Chilean Fjords – Glacier Alley
From Ushuaia, the Oceania Marina set off toward Puerto Chacabuco along the Beagle Channel for our Chilean Fjords Glacier Alley experience. The weather was cold, cloudy and rainy – a typical summer day at the End of the Earth. Glacier Alley is really the western section of the Beagle Channel. The glaciers started appearing around dinner time. We sat in the front lounge and watched the glaciers go by. All of them were on the northern side of the ship, because they are more protected from the sun there.
The Holanda or Holand Glacier was the first to appear. It comes down into its own glacial lake, but it’s hard to see because this glacier doesn’t reach the sea. A few minutes later we passed the Italy or Italia Glacier. This is a tidewater glacier that makes it all the way down to the sea in one solid mass. Next came the Romance Glacier. The Romance Glacier covers the top of the mountain. Exposed rock extends below the glacier. A series of twisting waterfalls cascades from the glacier over the rocks and down to the sea. We were close enough to see the flow of water. It’s amazing that there’s any glacier left at all after you see how much water it releases every second.
After the Romanche Glacier is a very narrow fjord that we weren’t able to navigate. Smaller ships like the Australis Cruises use zodiacs to reach the Pia Glacier on this fjord. Our glacier viewing was well planned by the captain, because we saw Glacier Alley before the sun set.
Chilean Fjords – Open Seas
That evening the Oceania Marina left the Beagle Channel and entered the rough seas of the Pacific. Many of the passengers were sea sick during our brief venture into the open seas. Rough seas at night are like a trip to Disneyland’s Space Mountain, but the ride just keeps going and going without an end in sight. After a few hours we cut back into the sheltered waters of the Chilean Fjords.
Chilean Fjords – Amalia Glacier
The next full day we cruised the calm waters of the Chilean Fjords. Hour after hour the shoreline was green forests and peaks with dustings of snow. All day long we never saw a sign of civilization. It’s amazing how isolated this area is. At the end of the day we reached the Amalia Glacier. The Oceania Marina cruised right up to the glacier. The ship then did of full turn to provide views from every point on the ship’s deck. The Amalia Glacier is only a few miles from the Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine, but there is no direct access between the two of the two glaciers. You have to travel by ship around the tip of South America to view them both.
Chilean Fjords – Puerto Montt
The next day our cruise stopped farther north at the San Raphael Glacier and then in the morning we arrived at Puerto Chacabuco. This area has much less snowfall and glaciation. The day after that we arrived in Puerto Montt, which marks the northern end of the Chilean Fjords. Puerto Montt also marked the end of the wintery chill of Patagonia on our voyage.