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.