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South Islands Cruise


Chile, Patagonia, Cape Horn, Wulaia Bay, Navarino Island, & Agulia Glacier

Agostini Sound, Magdalena Island, Lighthouses, & Southern Ocean

Penguins Natural Monument, Stella Australis Cruise Ship, & Zodiacs

Charles Darwin, Yaghan Indians, Global Warming, Globus, & Monograms

Stella Australis cruise ship in Agostini Sound near the Aguila Glacier in Chile.

Stella Australis cruise ship in Agostini Sound near the Aguila Glacier.

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Buenos Aires to Patagonia to Santiago

We were on a Monograms hosted tour that started in Buenos Aires, where there were two nights. From Buenos Aires we flew to Bariloche where we spent two nights. We flew back to Buenos Aires and spent the night in order to catch an early morning flight to Ushuaia where we spent one night. The next day we boarded the Stella Australis cruise ship where we spent three nights and visited four islands in Chile at the southern tip of South America. The details are described here. We were taken from the ship to Punta Arenas to spend one night. The following day we flew to Santiago where the hosted tour ended after spending two nights. Contact Us for more information.

Stella Australis cruise ship

We boarded the Stella Australis cruise ship to spend three nights, and we had an absolutely fascinating time on this top rated ship. This small ocean going vessel was built in 2010 and has only 100 cabins. The maximum number of passengers is 210. A small ship has some important advantages. Most importantly, we could go to places and visit islands which would not have been possible on the big ships. You also get to meet most of the interesting people onboard, something we really enjoy. Many foreign countries were represented on our cruise. The Stella Australis has five decks. The bottom deck is the Patagonia Deck, and it has the Patagonia Dining Room and Galley (1st Deck). The next deck is the Magallanes Deck, and it has the Reception and Cabins (2nd Deck). The Yamana Lounge and Cabins are on the Tierra del Fuego Deck (3rd deck). One deck up is the Cabo de Hornos Deck, and that is where you find the Sky Lounge, Cabins, and the Bridge (4th Deck). The top deck is the Darwin Deck, and it has the large Darwin Lounge where lectures and entertainment take place. The top deck also has a Gym and an Outside Viewing Area (5th Deck). The Stella Australis cruise ship is pictured at the top of this web page.

Cape Horn

Path to the lighthouse at Cape Horn, Chile.

Path to the lighthouse at Cape Horn.

We had left Ushuaia in late afternoon and sailed all night through the islands at the tip of South America. By morning the ship had sailed into the Southern Ocean, which circles Antarctica. We had reached the island of Cape Horn. This is one of the most southern islands in Patagonia, and it is in the southern part of Chile. The most southerly point of Chile is in the Diego Ramirez Islands. But people are content to go no further south than Cape Horn. It is found at Latitude 55 degrees, 58 minutes, 48 seconds South. By comparison, the latitude of Juneau, Alaska is 58 degrees, 18 minutes, 6 seconds North. Cape Horn is on Hornos Island in the Hermite Islands group at the southern end of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. It is at the northern boundary of the Drake Passage, which is the strait between South America and Antarctica. Cape Horn was discovered on 29 January 1616 by Dutch merchants looking for the best trade routes to the Far East. They named it Kaap Hoorn after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands.

Our ship docked offshore from Cape Horn in deep water. To get to the island we went to the back of the ship where we disembarked into zodiacs. There were numerous zodiacs, all motorized, and each one carried about 18 passengers. This is how we got to and from the 4 islands that we visited. See pictures below. As we headed from the ship to Cape Horn it was cold with the temperature in the low 40s degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 degrees Centigrade). It was February, so this was summer in the southern Hemisphere. In addition to being cold it was also very windy and there was light rain, which made it seem even colder. Once we landed on the beach at Cape Horn our objective was to climb what at times was a fairly steep incline all the way to the summit of the island, where there was a lighthouse. Despite the bad weather conditions and at times a difficult climb we were not about to give up. The picture above shows a portion of the path that had more of a gradual incline. Most of us continued to wear the orange colored life jackets that were required on the zodiacs. They helped to keep us warm. There was a wood walkway for part of the trek to the top. But the wind at times was so strong we had to fight to not be blown off. But getting to the top was worth the challenge as the view was magnificent.

Lighthouse at the summit of Cape Horn, Chile.

Lighthouse at the summit of Cape Horn.

At the top we found the lighthouse, a chapel, a utility building, and a residence. It is all maintained by the Chilean Navy. The lighthouse is pictured above. As we started back down and took a look at the path that would lead us back to the water it was quite a beautiful view, as seen in the picture below. We could see the zodiacs that were coming to take all of us back to the ship. From our lofty position everything and everybody at the bottom looked so small and far away. We had come up quite a distance.

Heading back down the steep incline at Cape Horn, Chile to board the zodiacs.

Heading back down the steep incline at Cape Horn to board the zodiacs.

It was also interesting to observe the water and see that it was calm and free of big waves. Look again at the picture above. In the cruise from Ushuaia to Cape Horn we had not encountered any rough seas. But the waters south of Cape Horn can be quite different. In fact, not far from the lighthouse that we visited is a memorial which is a large sculptor of an albatross that was installed in 1992. It honors the many sailors that have died through the years attempting to sail around Cape Horn. Before the Panama Canal opened in 1914 the main sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was the much longer one that went around Cape Horn. But the conditions were often treacherous with numerous ships crashing in the waters around Cape Horn; many sailors were lost at sea. The passage around Cape Horn is known as one of the most dangerous shipping routes in the world. In the Southern Ocean there are often strong winds which create large waves. The ocean is large and free of land masses for great distances. Thus as waves created by the strong winds propagate the winds continually act upon them so that the waves grow even larger and larger. From physics we know that when the waves move from the deep ocean into shallow water near land they slow down. Since energy must be conserved that causes the waves to increase even further in height. These normal waves were bad enough to encounter. But near Cape Horn the unpredictable rogue waves with heights of 100 feet (30 meters) are known to occur. In addition to the hazards of waves there are also strong currents generated by the strong winds that can be difficult to negotiate. Ships can also be blown off course. There are also icebergs that ships can run into. So it is not surprising that so many of the wooden-hulled ships with sails wrecked in the 1700s to the early 1900s. Charles Darwin, the naturalist and geologist, wrote the following based on what he had experienced: "One sight of such a coast is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril and death."

Wulaia Bay in the Navarino Island

Arriving by a zodiac at Wulaia Bay in the Navarino Island, Chile.

Arriving by a zodiac at Wulaia Bay in the Navarino Island.

After visiting Cape Horn in the morning and while having lunch on the ship we had moved north away from Cape Horn and anchored in Wulaia Bay on Navarino Island. In the afternoon we rode zodiacs to shore to visit and learn about the island. The above picture shows a group that had just arrived and disembarked from the zodiac behind them. The bay is on the western shore of Navarino Island on the Murray Channel. The island is part of Cabo de Hornos in the Antarctica Chilean Province. The name Wulaia means beautiful bay in the Yaghan Indian language. In fact, Navarino Island has a lot of beautiful scenery. Note the picture of Wulaia Bay below.

View of Wulaia Bay in the Navarino Island, Chile.

View of Wulaia Bay in the Navarino Island.

Navarino Island has a long history with the Yaghan people (sometime referred to as Yamana people). They are believed to have migrated to the island by canoes from Tierra del Fuego. They settled near the coasts and built circular huts. The were nomad hunter-gatherers, so they moved a lot with the seasons and built many camp sites. Archaeologists study the sites and have found that the Indians built fish traps in the inlets of the bay. Stoneworks for the traps are still there. We learned a lot about the Yaghan people on our visit to the island. The most striking thing to me about them is that they were naked. As cold as it is there in the summer months, and much colder during the winter months, I do not know how they survived that way. They also swam in the very cold ocean waters.

Muesum of indigenous people at Wulaia Bay in the Navarino Island, Chile.

Museum of indigenous people at Wulaia Bay in the Navarino Island.

The naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin and Vice-Admiral FritzRoy of the HMS Beagle ship visited Navarino Island and the Yaghan people in January, 1833. Darwin was doing research on his theory of the evolution of the species. When other English people learned about the Yaghan people they sent missionaries to teach them European languages and religion. However, there was a bad altercation in November, 1859 in which the Yaghan participants clubbed to death Captain Garland Phillips and all of his crew except except for one crew member during a Sunday service. At the time of the massacre the cook was onboard the ship Allen Gardiner, and he was able to escape in a dinghy. The building shown above is a museum which we visited. It is close to the Wulaia Bay and contains lots of pictures, maps, and some artifacts from Archaeological studies on the island. In the museum you can learn a lot about the early settlers on the island.

Sky Lounge on the Stella Australis Ship

Lounge on the 4th deck of the Stella Australis cruise ship.

Sky Lounge on the Cabo de Hornos Deck of the Stella Australis cruise ship.

The Sky Lounge on the Cabo de Hornos deck of the Stella Australis cruise ship, seen above, was a nice place to spend time relaxing. The large Darwin Lounge on the Darwin Deck is where we saw many very interesting lectures on where we had been, where we were going, or about the area in general. The Darwin Lounge is also where entertainment took place. While cruising we passed by many scenic islands.

Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound

Arriving by zodiacs at the Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound, Chile.

Arriving by zodiacs at the Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound.

In the picture above a group is arriving in a zodiacs boat at the Aguila Glacier Island in Agostini Sound. The ship is docked offshore in deeper water. Agostini Sound is also known as Agostini Fjord, because it is a fjord, and it is located in Tierra del Fuego in the Darwin mountain range. We were in Chile west and a little north of Ushuaia, Argentina and near the Straits of Magellan. Here there are glaciers and a Patagonia cold rainforest. The fjord is named after the Italian explorer Alberto Maria de Agostini.

Scene on the island of the Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound, Chile.

Scene on the island of the Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound.

While walking with our guide there were many beautiful views to photograph including flowers and landscapes. Above is an interesting scene that we came upon.

Guide describing the island and the Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound, Chile.

Guide describing the island and the Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound.

In the above picture our guide from the ship is telling us about the island and especially glaciers. Glaciers are formed by falling show which becomes compacted as more snow falls on top and exerts pressure on the snow below. They become masses of ice with horizontal limits and which flow in a preferred direction as they grow in size.

The Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound, Chile.

The Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound.

The Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound is shown above. It is an attractive site as are all glaciers. But like most glaciers in both the northern and southern hemispheres this glacier is retreating due to global warming. As they melt sea level continues to rise. From the planet ice that has melted plus the thermal expansion due to warming sea level has risen by about 8 inches (20 centimeters), most of that since the mid-20th century. Considering that 70% of the Earth's surface is water, and most of that is found in the oceans and seas that is an enormous volume of water that has been added. This and other glaciers throughout the world will continue to retreat as the Earth warms. In the picture below we are seen in front of the Aguila Glacier.

Sunny and Rebecca with the Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound, Chile.

Sunny and Rebecca with the Aguila Glacier in Agostini Sound.

Dining Room on the Stella Australis Ship

Dining on the Stella Australis cruise ship.

Patagonia Dining Room on the Patagonia Deck (1st) on the Stella Australis cruise ship.

The meals were served in the Patagonia Dining Room, seen above. The meals were consistently good and the service was excellent. We enjoyed meeting people from different countries. You always meet interesting people on these small ship cruises.

Magdalena Island and Penguins

 Penguins on Magdalena Island, Chile.

Penguins on Magdalena Island.

The penguins in the above picture are on Magdalena Island. They seemed to be waiting for us as we had just arrived there on zodiacs from the Stella Australis cruise ship seen in the background. Magdalenna Island is in the Magallanes Region of Chile in the Strait of Magellan, and is located 22 miles (35 kilometers) northeast of Punta Arenas. Magdalena Island and nearby Marta Island are part of The Penguins Natural Monument. The largest penguin colonies in the southern part of Chile are found on Magdalena Island, which contains 210 acres (85 hectares). The island is named after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan; he saw the penguins in 1520.

A penguin near his/her home on Magdalena Island.

A penguin near his/her nest on Magdalena Island.

The penguins on the island are known as Magellanic penguins. Compared to other penguins they are medium in size. Their heights when full grown are 24 to 30 inches (61 - 76 centimeters). They weigh between 6.0 and 14.3 pounds (2.7 to 6.5 kilograms). Females are not as large as the males. Adult Magellanic penguins have white abdomens but their backs are black. Between the head and breast are two black bands. The lower band is shaped like a horseshoe. If you look at the above picture, where you see what looks like a very proud bird, you can follow along with this description. They have black heads. There is a white band that runs above and behind both eyes, then around the black ear-coverts and chin, finally meeting at the throat. Their wings are very rigid and are used in swimming under water. By comparison chicks and young penguins have grey-blue blacks, and their chests have a more faded grey-blue color. In the wild magellanic penguins live up to 25 years. They can live five years longer in captivity.

A pair of penguins in the entrance to their burrow (home).

A pair of penguins in the entrance to their burrow (home).

Their home is a nest built in a burrow or under bushes. A pair of penguins is shown above in the entrance to their burrow. We saw many pairs of penguins in burrows on the island. It is estimated that their are currently 70,000 pairs of penguins on the island. A pair of penguins mate for life. During the breeding season it is usual for two eggs to be laid. During the incubation period the parents share the duties. In 39 to 42 days baby chicks hatch.

Parent and baby penguin at their home on Magdalena Island, Chile.

Parent and young penguin at their nest on Magdalena Island.

The chicks are taken care of by both parents, and during this time both parents lose weight. For the first month the chicks are fed every two or three days. They are raised through adulthood. Each year the male reclaims his burrow, and the female finds him by his call, which she will recognize. A parent and a young penguin are shown in front of their nest in the above picture.

Lighthouse at the summit of Magdalena Island, Chile with penguins and other birds.

Lighthouse at the summit of Magdalena Island with penguins and other birds.

There is a lighthouse at the summit of the island, which is shown above. To walk about the island you were confined to a path by ropes. There were penguins all around you and they would cross back and forth over the path. When one was crossing you would stop and give it the right away. You were not allowed to touch them or feed them. But they came quite close to us and were obviously used to humans invading their territory.

As we started back down the path to the beach where we would be picked up by a zodiac we could see lots of Penguins and other birds. Note the picture below. At the beach we could see some of our fellow cruisers in their orange life jackets. They looked so small; we had come up a long ways. Off shore in deeper water was our ship. It was a beautiful view. The water is also very important to the penguins. That is where they find their source of food. Their diet includes cuttlefish, krill, and squid. Although they ingest sea water while eating, the salt is removed from their bodies by their excreting gland.

Looking down from near the summit of Magdalena Island, Chile at penguins and the ship.

Looking down from near the summit of Magdalena Island at penguins and the ship.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans to the Magdalena Island it was inhabited by natives including the Yaghan people. After the Spanish colonialists arrived and settled on the island in the 16th century the natives were eventually forced out. Currently the island is not inhabited by people. The penguin population began to decline when the fishing industry depleted a lot of the food the penguins fed upon. To protect the penguins a penguin monument was founded in 1966. In 1982 Magdalena Island and nearby Marta Island were declared The Penguins Natural Monument. There is an 18.6 mile (30 kilometer) no fishing zone around the island to protect it as a breeding site. As a result the penguin population has recovered.

Departure from the Stella Australis cruise ship

After the wonderful and fascination three-night/four-day cruise we were taken from the ship to Punta Arenas, Chile by our host Alberto Villarrod and a driver. He helped us get checked into our hotel and told us where we could find restaurants and other things about the city and area. We spent one night there, and then were taken by Alberto and a driver to the airport where we were checked in for our flight to Santiago.

Buenos Aires to Patagonia to Santiago

We were on a Monograms hosted tour that started in Buenos Aires, where there were two nights. From Buenos Aires we flew to Bariloche where we spent two nights. We flew back to Buenos Aires and spent the night in order to catch an early morning flight to Ushuaia where we spent one night. The next day we boarded the Stella Australis cruise ship where we spent three nights and visited four islands in Chile at the southern tip of South America. The details are described here. We were taken from the ship to Punta Arenas to spend one night. The following day we flew to Santiago where the hosted tour ended after spending two nights. Contact Us for more information.

Photos by Sunny Breeding. We sell prints and images. Photo of Sunny and Rebecca by Dave Reed.