug-in hard drive). I’ll upload them to ‘Flickr’ when I can and provide illustrations on the blog, but it may be a while