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Magellan Straits

A night of rain, wind, and swell. As expected the ship rolls over the seas coming straight from the Pacific into the southern Patagonian fjords, as she exits the Beagle Channel and heads towards the maze of islets and waterways into the Magellan Straits area. 

The engines had the help of some of her sails to make her movements more stable and to give them a hand with the progress. 

Where we sail now is flanked on the south by Capitán Aracena, Clarence, Santa Inés, Desolación, and other smaller islands, and on the north by Brunswick Peninsula, Riesco Island, Muñoz Gamero Peninsula and Manuel Rodriguez Island. 

By the morning the canvas is down and she motors again, now eastwards to the Magdalena Channel, connecting Magellan Strait and Cockburn Channel. It extends for about 20nm between high peaks and steep slopes, already covered by this autumn fresh snow. 

Now we are in an area that the Europeans discovered much earlier than the Beagle Channel. The ship Beagle found the southern connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the 19th Century, but already by the 1520s, Magellan sailed along the strait that today bears his name. 

A calm and slightly warmer morning made for a good speed to keep on going along this scenic region. Staysails are pulled up again on a bit of fair breeze, motor sailing in that way in fine weather, and spectacular views of the alpine peaks guarding the entrance of Seno de Agostini. As we pass by, a Humpback whale is spotted while in the background the peak of the famed Monte Sarmiento shows amongst the thick clouds that often guard its top. Its summit climbs up to 2404m high and together with Mount Luigi Savoia and Mount Darwin they are the only ones in the whole of Darwin’s Range that exceed the 2400m. 

Sails are pulled down as by lunchtime we make a sharp turn to starboard heading now towards a highlight of the area, Canal Gabriel. Also called “Canal Cascada” or Waterfall Channel, as many of them (even around 100) can be seen coming from the melting hanging glacier of the southern shores of the channel. This spectacular waterway runs in a NW/SE direction for about 22nm between Dawson Island and Tierra del Fuego, and links Seno Magdalena to Seno Almirantazgo. At its narrowest, Angostura Gabriel, is just a bit more than a cable wide (0.1nm). Gabriel Channel cuts between high snowy peaks with the pyramidal summit of Monte Buckland (2042 mts) towering above between the clouds. Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa sailed it aboard the caravel Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza on February 1580. But it was not surveyed and mapped until 1827 by the auxiliary vessel Adventure, which was sailing the southern seas together with the famous Beagle during her first voyage to these latitudes. 

Here strong tidal currents flow and timing the sailing through can make a big difference. Fortunately, the Europa rides the current with just a breeze blowing from her back, reaching speeds at the narrowest point of just over 12 knots. Sun shines, allowing for great views over the small bays, numerous waterfalls, forests, and sort of a flat ice cap atop this region of Tierra del Fuego. 

The good progress during the last hours made it possible to have a bit of time to spare. Soon we all prepare for an exploration afternoon landing at the scenic and well-sheltered cove “Caleta El Che”, lying West of the small Peninsula Lautaro, right at the Eastern entrance of Canal Gabriel. 

There, the zodiacs drove along the channel that give access to the small beach surrounded by forested slopes and waterfalls, while the ship stays drifting at the entrance of the bay. 

The zodiacs drove us back on board just in time for dinner. In the meantime, the Europa is already resuming her way into Seno Almirantazgo. Still, many miles to cover until she can reach the head of it, where tomorrow’s activities are planned. 

This Sound is a grand fjord, indenting from a WNW to ESE direction into Tierra del Fuego, to the heart of the Cordillera Darwin. It is home to numerous bays, islands, and glaciers. Due to its large size and characteristics different ecosystems can be found in it, from the wet and moist cold-temperate climate zone to the Alpine strata and trans-Andean steppe. 

With a fair breeze blowing into the fjord, during the night we could take advantage of it, setting all squares but the Courses, Lower and Middle Staysails, Fore Mast Staysail, and Outer Jib. 

Geschreven door:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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