The Gulf of Penas is a sunken bowl of the western side of the southern Andes. Instead of canyons and valleys, fjords surrounded by craggy peaks are the rule. Sailing ships, driven by storms of the western Pacific, found ways through the fjords all the way to the straits of Magellan. This was our route as we entered the Messier Channel, a route discovered in the earliest years of colonial exploration.
Looking back the way we came…..
At the mouth of the channel, Zealous and Sombrero are neighboring, and isolated hills. Surrounded by water, they are also islands. Zealous is just under 2,000 feet. Sombrero, at 200 feet, is prominent only for its position and shape.
Here we are crowded by headlands, points, islands all rising steeply from the water.
Here I have views of these islands with craggy peninsulas in the distance. The view is to the northeast and east.
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On our way to Fjord Tempanos and the Iceberg Glacier…..
Background: on a ship, facing the bow (front), starboard is right and port is left).
In the 8 miles from Tarn Bay and Sombrero Island lands press closer, higher, islands increase in number. This is a listing of some of the islands we passed. These names reflect the history of Chile, the waves of immigrants touch the land with memories. After some of the names, below, I provide in parentheses the derivation.
On starboard was the northern Wellington Archipelago (English General): Pinochet (the Chilean dictator), Penguin, Juan Stuven (Spanish and German), Chang (the far east), Millar (German).
On port, the names have a military flavor: Zealous, Scout, Scylla (Sea Monster of Greek mythology), Alert, Orlebar (British Officer Augustus Orlebar).
These port side island names reflect what is on the minds of mariners as navigational options narrow with the channel. Innumerable channels, points, mid-channel islets, all looking very much the same, a potentially confusing jumble. Chilean maritime law demands ships have on board, working from the bridge, a certified Chilean maritime pilot to transverse the country’s dangerous channels and fjords. The combination of stopping distance (multiple nautical miles) and the loss of steering when a ship moves slowly make it essential to know, exactly, the route ahead. It was a Chilean maritime pilot who help keep us safe.
A great personal hazard for pilots is boarding the ship from the pilot boat. From our stateroom terrace we observed fast pilot boats in all seas approach the Regatta miles from port, the pilot on the bow, pull up alongside. Without a harness, the pilot transfers from boat to ship. We observed this several times from our stateroom veranda.
Here are shots of the pilot boat approaching the Regatta off the Peruvian port of Matarani. The boat was mirrored by the colorfully painted houses of Peru.
A cautious approach. In the third shot the boat turns to slowly approach the Regatta.
Alongside, boat crewmembers joint Don Roberto on the bow to assist in the transfer. I am not sure which of the two blue uniformed persons was “our” pilot.
I did not capture the boarding of the pilot who served the Regatta through the Chilean Fjords. Was is at Puerto Montt? Puerto Chacobuco? I am not sure. I do know a maritime pilot was on board as the channel narrowed to 2 miles, named Scout Channel were we passed Scout Island. I was facing generally east from our port side stateroom veranda while capturing these photographs as the Regatta headed south.
The peak on Scout Island is about 2,100 feet. The smaller peaks in front are about 1,200 and 1,500 feet. All rise straight up from Scout channel.
In English the Gulf of Penas means “Gulf of Distress.” Open to the storms of the western pacific ocean, ships seeking refuge sail this body of water to reach the shelter of the bays around the entrance of the Messier Channel.
Stargazing Chileans named the channel after Charles Messier (1730 – 1870), author of a catalog of 110 visually diffuse celestial objects such as the Great Cluster of Hercules, the Crab Nebula of Taurus, the Ring Nebula of Lyra. As Messier catalog objects these are listed on star charts as M13,M1,M57.
The Larenas and Fresia peninsulas of Aisen Province, Chile, on the southeastern shores of the gulf are seen here as we approach the Messier Channel. The shore is dotted with islets and islands. The Chilean pilot who came aboard at Puerto Chacobuco is earning his salary, keeping us safe. To reach the channel we pass through Tarn Bay, generally north to south. The southern margin of the bay is marked by Sombrero Island, the subject of my next blog.
Enjoying travel on a horse trap, a type of carriage, on Inishmore (Inis Mór), the largest Aran Island in Galway Bay we headed up Cottage Road from Kilronan, the main island settlement. It was there we embarked from the ferry, hired the driver, his horse drawn trap. Our destination an iron age fort, Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa, the Irish language name) and the sights along the way.
Headed up Cottage Road, I captured this view of dry stone walls and homes against the May sky over the shoulder of our horse.
Another aspect of the gradual 1/2 mile inclined path to the central ring of the prehistoric Dun Aonghasa ruins of County Galway, Ireland.
The view north, northwest from this way to Dun Aonghasa (Dun Aengus). In early June, looking across wildflowers, karst landscape, walled fields, farms, the North Atlantic Ocean, coast of Connemara and the 12 Bens (12 Pins) mountains.
Note the doorway (with long lintel) in the surrounding wall, to left of center in middle distance.
Now’s time to share a trinity of images from a morning spent about the Skellig Islands May 2014.
Pam and I have many stories from that day, a favorite is from the parking lot of Portmagee where we met the fast boat to the island. I prepared for the day by making a reservation for our ride. We traveled from Killarney, where an early morning breakfast feast spread by The Killarney Royal Hotel fortified us for the adventure. Throughout our tour, experiencing Ireland was like taking blinders off, this first experience on The Ring of Kerry was no exception, driving on a tight timeline to reach Portmagee with minutes to spare, every turn of the road presented a new delight.
Grateful to have made it to Portmagee, we quickly pulled our kit together. As I closed the bonnet, Pam exclaimed “our umbrellas.” At this point of the story we laugh together. Umbrellas indeed. I had a dim clue of what lay in store for us and insisted the umbrellas be left behind, a counter-intuitive decision for a rainy Irish day the Wild Atlantic Way. Regardless of the time, we needed a bathroom break as there will be no facilities on the fast boat or the World Heritage Site where there is no space for human waste products.
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The humor is in our welcome aboard the fast boat, like a fishing boat with a small cabin and small deck dominated by the engine hatch. We crowded on, handed a full set of fisherman slickers. This is a heavy coat with hood and pants, all waterproof. Our close timing guaranteed the worse seat, away from the cabin in the open. It was a new experience for us and we felt a sense of dread as the craft left the protection of Valentia Sound into the open Atlantic Ocean.
We faced a west wind, driving 12+ foot waves, as the boat breached each wave the crest went over the cabin in a waterfall of salt water. Up and down, up and down. Thankfully neither of us lost breakfast as some did. I do not have photographs of the trip out or the approach to the island, my equipment was safely packed away.
In the above photograph you see the entire course of our approach to the island, a bit more than 10 (land) miles from Portmagee. We toured Valentia Island that afternoon.
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There is a fair climb to the top to view the former monastery buildings. The steps are uneven and, when wet as it was that day, slippery. I wore a waterproof North Face shell with hood for the low threatening clouds. There was no rain as such, a constant fog on the top kept all exposed surfaces wet.
From the point on, until the top, was the most exposed and uncomfortable (frightening, chilling…you get the idea). Spare yourself the experience if you are afraid of open spaces and heights. Here was a stiff wind blowing from the right, on the left the cliff falls away to the ocean. Ahead, the path narrows to about 10 inches with a cliff wall on one side, the precipice on the other. Then come the monastery entrance and rock wall safety.
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This single image gives a succinct impression of the monastery setting. The bee hive shaped stone monk cell requires a stooped crawl to enter. Inside, the space is small and, thankfully, dry. The structure keeps out the rain and wind, a marvel of stone construction. This cell is off to the side, on a cliff balcony, over the wall an ocean precipice.
My closing advice is to plan your time wisely. The ship boards in less than an hour, in that time you climb the 700 steps and explore. There are people all over the place, in waves. To capture the structures without humans, you need to wait until the cohort become bored and leaves. There will be a space before the next wave of tourists breaks. Leave enough time to descend the steps safely. People have suffered fatal falls on the steps and cliffs, it is easy to do. Make your personal safety a priority.
We pulled off the side of Torr Road for this fine view on the way to Torr Head to take in this view of the Irish Sea. The steeply rising distant headland is the Mull of Kintyre. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
We parked on a turnout above the Loughan Cottages, near this farmer’s sheep pen. He drove up in a huge tractor and conversed with Pam while I was below shooting the cottages. He made a good impression.
Roofless walls of a cottage more substantial than the other deserted ruins above Loughan Bay, with two fireplaces a walled porch with a view. A number of outbuilding foundations lay around. The integrity of the walls, chimneys and gables speaks to the quality of construction. A freighter in the North Channel of the Irish Sea is visible in the distance above the upper ridge. Beyond is the island of Islay, Scotland, about 30 miles distant. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
I am happy to report a series of thirteen (13) photographs of these ruins were accepted for publication by Getty. You can click any of the photographs in this posting for my Getty portfolio.
The land slopes steeply to a rocky beach.
A thick growth of ferns, grass on the gable was once a home with a view of Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre 13 miles across the North Channel of the Irish Sea. The Isle of Sanda just visible on the right of the far gable. A landform named Alisa Crag is just visible in the distance, to the left of the nearest gable.
Here is a Photoshop screen capture from just before the crop is executed. The grid of fine lines is the Crop tool. For example, on the upper right corner a portion of Rathlin Island, the water, a slice of land are removed along with the blank portion.
Note from the Photoshop screen capture, the blank space along the upper margin is NOT removed. To do so will ruin the composition, the top of the hill on the upper left would be removed. Instead, I used the second technique to copy the sky over the blank portion left after cropping.
Click photograph for a larger view. To do this from WordPress Reader, you need to first click the title of this post to open a new page.
The second solution post describes how copying content onto the blank space can cause duplication of image features. In the above example, I need to perfect the image, modifying the clouds OR perfect the copy process to avoid the duplication.
The end result is a view of wildflower meadow, foreground, coastal sheep pastures running up the high hill. Named Greenanmore, the hill is a site notable for a neolithic passage tomb. The distant land across the North Channel water is Rathelin Island.