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Day 4: getting the chills

December 9, 2010

The day began relatively early for us, as we head off to explore the glaciers of Tierra de Fuego national park in Patagonia. After a light breakfast, we boarded a coach which took us to the foothills of the Andes and then we proceeded to hike up the mountainside until we reached the start of the snow line. Along the way, we were given lectures by our guide Marcello about the history of the surrounding terrain, as well as that of Ushuaia (southernmost city in the world, and the port from which we leave).

The glaciers, though small compared to the ones we will be seeing soon down south, were still magnificent bastions of ice which proudly covered the sides of the hills and mountains. Unfortunately however, we weren’t able to spend as much time as we would have liked exploring the ice because we had another trip to make before we left: visiting the coast of the Beagle Channel.

The Beagle channel, as legend has it, is named after the famous HMS Beagle, which carried Charles Darwin on his famous expedition to the Galapagos Islands where he formulated his theory of evolution. Apparently however, he also found some inspiration from the hills of Patagonia, by identifying similarities amongst Beech trees he found down here and ones back in England. It is also where the midpoint between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific come together, and is marked by a magnificent snow capped Island in the middle of the channel.

Patagonia is also home to the southernmost post office of the world (excepting Port Lockroy on the Antarctic peninsula proper) and holds the official title of ‘fin del mundo’ – the end of the world.

However, the beauty of the hills and the coast were just an appetizer for the true purpose of our trip down south – the voyage to Antarctica. As I type, I am now on the Marina Svetaeva, sailing through the Beagle Channel and aproaching the dreaded Drake Passage – which heralds unpredictable weather and the full ferocity of the Southern Ocean.

After a warm welcome by the crew and a fabulous Veal dinner, The boat finally set off from Ushuaia and we were subjected to a few safety drills, which required us to muster at a given point after the alarm was sounded, with coats and life jackets ready. We also rehearsed getting into the emergency lifeboats – though we hope they will never need to be used.

We have been warned however, that puking is commonplace in the Drake passage. Whether we will be able to get through the passage without emptying our bowels is a question for tomorrow. In the meantime, we are all trying to get used to the ship atmosphere and make the transition from ‘landlubbers’ to real shipmen, and we await the glory of the ice!

Ben

Sent to you over a satellite phone using GMN’s XGate software

Read more about Ben’s trip

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 9, 2010 9:42 pm

    Been reading your blog for a while, Ben. Keep up the good work.

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