Beagle Channel, Punta Arenas and The Strait of Magellan

As I mentioned in the closing paragraph of my last post, we had an early departure out of Ushuaia because the captain wanted to arrive at a particular point in the Beagle Channel by around 7 PM. By the way, the Beagle Channel, named after the early 19th Century survey ship, HMS Beagle, is one a three navigable passages around South America, along with The Strait of Magellan, to the north, and the open ocean, Drake Passage to the south. Beagle Channel is 150 miles long and 3 miles wide at its narrowest.

Around 7 PM, while it was still light out, we were able to see what the Captain has wanted to reach in daylight: a series of several glaciers that flowed into the channel.

There were a couple others, but the cloud cover made them difficult to photograph. We appreciate the captain making the effort to arrive at the glaciers in a timely fashion. It would have been a shame to miss them.

With darkness setting in, we continued to sail westward through the channel and eventually turned north toward to Strait of Magellan and onto Puerto Arenas, arriving before dawn.

As the sun rose, we were in the harbor, where we would use tenders to go ashore. Next to us was the Coral Princess. Having two large ships in port stressed the harbor facilities and required long waits to both go ashore and return. the two of Punta Arenas did not have a great deal to see, so Bill and I decided to do something different. We chose a tour that took us to a ranch 40 minutes north.

Yes, we went horseback riding. My friend Stacie at home would approve. We had about an hour and a half on the horse, riding along a river (and crossing it), down to the beach and along the shoreline back to the ranch. I got to use my Spanish because the tour guides spoke very little English. We finished with afternoon tea and headed back to get in the long line to board the tender back to the ship,

Our passage used the Beagle Channel, west from Ushuaia, which is near the Argentina/Chile border, very near where the north/south border line meets the east/west border line in the Channel. We followed the channel west until a point where we could head north to meet the Strait of Magellan, the red line in the middle photo. We travelled part way north to the town of Punta Arenas and then reversed direction and followed the red line south and then west to the Pacific Ocean. For reference, I also include a map of Drakes Passage.

In the pictures above, the one on the left is from our stateroom, the middle is from the other side of the ship. You can see land on both sides, although the strait is quite wide at that point. The picture on the right is looking forward from the ship. We appear to be heading toward shore, but we are actually heading toward a small right turn. If you look on the map, we were approaching the point where the red line turns west (right), at the southernmost point of The Strait of Magellan.

It is worth noting, 2020 is the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s voyage.

Today, we entered the Pacific before making our way among the thousands of islands that make up the Chilean coast. Tomorrow we sail among the Chilean fjords.

A bit about format. I am using the far less robust WordPress app, rather the the website block editor. It means, even with reduced internet quality of the ship’s internet, I can still post, but with smaller image sizes and less image formats available.

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