Return to Ushuaia via Diego Ramirez Island and Cape Horn


The Drake Passage

Wednesday, Feb 5th

Today is a full day of travelling north. The Drake Passage seems to be very kind to us again and we wake up to very little motion. So, we spend the day editing pictures and listening to several more interesting presentations. By the afternoon the weather turns even more beautiful. The water is a deep blue color, it looks like we are in the Caribbean. There are only a few Albatrosses out now, because they like it much windier.

In the evening we hear the exciting news that, because of the good weather we are making very fast progress, such that we have time tomorrow to go to the Diego Ramirez Islands, and may even be able to pass close by Cape Horn.

The Diego Ramirez Islands and Cape Horn

Thursday, Feb 6th

We wake up early at 6am, because we are expected to approach the Diego Ramirez Islands before breakfast. The Islands are Chilean territory and consist of several large rocky outcroppings. They are incredibly remote (105 km south of Cape Horn) and an absolute bird paradise. There are hundreds or even thousands of Albatrosses sitting on the water and flying around the Islands. With the binoculars we see lots of Rockhopper penguins along the steep slopes. Most surprising of all, we see seals almost near the top of the island. They must be at least a hundred meters above sea level, which is an amazing climbing feat for a seal. There is also a small Chilean military base on one of the islands.

A rather well-timed shot of a jumping seal 
Leaving the Diego Ramirez Islands
We spend about 45 minutes close to the islands, and then continue our journey further up north towards Cape Horn. The weather stays clear and the ocean is still relatively calm, so we reach Cape Horn by 11 am. The captain apparently takes the ship a little too close to the Cape, as he is told off by the Chilean coast guard, and reminded that he has to have a permit to get within 3 miles of Chilean territory. The captain pretends he didn’t know that, and thanks the coast guard for looking out for us, much to the amusement of all of us on the bridge. We get great views of Cape Horn and the mountains on either side. There are lots of birds here: albatrosses, Arctic shags, petrels and cormorants.

                          Wandering Albatross                            It’s always windy at Cape Horn                              Cormorant

In the evening we finally reach the Beagle Channel. As soon as we enter the channel, we see groups of dolphins coming from all sides. They are clearly heading for the ship, whether out of curiosity or in hope of food falling off, we don’t know. But there are lots of them now following us. The captain slows down the ship to about 10 knots, because he says that is the dolphins’ preferred speed and this way the dolphins stay close to the ship for some time. We try to get good shots of them, but it’s difficult because they are very fast and keep diving under the boat to pop up again on the other side.

Afterwards we are all invited to the captain’s farewell drinks in the lounge. The captain gives a very funny speech, thanking many of the crew members individually, and pointing out again how lucky we were with the weather on this trip.

                                                                                                                            Return to Ushuaia

We reach Ushuaia around 9 pm. After dinner we leave the ship and go into town. We walk around a bit and then have a couple of drinks in an Irish Bar, where many of our ship companions are. Afterwards we get back on board for our last night on the ship.

Back in Ushuaia

Friday, Feb 7th

Early wake up call, because out luggage is picked up at 7am and we won’t see it again until Buenos Aires. After saying our goodbyes to the staff on the ship, we are picked up by buses and driven to the Prison and Maritime Museum in Ushuaia. This turns out to be really quite interesting. They have information and pictures of the native inhabitants (the Yamana), who were extinct by the early 20th century, mainly due to diseases. There are exhibitions about Antarctic exploration, and it is all set in the huge building, which functioned as a prison until 1947.
We skip the brunch at one of the hotels in Ushuaia, and instead spend a little more time in the museum and then walk around town. We get to the Falklands War Memorial. While most Argentines we met seem to agree that the war for the Falklands (or Malvinas as they are called here) was stupid and unnecessary, and people are happy that losing the war accelerated the end of the military dictatorship, they also feel quite strongly that the islands are occupied illegally by the British, and that Argentina has a legitimate claim on them.

When we get back to the busses as scheduled at 10:45am, we are told that the flight is delayed and we will spend another hour in town. However by the time we get back again, the delay had increased to 3 hours, due to thunderstorms in Buenos Aires. Since the other group coming from Buenos Aires will not have time to do their Beagle Channel cruise, the expedition leader decides that we will have lunch on the Catamaran instead. However, when we realize that the ship is not even leaving the dock during lunch, we decide to skip the group lunch, and instead find our own lunch in town. This turned out to be a brilliant decision, because we find a king crab restaurant, where have probably the best crab either of us has ever tasted. King crab is the local specialty here, and so we order a whole crab, which we get to pick out of the aquarium ourselves. It was a 2 kg monster and absolutely delicious. 

Afterwards we are driven to the airport, and our flight finally leaves Ushuaia just before 5pm. Fortunately our onwards flight to Qatar doesn’t leave Buenos Aires until 11pm, and so we have no problem making the connection. Many other people on flights to the US are not so lucky.

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