|Cunard Queen Victoria's Exotic Voyage 2018
Discovering South America Part 7
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Punta Arenas is a detour north from the direct route between Ushuaia and the next port of Punta Montt. Punta Arenas is the southernmost city on the South American mainland. The city is the capital of Magellan's province, named after the marine explorer Ferdinand Magellan. His ship went through what is now the Magellan straits between the Atlantic and the Pacific in 1520. February is the middle of summer yet here the temperature was recorded as only 3 degrees the day before we arrived in February last year. The Queen Victoria has to anchor and use her tenders so we were fotunately there was again not more swell.
The most popular excursions are to visit the penguins, and Cunard offer tours by boat or RIB to Magdalena Island. The Magellan penguins who breed there are small, no more than 2 feet tall. Instead it is also interesting to spend a few hours exploring the town and visiting the museums. The tenders arrive at the Cruise Terminal building with its craft and souvenir shops and old-fashioned clock. Just a short distance ahead is the wide Avenida Independencia with the statue of General Don Bernardo O'Higgins. He was the liberator and the founder of the Chilean State. On the right, the main road, 21 de Mayo leads to the main square, the Plaza Munoz Gamero or Plaza de Armas. Those who had walked from the tenders were re-united with those who were on the organised bus tours at the statue of Magellan which celebrates the 400th anniversary of Magellan's voyage. There is a mermaid and two indians at his feet and many people stopped to rub the feet of one of the indians for good luck and in the hope of returning. The monument was donated by the wool baron Jose Menendez in 1920. There are many important buildings around the square : the cathedral, the Casa Espana, the Palacio Montes Pello, the Palacio de la Gobernacion, the Sara Braun Mansion which houses the Club de la Union and the Casa Jose Menendez next door. Sara Braun was a rich widow who completed the building of the house bearing her name after her husband died of TB. Jose Menendez was of spanish nationality and considered to be the King of Patagonia.
The Braun-Menendez Regional Museum is around the corner in the house which belonged to Sara's brother Mauricio who married Josephine Menendez, the daughter and heir of Jose Menendez. Sheep first arrived in the area from the Falkland Islands at the end of the 19th century and the Braun and Menendez families became very wealthy, as shown in their fine houses built in the early 1900s. The Braun Menendez house is mainly of a single storey, with basement rooms. A number of the ground floor rooms were mostly glass and used as conservatories with glass in the flors allowing light down to the basement rooms below which we were allowed to look round. Some of the ground floor rooms are being turned into a museum and we had an interesting talk with Nelson Sanchez Oyarzo, one of the experts from 'Mapping Antartica', who was setting them up.
Leaving the square on Avenida Bories, then crossing the Rio de las Minas, the row of Cunard coaches showed the entrance to the Salesian Museum and the attached church on Avenida Bulnes. The Museum (entry 5 US$) was a delightful traditional museum and it would be easy to spend the whole day inside. It is on four levels and covers history, religion, ethnography, flora, fauna, numismatics, missions, mineralogy, aviation, paleontology, industry and trade in the Magellan region. The museum was founded by the priest Maggiorino Borgatello in 1893, who organised and displayed the collections of the Salesian missionaries, and the website bears his name www.museomaggiorinoborgatello.cl
Further along the Avenida Bulnes is the Municipal Cemetary. This is hidden behind a wall but worth the visit. The simple graves contrast with the extravagant tombs. That of Jose Menendez is said by Bruce Chatwin to be based on the Vittorio Emanuelle monument in Rome. Bruce Chatwin visited Patagonia in 1974 and we found his travel book in the paperback exchange on the Queen Victoria.
It was about 2 kms to walk back to the tenders and we passed the large Unimarc supermarket which had Valdivieso sparkling wine which we enjoyed in 2017. Walking back to the Naval and Maritime Museum, now closed for lunch, there was another Unimarc supermarket almost outside the port gates.
The Chilean Glaciers are special and comparisons can be made with Alaska, NZ Fiordland and Norway but none seem to be as impressive to us. 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. Water looks blue in a glacier it is because the ice within is very dense and all the air has been squeezed out. This dense ice absorbs all the 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, 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. 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 with photographers, to get closer. Lumps of ice floated by, having fallen from the glacier. The temperature on deck was cold although not as cold as last year when there were bread pots of soup on the open decks. Having retrieved the photographers and completing some 360 turns to allow all cabins to see the glacier 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 at the Pio XI Glacier was as scheduled, at 0700. This glacier does not have the impressive mountains but is very wide. 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.Unfortunately this year there was a lot of mist although it occasionally broke up enough to get some good views and I have also included a couple of pictures in better conditions from last year. Again the recovery boat was dispatched with the photographers, who also collected some ice. The ice face is about 75m in height and falling ice generates waves exceeding 10m in height - the picture from 2017 shows e FRB and gives an idea of scale. After a series of 360 turns the Queen Victoria departed along a reciprocal track along the Canal Wide. We continued along the Canal Trinidad to the Pacific Ocean.
A Full Exotic Voyage party takes place every sector for those going all the way round. This one was even more splendid than usual and we had the foresight to bring a camera. It featured the not only the "QV Discover South America 2018" but also one of the pieces of ice brought back by our Fast Rescue Boat from a little iceberg. There were the usual impressive ice carvings at either end and magnificent displays of finger food including Hot Scallops Cold Seafood, Sushi, the Cake, and some superb Petit Fours including some melt in the mouth macaroons we congratulated Renato on - he promised to bring us some the next time we were in the Verandah.
The next part will continue at Puerto Montt in Chile
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 5th March, 2018