Thinking about the Aran Islands for my posts, “Killeany Bouy” and “Inisheer Welcomes the 2014 Gaeltacht Irish Football champions” brought me back to Isla Mocha.
Herman Melville’s thoughts were in and around this island off the central Chilean coast when he penned “Moby Dick” in the mid-nineteenth century while sitting in the city of Boston. He was brought Moby Dick not only by his own experiences on a whaling ship, almost certainly Melville owned a copy of Jeremiah N. Reynolds’ “Mocha Dick: Or The White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal,” an true-life account of adventures around Isla Mocha. Sometime around 1810 Reynolds personally experienced encounters with Mocha Dick after the crew of an Antarctic expedition mutinied, stranding him at Valparaíso, Chile where he remained for two years.
Located 38°21’45.62″S, 73°55’6.91″W, around 8 miles in size north to south, 3.5 miles east to west Isla Mocha is surprisingly simple to find. A ridge of mountains run the north south axis, just 20 miles off the coast, a ship following the coast will find it easily, as I did from the balcony of the Oceania Regatta during a “sea day” of travel between Valparaiso and Puerto Montt.
Since waking that day I was on the lookout for Isla Mocha. In preparation for our month-long cruise around South America every mile of our itinerary was scoured for interesting sights, experiences and information. When I first learned of Isla Mocha (Mocha Island in English) and the connection with Melville reading about it in Boston, just as I was in Ithaca, one of my goals for that day was to catch sight of Isla Mocha as it rose from the horizon.
My goal was made easier for the cloud formation from the island mountains. Here is my first photograph, taken from our balcony on the port side. I chose the port side just for the landward view as the ship progressed southward on the western coast of South America. The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III was tripod mounted with an EF 70-300 f4-5.6L variable lens set to 70 mm. We are northwest of the island with the coast just visible.
Another view with 188 mm focal length. The ship must have turned eastward, as the view progressed the island came closer. It was a fantastic thought to cruise above the subduction zone where the Nazca plate dives beneath the South American Plate. In the distance, on a clear day, the volcanic cones Villarrea and Quertrupillan are visible.
With the island due east, only a few miles away, the lens at 221 mm focal length. A fisherman is having an easier day in a calm sea. The indigenous people told stories of the souls of the dead travelling west to Isla Mocha. Pirates used the island as a resupply base. The fishing boat was the only sign of life.
That was February 14th Valentine’s Day. With Isla Mocha passing into the distance I changed for an evening with Pam. Here we are headed to dinner, somewhere off the coast of Chile’s Lakes (and volcano) region.