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20 JAN 2008

Sunday, 20th January 2008 – Via Australis

Alas, and easy day so we were up late and packed then headed off to check out luggage in for the cruise then visit the local historical museum and walk around the old penitentiary. You should have seen us pulling our luggage down the street, than heavens for wheels on the luggage. After the museum stopped for and empanada lunch in a side street place and relaxed for a while until we head to the ship for Cape Horn.

Today is bright and sunny with blue sky and white clouds. From the wharf where our ship Via Austrais is berthed we can see Ushuaia spread along the mountain side with steep mountain tops doted with snow above. One amazing view is the lush green trees growing on the mountain slopes which suddenly stop yielding to a barren earth mountain top. We went on board and to our wonderful cabins with a large window and great appointments and quite a bit larger than our cabin on the Star Flyer. This ship is well appointed for cruising. The lounge forward has plush comfortable couches and chairs which are very nice. There is even a screen and hanging digital projector for lectures.

Following the standard safety lecture and a bit about Cape Horn we pulled away from the wharf and headed to Puerto Navarino just across the Beagle Channel into Chilean waters where the Chilean authorities would process the ship into Chilean waters.

We then headed down for dinner at our assigned table. Bob and Paula sat with Isa and I along with four young Italian women who were all medical doctors working in ER and now on holiday. They are certainly lively and made our dinner are real laugh, minute to minute. The young lady sitting next to me had done her residency at UCLA and spoke English quite well.

At 23:30 we left Punta Navarino on our first leg of our voyage to Cape horn. The weather was mild with clear skies and light wind. Of course we hoped that this would be case when we reached Cape Horn in the early morning, but Cape Horn seems to have a mind of its own and a microclimate. Off to bed now.

Monday, 21st January 2008 – Via Australis

This morning started with getting up early and dressed fully for our orientation on disembarkation at the Isle de Hornos. Well, many went up on the top deck to see our epic sight of Cape Horn and we could see a building and the sculpture piece on the hillside. Alas, there were good swells and many whitecaps (not unusual) with a dwind blowing from 50 tp 60 knots and gusts to 90 knots. As we stood on deck I could feel the wind almost knock be over and slivers of ice hit my cheeks, wow – just like in the books. One would only imagine how the sailors of the square rigger ship did their work as they tried to sail by. Well, many ships did not make the passage and sunk right there for many reasons., And, this was the summer light wind season. Needless to say we could not launch our Zodiacs to go on the island.

WE had a good breakfast following our ship turn at Came Horn and a lecture on Glaciers of Patagonia and ice ages leading to the flowers of today. Certainly our Earth has undergone numerous heating and cooling over eons etching the Earth’s surface in marvelous ways that we see today. So perhaps today we are undergoing yet another temperature change, but I cannot help but think that mankind is contributing to that change. In the evening there was a good lecture on the natives of Patagonia and the theories and evidence of their existence in this area for the past 40,000 years. So it would appear that migrations from man’s origination in Africa probably took several routes across the Alaska land bridge as well as across the oceans – mid-Pacific, Antarctic, and Atlantic to get to South America. It appears that the Hopi Indian facial features in the USA seem to be very similar to those of Indians in the Patagonia. The several tribes were described with their similarities and different characteristics. For instance, the use of animal skins worn with the fur in and out. Some of the tribes in the coldest regions seem to have been quite naked but it is amazing how animal grease applied to the skin keeps you warm In fact, the women, much like the divers of the South Pacific, were skilled at diving in the frigid waters in Patagonia.

This morning’s documentary was a movie on Shackleton’s voyage, This story of determination under very adverse conditions plus the concern for his men stranded along the way is remarkable. This will be a good movie to show to my young sailing group.

This ship is well prepared to support a good cruise with good lectures, equipment to make presentations, and playing of good (classical) music during dinning and in the lounge plus in the cabins … unlike the Star Clippers. The comforts on this ship are very good.

Today’s activity was to get off the ship in Wulaia on the back side of Navarino Island. Originally sheep farmers settled first then the Chilean navy established a base there with a Loran Station there plus defense. Abandon in 1973 only fishermen used it until the Australis company took the house over and has fixed it up to be a museum. I remember being here 5 years ago and the house was a mess. The structure is a nice two story one build as a very nice house that included tiled floors. Near by there is an archeological site where are found native widens, large piles of shells. These piles of mussels decomposition help keep the native’s warm, but the smell must have been quite bad. Some folks climbed a ridge for a wonderful view of the may and mountains beyond; I did this last time I was here when it was very clear. Our excursion today had a bit of rain and overcast skies, but none the less a beautiful sight of bays and mountains all around. The taxi from and to the ship was done on Zodiacs launched from the stern; the crew was very skilled and getting passengers to and from the Zodiacs but you had to step lively, each of us wearing our bright orange PFD.

This evening’s dinner was a lot of fun with the for gals from Italy. We shifted seats so they were not all together since some of them did not speak English very well and wanted to practice. The young lady next to me has one brother and a nephew plus a gentleman friend in Rome. We were all laughing and talking, then came the trivia game for the night and somehow these gals got our waiter to help us with the answers amid great laughter. Then the entertainment crew were looking for volunteers to model of the fashion show. But, of course, we all volunteered the Italian ladies. Then twenty minutes later we sat in the Sky Lounge and watched them model the clothing that the ship had for sale. What a kick. Isa and I then went down to watch a movie on the Emperor Penguins of the South Pole before retiring.

Tuesday, 22nd January 2008 – Via Australis

I was up early this morning to work on my notes and watch us pass through the narrow passages with snow capped mountains all around. Needless to say there is a strong wind, cold by California standards but cool by Patagonia standards with white caps all around. This must be a challenge sailing area. We only seem to get a little wave motion when we are exposed to the Pacific as we zig and zag through the fiords. Just before breakfast I wandered up to the bridge and had a good chat with the Captain.

I am sitting now looking out of a large window watching the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego landscape go by. There is only a small swell but many white caps. We pass by groups of small islands in the foreground with large mountains in the background.. While it is a bit cloudy the sun had come through and I can feel the warmth through the window all the while listening to classical music.

One interesting note, al the liquor drinks are included.

This evening’s banquet was great beginning with the crab appetizer followed by salmon then a fancy chocolate and moose dessert. Our table really had fun, with four young Italian women how could it be different. We laughed and talked. Then came the announcement of the three day trivia contest, yes, our table had tied with two others for first place. We had used all resources, especially our waiter (a nice young man that the young ladies captured) to answer the questions over the three days. So there was a runoff and we had five more questions to answer. Did you know that the Albatross has the largest wing span and that the Amazon river originates in Columbia? So, you guessed it, we won and such a hoop and holler the boat has not heard the whole trip. We were all delighted and in a ceremony on the Sky Deck we all received a prize, a nice Tierra del Fuego pin, then drank champagne to celebrate.

Alas, I have jumped ahead of my story. We had been cruising up through the islands and turned into a fiord where we stopped. All of us then climbed into our foul weather clothes and rubber boots plus camera. The crew hoisted the Zodiacs into the water and we loaded up for a special tour to a glacier. We ran around the corner and into a small fiord when suddenly we came across a mass of floating ice chunks. Onward we went through the pack. We could see large rivers flowing down the steep rock sides in torrents dripping from the glaciers above. We pulled into sight of one of the glaciers with spikes of ice and deep blue color between then, a beauty you must wonder at. On the other side nested on the rocks were Cormoran birds. Our weather was good but as we returned to our ship it started to rain.

Now we headed further into the small fiord with our big ship to view yet another glacier. Slowly we turned around and headed out, onward towards Punta Arenas. The blue sky was patched with many small clouts with shades of grey, shifting and moving with the low sunlight playing with them. Off the starboard side we could see so clearly a large ice field, a classic view. Far in front of our ship were a row of mountain peaks that must have had a special place at this moment for several of them glistened in the sun creating a very bright yellow and orange spot. Our ship turned and now headed NW as we sat down to dinner.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2008 – Via Australis

Up and packed we did while some went ashore to visit more penguins. In the morning light as we take breakfast dour ship heads to Punta Arenas where we will disembark completing yet another voyage in our adventure.

This evening we went to a very find restaurant La Marmita – a recommended place to go where the food is very good and presentation beautiful. We cannot believe the beautiful warm day with no wind here, surely it will get colder. Now to catch up and prepare for our travels to Buenos Aires.