Inside Passage

We’re halfway down Chile’s equivalent of the Alaskan inside passage, threading our way through the archipelago that cuts Chilean Patagonia off from the rest of the country. Chile itself is defined by the Andes, rising so precipitously to the east that less than a hundred miles from our position, the glaciers are so vast that maps simply indicate that its border with Argentina here is “indeterminate.”

The vast maze of islands here are, in a way, just a portion of the Andes whose separation from their fellow peaks begins below sea level, but they are no less rugged or beautiful. And while they shelter the inside passage from the worst of the weather, they are a maze, with a thousand false passages and dead ends that tricked and stymied navigators for centuries. Ultima Esperenza, to the south, bears its name from navigator Juan Ladrillon, who in 1557 bet on it as his last chance of finding the way east into the Strait of Magellan. Like all the others, it ended in glacial icefall.

We have the benefit of GPS and over 400 years of maps since, and know that the secret, at least to this part of the labyrinth, is the English Narrows. a nearly-hidden keyhole of an opening that the navigational charts admonish must only be taken in daylight, and under a slack tide.

But I last left you in Valparaíso, with me having been delivered to the ship under police escort. Right? Alas, there’s not much to tell since then: mostly I’ve been below deck, coding away on the new data acquisition system for all my waking hours. We did have a couple of lovely evenings in town, though, exploring the winding lanes and vivid, omnipresent street art that makes the city a UNESCO heritage site. Spectacular seafood, of course, and the friendly, quirky vibe you might expect from somewhere like Portland, where people are judicious in choosing what they intend to take seriously.

Aside from one gloriously blue day on our initial “outside” part of the southbound journey, the weather has been wet and dreary, driven by the abundant Pacific moisture that gets backed up against the Andes to our east. So few pictures, I’m afraid. I’ll plan to post again when we’re through the Narrows, which is supposed to be a spectacular little passage. Rumor is that there’s a Virgin Mary statue on one side of the channel, and that the custom is to throw coins at her for good luck. I’ll keep you posted.

Below, some Valparaíso pics.

View from the bow of the NBP

Town is all about “up”

There are dozens of funiculars (funiculara?) all over, some of them more than 100 years old

Some old friends from last year’s AMLR cruise

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