Monday, November 3, 2008

My first Chilean bird sightings.

Santa Ana Bay, Chile

The view from my porthole window this morning was a beautiful snow covered peak overlooking the small bay that the Chonos had anchored in last night.

Immediately I got dressed and headed on deck to find the weather calm and warm for the region. Kelp gulls were cackling off in the distance and a pair of Magellanic penguins was bobbing along in the waves about 100 ft off the port side of the boat.

Magellanic penguins are common in the ocean waters of southern Patagonia although their lower overall numbers classify them as "near threatened" by the IUCN red list. They looked so small in the vast expanse of deep blue water and unfortunately did not stay long enough for me to get a closer look. As the boat pulled anchor and we headed out for the day, a group of black browed albatrosses glided on the wind off in the distance, their long wings alternately tipping left and right, sending them soaring up into the clouds. Mixed in with the albatrosses were a few juvenile giant petrels and Chilean skuas.

Later that day we made rounded the southern most tip of the continent of South America. The wind had picked up substantially and the large swells were tossing the boat up and down like a see-saw. Jagged snow covered mountains lined both sides of the channel, the end of the South American continent to our right side and the beginning of the islands of Tierra del Fuego to the left. Louis, our chef, called us down below for dinner and afterwards I went to my little cabin and was surprised how even the most stomach turning tossing of the boat lulls you to sleep.

After a short nap, I came back on deck to a much different scene. The storm had closed us in a dense fog as we were passing through a narrow part of the channel. The small islands and rocks world. If early explorers encountered similar conditions I could understand the fear of falling off of the end of a flat earth.

Along with the fog came rain and an increase in the winds. Gusts of 30-50 knots forced us inside the wheelhouse. A pod of Peale's dolphins appeared in the breaking waves at the bow of the boat and followed us out of the channel and into the protected cove that will be our home for the rest of the night.


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