Islands Zealous and Sombrero

Where the Andes Stride Into the Pacific

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Islands Sombrero and Zealous
Islands Sombrero and Zealous In the distance are the crags of Porcia Island separated from Zealous Island, in the foreground, by Canal Cronjé (not visible). Sombrero Island is left, Zealous is the right.

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…..

Peninsulas Larenas, Fresia, the Gulf of Penas
Peninsulas Larenas, Fresia, the Gulf of Penas The view is north-northeast from the entrance of the Messier Channel

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.

Sombrero Island
Sombrero Island, 200 feet tall, rounded by glacial erosion.
Sombrero Island, Peninsulas Larenas and Fresia
Sombrero Island, Peninsulas Larenas and Fresia The entrance to Fjord Eloise is in the distance where the two ridges separate. We are here sailing the Messier Channel.

Maritime Pilots, Scout Island, Scout Canal

About maritime pilots and the Chilean Fjords

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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.

Don Roberto Approaches the Regatta
A fast pilot boat from Matarani approaches the Oceania Regatta. On the bow, the pilot will transfer from boat to ship. On board he will work with the Regatta crew to safely navigate the approach to the Matarani harbor and dock. The whiteness on the land is diatomaceous earth.
Don Roberto, Maritime pilot, approaches the Regatta
The whiteness on the land is diatomaceous earth.

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.

Scout Island and Canal
Scout Island. The water is Scout Channel

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.

Scout Island
Scout Island lies on the Scout Canal
Scylla Island
Lying just south of Scout Island, Scylla Island is between our ship, in the Scout Canal, and the Kruger Canal. The Kruger is short, between Islands Scout, Orebar, Zealous, Porcia and Tito.
Islet Alert and Orebar Island
Islet Alert is between Canal Scout and Canal Kruger. On the far left there are waves breaking on Pilot Point of Orebar Island, marking the northern end of a small bay, named Hale. You can see the bay behind Islet Alert. On the far left there are waves breaking on Pilot Point

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Views of Larenas and Fresia Peninsulas

mountainous crags over the Pacific Ocean

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.

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Larenas Peninsula and Merino Islets
Larenas Peninsula and Merino Islets
Close-up of the Merino Islets
Close-up of the Merino Islets
Ayautau Isles
Ayautau Isles
Larenas Peninsula from Gulf of Penas
The Northern Patagonian Ice Fields lay to the east and north of these mountains of the Larenas Peninsula.
High Ridge of the Larenas Peninsula
High Ridge of the Larenas Peninsula
Larenas Peninsula High Ridge
Larenas Peninsula High Ridge 2
Larenas Peninsula High Ridge Close 3
Larenas Peninsula High Ridge Close 3
The craggy heights of the Larenas Peninsula
The craggy heights of the Larenas Peninsula are in the rear. On the right are Fresia Point (of the eponymous peninsula) and the entrance to Fjord Eloisa.
Larenas Peninsula High Ridge Closer 5
Larenas Peninsula High Ridge Closer 5

Entering Messier Channel from the Gulf of Penas

Sailing a deep fjord

Gulf of Penas
The Gulf of Penas is exposed to the storms of the western pacific. We are here moving from Aisen Region to the Magellan Region of Chile. Also known as Patagonia. This view is the Larenas Peninsula. The Northern Patagonian Ice Fields are on the other side of those mountains, the Southern Andes.

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Taken with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark3, the EF 70-300 f 4-5.6L IS USM lens, tripod mounted on a Manfrotto carbon fiber travel tripod.  UV filter  1/160 second at f 6.3 ISO 250.

There is a steady wind of about 12 mph driving a few white caps.  A line of surf is seen breaking against the cliffs.  Shot midmorning from our stateroom terrace as the Regatta cruises south, February 17, 2016.  We are headed to an encounter with the Iceberg Glacier of the Southern Ice Fields of Patagonia.

Photography conditions were poor: shooting into the sun from an unstable platform gives poor contrast for the mountain crags.  The stabilization of the Canon lens was helpful and I balanced the need for a short exposure with the lowest ISO possible.  No time to experiment.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Lighthouse on Cape Rapier

Skirting a dangerous cape of the western pacific ocean

While most of our fellow passengers were sleeping, as usual I woke at 5 am to pull the gear together, dress warmly, step out onto our magic window on the world.  Our decision to request a port side cabin continues to pay off.  The Cape Rapier lighthouse flashes every few seconds.  One of these shots caught the light.

Lighthouse on Cape Rapier
Since 1914 the lighthouse on Cape Rapier, Aysen Provence, Chile, has protected ships on the northern approach to the Gulf of Penas.

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Lighthouse Cape Rapier
Before dawn, February 17, 2016, the light protected us on the Oceania Regatta as we rounded Cape Rapier to enter the Gulf of Penas on route of the Messier Channel, the Fjords of Chile and an encounter with the Iceberg Glacier of Fjord Tempanos.

Gulf of Penas

Rounding the Aisen Headland

Entering Penas Gulf
Rounding the Aysen Region headland of the Penas Gulf. Next land will be the Magellian Region extending to Cape Horn. In the Penas Gulf we will enter the Messier Channel and the fjords.

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Taken with a tripod mounted Sony DSLR A 700 DT 18-200 variable lens set to 18 mm.  1/40 second at f4.5 ISO 6400.  The sun was still low, after sunrise with gathering storm clouds from the terrace of our state room (a moving ship).

Our early morning traverse of the Penas Gulf was smooth sailing in route for Tarn Bar, entrance to the Messier Channel. We’ll pass Wager Isle where May 14, 1741 the H.M.S. Wager wrecked, stranding the crew. Speaking to the conditions on board, immediately some of the crew broke into the “Spirit Room, got drunk, armed themselves and began looting, dressing up in officers’ clothes and fighting,” many drowning the next day when the Wager flooded and sank.

The original fronts piece to Byron’s Narrative; “Being an Account of the Shipwreck of The Wager and the Subsequent Adventures of Her Crew.”

The remaining 140 officers and crew manned the boat to make for shore in the Patagonian winter. Five years later, midshipman John Byron, grandfather to the poet Lord Byron, made it back to England with the Captain David Cheap. Just west of Wager Isle is the larger Byron Isle, named in his honor.

On this south heading our cabin on the port side faced east. In these early morning hours, I set up on the stateroom balcony, so for better or worse there is no views of either Wager or Byron Isle.

Entering Messier Channel from the Gulf of Penas is the next blog in this series.

Lighthouse on Cape Rapier is the previous blog in this series.

The contents of this blog are Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills

With and Without People

always without water

Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve

Getty requires a signed photo release for each human in a photograph.

For this, the single best overview from our time with the Pintado Geoglyphs, I carefully painted out every human figure, our fellow tourists.

Here are the versions with and without human figures.

Click any photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.

Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Geoglyph Panorama

Rain never falls here

Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve

Eternal high clouds that never yield water, we visited these hills just off the Pan American highway, to view shapes formed by moving stones.

The shapes are multifarious, mysterious and majestic. Hundreds of them, rendered for reasons known only to the makers.

I stitched together five images to yield an overall impression.

Click any photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.

Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Ghost of a Ghost Town

A place that exists because of water and a roa

Adolfo Tapia Live Here (?)

The Spanish word pintados translates to painted in English. There are many references to the word, in one it is a war loving tribe known for tattoos. Here, it is the name of a deserted town on an abandoned railroad running roughly parallel to the Pan American highway. As we passed through en route to Geoglifos de Pintados, I captured these shots of the ruined town.

The handprinted sign above the window, top photograph, says in translation, “Here lived the Adolfo Tapia Family, 1940-1956, F.F C.C. del Estado.” Searches on Adolfo Tapia turned up nothing, all we know is the sign attributes the designation to the state government.

The hill of the geoglyphs are the background, some of the figures are visible. There will be more in later posts.

The railroad served the many Saltpeter factories dotting the Tarapacá region. To my knowledge all were closed in the mid-20th century.

Click any photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.

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Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved