| Cunard Queen Victoria 2017 World Cruise
Sectors from Fort Lauderdale to New Zealand
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It is 1648.3 nmi to the next port Valparaiso from Punta Arenas. Having left Punta Arenas in the afternoon, the evening of 11 February was spent heading first south and then to the north west along the Strait of Magellan. The journey through the Chilean fiords will be made under the guidance of regional pilots. The views were spectacular and it was a pity that it got dark at 2100.
The Chilean Glaciers are special and comparisons can be made with Alaska, NZ Fiordland and Norway. Chile is an unusual country, spanning every climate in the world from dry deserts in the north to the Mediterranean middle and then the expansive ice fields of Patagonia in the south. Chile accounts for 82% of the glaciers in South America. The southern coast of the country is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals and twisting peninsulas. Glaciers are made from snow that falls and is compressed under more falling snow until it forms a thick mass of ice. 10% of all the land on Earth is covered with glacial ice, which includes glaciers, ice caps, and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, with glaciers storing about 75% of the world's freshwater. It a glacier looks blue it is because the ice within is very dense and all the air has been squeezed out. This dense ice absorbs all te colours of light except blue. White glaciers have lots of little air pockets in them. The Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields are similar to ice caps, which are another kind of glacier. The National Park Bernardo O'Higgins contains part of the large Southern Andean Continental ice cap. It is the largest of the protected areas in Chile, created in 1696, covering an area of over 35,000 sq.km. Located in the central part of the Ice Field is the birthplace of several glacial outlets, including the Amalia and Pio XI Glaciers. Both are tidewater glaciers.
Having spent the night following the Magellan Strait, and then turned north parallel to the Chilean coast, at 10.30 in the morning of 12 February the ship's heading was northeasterly. The Queen Victoria had turned out of the ocean and into the calm of the Nelson Strait, passing the Isla Montt on the left. There is a ferry service between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt, and we joined that route at the Canal Castro and headed north along the Canal Esteban, then west at the join with the Canal Pitt by the Isla Hanover. The plan was that we would arrive at the Amalia Glacier at 1600, but we were early. At 1400 we first glimpsed a small glacier, then the edge of something blue on the water and were soon confronted by the entire glacier, falling towards the ocean from the hills above. The Amalia Glacier is also known as the Skua Glacier. It descends from the Andes Mountains and sits towering above the sea. The glacier partially surrounds Reclus volcano and erodes the southern flank of it. Approximately 73 square miles in area, the Amalia's mammoth blue mountain of ice is constantly changing, and like other glaciers, gradually shrinking. After turning gently so both sides of the ship could enjoy the view, our small recovery boat was launched at 1500, with photographers, to get closer. Lumps of ice flated by, having fallen from the glacier. The temperature on deck was cold and there were bread pots of soup on the open decks. Having retrieved the photographers the Queen Victoria turned back to the Canal Pitt, and then the Canal Andres towards Conception Island and the Canal Wide.
Cruising through the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park in the canals is slow, delightful and peaceful and the arrival on 13 February at the Pio XI Glacier was as scheduled, at 0700. This glacier does not have the impressive mountains but is very wide. Again the recovery boat was despatched with the photographers, who also collected some ice for the drinks in the bar. The Pio XI Glacier, named after the Pope of the same name who reigned from 1922 to 1939, is also known as the Burggen Glacier and is one of the main attractions of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. It is the longest glacier in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctica covering an area of 1265 sq kms. One of its tongues measures approximately 6kms and over the past 50 years has advanced by more than 10kms. The small boat gives an idea of scale and the ice face is about 75m in height and falling ice generates waves exceeding 10m in height. Our computer map must have been made some years earlier because the actual frozen glacier filled an area which was shown in our map as water. The Queen Victoria departed along a reciprocal track along the Canal Wide. Two hours later we passed a small local ship; there had been very little other traffic around. We continued along the Canal Trinidad to the Pacific Ocean.
Northern Patagonia also has spectacular scenery. After an overnight passage along the coast, at 0700 on 14 February it was daylight and Queen Victoria had turned to the east along the Canal Darwin, named after Charles Darwin who had visited here on one of his expeditions. This seemed a narrow canal from our map but it was similar in size to those previously travelled in Southern Patagonia. At 0915 we turned north and had a good view of the Volcan Maca, then waited to disembark a medical emergency. In the north the weather was warmer and there was salmon farming and lots of wildlife. It is possible to get bored of sealions when there are so many and everywhere there are southern beech trees. The area is more busy with small ferries, isolated houses and boats. There were also glimpses of mountains topped with snow in the Andes. At 1200 there was a party to celebrate Valentine's Day followed by lunch. As we ate the fog arrived. It was still foggy after the special Valentine Afternoon Tea in the Queens' Room and it was not until 1730 that it was clear enough to see the Andes again as we passed Isla Grande de Chiloe and turned north towards the Pacific Ocean. We had missed seeing the famous Volcan Chaiten which had erupted in 2008, but some other hills were smoking gently.
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 5th March, 2017