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Sailing in the Chilean channels Estero Amalia (Skua Glacier)

Before the light faded away and after a fantastic afternoon landing at Puerto Profundo, we headed northwards through the narrows of Paso Shoal. 

The route brought us during the late evening to Adelaide Islets, between Richard and Simpson Islands. After dark the Europa kept on her way towards the Smyth Channel passing by Otter Rocks, Mayne Channel, and Summer Pass to the beginning of the 65nm long and pretty much straight Canal Sarmiento. Easy to navigate in good weather, often winds from the North gust inside making the progress North difficult and slow. This channel was named after the Spanish navigator Captain Don Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa. 

Now we are in the area where relatively narrow waterways give access Eastwards to the well-known city of Puerto Natales, the Collingwood Strait named by FitzRoy in 1830 to commemorate the Royal Navy Admiral Lord Cuthbert Collingwood, one of Nelson’s commanders during the epic battle of Trafalgar. 

A bit further north, and thanks to the good progress overnight pushing our way under engines, we had a while to take a turn to starboard and get into Estero Peel. A wide inlet 45nm long with four secondary arms that cut deeply into the mountains and ice cap of Campo de Hielo Sur. From them tumble down to the sea many large ice tongues. And to one of this fjords, we head, the Estero Amalia. At its very end, the spectacular front of Skua Glacier.  

As we approached, Europa began to navigate between ice floes that were getting more and more compact as we were shortening the distance to the head of the fjord and the front of the glacier. 

Again we are in a wild and not much-visited corner of Patagonia, in the boundary between Argentina and Chile, not really clear as both countries still have unsettled territorial claims. The beauty of the area really deserved the few miles detour for a visit to have a good look at it. 

Plenty of beautiful places to stop and have look around all over since the start of our voyage, but the total mileage to cover is large. Good planning and looking ahead is required on such a voyage from Ushuaia all the way along the Pacific coast to Talcahuano. All making for scheduling a day-to-day task, depending on weather and our progress. Like that, even though we haven’t got much time, there was enough to board the zodiacs, and off we went for a little afternoon exploration. 

The ride amongst the brash ice was already definitely worthwhile, but still, a short landing on a small island right in front of the ice cliffs put the icing on the cake.

The granite rocks are here crisscrossed by basaltic dykes, and all present rounded and polished surfaces due to the erosion by the ice that once was covering them. The gradual receding of the glacier has left behind those series of islets. Nothing grows but a few lichens in the areas closer to the ice, but the vegetation gradually becomes more lush as we walk in the opposite direction to the open waters of the bay. There Europa drifts, waiting for us to return, and when we did, she retraced her course for about 30nm and started heading to the Madre de Dios archipelago. 

Finding our way back first through Canal Peel, then the ship carried on along the Canal Inocentes. It was late at night when we joined one of the main channels in the region, the ample Concepción Channel. Crossing it westwards, it will give us access to tomorrow’s planned destination. Concepcion is one of the largest waterways, linking many smaller ones and several fjords to the Pacific Ocean. It was discovered by Ladrillero in 1557 and named after Francisco de Ulloa, but renamed afterward in 1579, when Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa sailed the area on the eve of the celebration of the Immaculate Conception.

Geschreven door:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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