Sunday, April 19, 2009

A day cruise on the Beagle Channel

The Beagle Channel separates the largest island in Tierra del Fuego from some of its smaller islands. This strait is 240 kilometres long, with a minimum width of about 5 kilometres.

Many companies offer day cruises on the channel from Ushuaia, to visit some historic locations and to see the channel's famous inhabitants - the sea lions and Magellanic penguins.

When we arrived at Ushuaia's beautiful pier early in the morning, the sky was overcast and metallic grey. I wondered if it would just rain the whole day and we would have to see the sights through the boat's rain-spattered windows.

As we pulled away from the pier, it started drizzling, and all of us crowded into the room below. It rains most of the time in Ushuaia, so no one was perturbed. Though a little disappointed, I decided I would still make the most of it, even if it rained the whole day.

Thankfully though, the rain stopped within the next hour, and we could see the clouds lifting at the distant horizon. Though there was a cold, wet wind still blowing, we bundled up and went up to the deck to watch the dark grey waters and the cloud covered mountains in the distance.

Soon we passed the Eclaireurs Light House standing on a small island. Bright orange lichen covered the rocks, contrasting beautifully with the blue and white surroundings. This old light house dates back to 1919 and is one of the landmarks of Ushuaia.

The Beagle Channel was named after the famous ship HMS Beagle on which Darwin first sailed as an amateur naturalist from 1826 to 1830. The ship's mission was to survey the coasts of the southern part of South America. When the ship reached the channel on 29 January 1833, Darwin first saw the region's glaciers and wrote in his field notebook "many glaciers beryl blue most beautiful contrasted with snow."

We tried looking at the scenery through his eyes, as the first colony of penguins, sea lions and gulls came into view, framed by snowcapped peaks at the horizon.

It was snooze-time for the sea lions and they lay basking on the rocks, enjoying the cold, brisk wind that froze my fingers!

Tiny penguins briskly walked around on the cluster of rocks, going about their day as we gawked at them from our boat.

We next arrived at what appeared to be beach day at the penguin colony. They were out on the sand, soaking in the watery sunlight, with adults just lying around rolling in the sand while the young ones chased each other, diving into the water.

Most of them were busy preening themselves and looking cute for the camera.

But some waddled up close to the boat and stared at us with their cute, smiling faces. I so wished I could communicate with them!

There were a few that stood there with their eyes tightly shut, probably praying that we'd be gone when they opened them again.

We were all very quiet, and the only sounds were from the water lapping at the sides of the boat or from the racket created by the penguins themselves. The sun had come out by now and was slowly spreading its warmth around us.

It is such a beautiful world out there! Even as we hurry back to our lives in the concrete jungles of the world, these penguins and sea lions will still be here in these tranquil surroundings. Our wasteful actions will deplete the quality of their air and water, and will change their climate. But they will never realize it.

We soon left the penguin beach behind and headed over to Henderson Farm, a historic landmark of Ushuaia. More about that in the next post.

P.S. I am busy trying to make some progress on my thesis, because of which my posts and blog visits have become less frequent. Once I get a chunk of work done, I hope to have more time ...

Hope you are all doing well.


GMG said...

Hi Bindu!
I'm so envious... Have always dreamed with this trip and never found a way to make it... One day! Meanwhile I marvel myself with your wonderful pictures!

Now, You wouldn’t guess where Blogtrotter was... Enjoy (a break on work is sometimes healthy...) and have a great week!

pink dogwood said...

enjoyed reading this - pictures are amazing as usual

This makes me want to cry :(

Our wasteful actions will deplete the quality of their air and water, and will change their climate. But they will never realize it.

T and S said...

WOW...that's a fabulous post with images that give a fantastic account of the location. The snows-scape shots are beautiful.

~ ॐ ~ said...

I love penguins !!!!

just love them :)

beautiful pictures and a nice account !!!

LadyFi said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post with so many glorious photos! It is indeed sad to think that our thoughtless actions will make scenes like this one rarer and rarer.

Blu said...

Superbe shots, those penguins with their eyes closed. Such beauty. Thanks.

3rdEyeMuse said...

oh my! those photographs are incredible!! what an eye you have! that sounds/looks like a great day trip - thanks for sharing. :)

Raph G. Neckmann said...

What a fantastic trip! I love the expressions on the penguin faces!! Hope your thesis goes well.

Jude said...

Oh, Bindu thank you once again!
Thesis? Yuk, good luck with it!

ArtSparker said...

Thanks for posting. the penguins dreaming in the sun are delightful. Good luck with your thesis.

Glennis said...

A great day trip, you saw plenty of interesting things, I would really enjoy such a trip, before everything changes..

Vamsee said...

What a fabulous post. Thanks for taking us through this boat trip with you. I loved it. Loved the pictures of the sleeping sea lions and the super cute penguins.

Great post and good luck with your thesis.

Ilan said...

Such great captures! The colors, the sharpness...
Awesome photos, fun to watch. Keep them coming :)

travelmuse said...

Lovely beach of penguins!

NIgel said...

You've got some great photos there.
Thinking of visiting Ushuaia myelf, do you mind giving us some practical info? Like what's the name of the company that you took the day cruise with ? Any any general practical info would be useful too. :-)

Sydney said...

Lol, I completely relate to your PS; I'm in the same boat.

Speaking of boats, I can't believe the wildlife you saw! Seals and penguins! I'm jealous in the best way!!!

bindu said...

Thanks everyone - for your comments.

Nigel - we stayed at a bed&breakfast called Casa del Alba (you can google and find it). The lady who runs it was extremely helpful, and booked all our trips for us. There are at least three options for trips on the channel. We chose the longest one that also goes to Henderson Farm, which I will write about soon. I can give you more info if you'd like. Just leave me your email address.

Karine said...

I love penguins. What fantastic photos you got of them, and what a treat to have the opportunity to be there. Thanks for sharing it with us, Bindu.

Good luck on your thesis!

The Wandering Hermit said...

I recently read Darwin's notebooks during this Beagle Trip (online).. fascinating read to see the theory of evolution evolving in his observations and side trips he made during that voyage..
Beautiful photographs of that most alluring of coast line off wild Patagonia.. one trip I have to make in the next couple of years.. every time I visit your blog I yearn to go there soonest.

wandering soul said...

Hi Bindu,
Absolutely beautiful pictures of the place.The penguins and sea-lions are so cute! Fantastic location and thank you for posting about it. :)

Pavithra said...

Bindu first time to ur blog really so much impressed with ur photos each are different and lovely clicks.. please post more like this wish to visit regularly...