Ushuaia, Argentina & the Beagle Channel
On January 31 we sailed down the Beagle Channel (named for the ship on which Charles Darwin visited here) toward Ushuaia. Yet more fabulous scenery (ho-hum) with a healthy helping of swirling clouds.
We saw some more glaciers (or what’s left of them), but I can’t remember the name of each of them. There were about 6 and they were named after European countries. This area is nicknamed Glacier Alley.
We passed a rainbow unlike any we have ever seen. It was not in the sky, but on a hillside beside the channel & lasted until after we had passed beyond it.
About 12:30 we came to Ushuaia, Argentina, located on the island of Tierra del Fuego on the north bank of the Beagle Channel. It has a rather spectacular setting. It is also quite remote. It began as a penal colony which could not be escaped, since you would not survive an escape through this territory without quite a bit of gear & preparation. There is also a well-known lighthouse here called the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse (red & white stripes, below). It is (often said to be Jules Verne’s “Lighthouse At The End Of The World,” but it’s not (we think the tower with the black roof below, which is at the penitentiary in Ushuaia, may be the one).
Ushuaia is generally considered the world’s southernmost city, but there are two other claimants to that title. Punta Arenas, though north of Ushuaia (and undoubtedly the southernmost city on the South American continent, since Ushuaia is on Tierra Del Fuego island), claims that it is the southernmost city, and that Ushuaia is just a “village,” since it has only about 50 – 60,000 people. Puerto Williams, which lies south of Ushuaia along the Beagle Channel, is certainly the furthest south of the three, but since it only has about 2400 people, it does not qualify for the title of city to the folks here.
Well, we were supposed to pull up to the dock (next to last picture above) and then have from 1:30 to 7:30 to spend in Ushuaia. But the wind was very high & the water was very turbulent. The ship tried to dock but couldn’t, so the Captain announced we would have to go ashore in tender boats. A little while later he came back on the loudspeakers to announce that the Argentine authorities had informed him that their dock was closed to us, even in tenders, and he said it was just as well since we wouldn’t have been able to land in the tenders anyway because of the turbulence. So, the result was that what you see in the pictures above was pretty much all that we were able to see of Ushuaia.
This actually turned out to be a stroke of luck (unless, like us, you actually wanted to see Ushuaia). We ended up leaving several hours earlier than scheduled and the Captain hauled ass toward Antarctica. By doing so, he was able to outrun a nasty storm heading into the Drake Channel (which is the part of the Southern Ocean you cross to get from South America to the Antarctic Peninsula) from the West. We had an extremely rough night bouncing over the waves near Cape Horn (which we didn’t see because it was night when we passed it), but the Captain assured us the next morning that if we had left Ushuaia at the scheduled time it would have been very much worse. We heard later that one woman slept that night in her life jacket, so not everyone agreed with the Captain’s post hoc assessment that the crossing was “relatively calm.”
Anyway, I will leave you with some pictures of the Beagle Channel south of Ushuaia, including a couple of pictures of Puerto Williams as we sailed past. And our next missive will be from (or at least about) Antarctica.