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Penguins at Punto Arenas

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Guest bloggers Russ and Susan Rosenberry are owners of Islands in the Sun Cruises and Tours. You can find the original blog from their 2008 cruise around South American here, or visit the company’s website at


Dec. 12 — We joined most passengers and many crew members in rising early to enjoy a day ashore in Punta Arenas, (Sandy Point) Chile. This port city had a quite busy past as a key port of call for ships sailing around South America before the opening of the Panama Canal. Large sheep ranches (estancias) were also developed in the 1800’s and some are still operating today. In fact on our drive to Ottway Bay to see the Magellenic Penguins we were able to witness some gauchos on horseback with their dogs herding their sheep. And yes, a visit to the Penguin colony about 40 miles from Punta Arenas was one of the most popular shore excursion choices. We got to see many of these very ‘social’ penguins coming and going from their burrows, and gathering on the beach and frolicking in the ocean. Another treat was seeing South American Condors flying in the wild.

After returning to the city center we then found a restaurant by the harbor for Russ to sample several variations of the local King Crab – ‘centolla’ – it passed his quality control with high marks. We also enjoyed seeing many of the historic Victorian style buildings and a lovely town square where many local craftsmen were selling their wares.

Dec. 13 — The fantastic scenery of the Chilean and Argentinian Fjords has been non-stop. Daylight (before 6:00 a.m.) brought a continuation of the beautiful snow-capped mountain scenery as our ship threaded through the fjords and then entered the famous Beagle Channel. ‘Beagle’ was the name of the ship that Charles Darwin sailed on for several years during his South America explorations. Numerous alpine hanging glaciers were seen and many tidewater and melting glaciers as well as waterfalls. Most of these glaciers are named after various countries.

We then arrived at Ushuaia, Argentina around noon. This small city is nestled on a large harbor and sheltered by the mountains and glaciers. Many tour opportunities were offered and we chose to take a three hour tour to ‘Tierra Del Fuego National Park’ where we were treated to splendid views across the Beagle Channel, the scenic and wave-crested Roco Lake and other areas of interest. We then enjoyed time for shopping, sightseeing and dining in this town which claims to be at the ‘end of the world – where life begins’. Russ again was happy to sample the local ‘Centolla’ – King Crab and Susan enjoyed the famed Argentian beef steak and local Malbec wine.

Ushuaia also has a fairly large airport and is the ‘jumping off point’ for many tourist and scientific expeditions to Antarctica, and to the southern regions of wild Patagonia. The buildings and houses are quite an eclectic mix of many styles — some reminiscent of the Swiss Alps — although many built from corrugated iron in many colors, complete with ‘gingerbread’ type decorations.

Dec. 14 — Although not a port day, this morning was certainly one of the highlights of the cruise, and another ‘world class geographic landmark’ – sailing around ‘Cape Horn’. Cape Horn is the southern most point of South America and originally named after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands by Dutch sailors. (All passengers and crew are now ‘mossbacks’ after making this passage.) It’s the northern most point of the Drake Passage and just a few hundred miles from Antarctica.

At certain times of year these waters can be rough and hazardous, but on a late Spring morning like this the waters were very calm and only a light breeze was blowing. The partial cloudiness also broke into bright sunshine and it was a great morning to take photos from your balcony or the upper decks. Our port lecturer gave pertinent commentary for about an hour and a half during our circumnavigation of the Cape Horn island. The rocky island is partially covered by grasses and mosses and some amazing rock formations are situated at the island’s edges. On such a clear day the ‘Albatross’ monument erected to the memory of sailors who have lost their lives was also very visible. After this glorious morning, we began sailing in a northeasternly direction toward the Falkland Islands.