Our wifi down here at the end of the world in Tierra del Fuego (the land of fire) has been horrid, so today’s blog entry has to do triple duty. The top section reflects February 8th; the centre section (below the blowing wind graphic) is February 9th; the last section is today, February 10th.
February 8, 2022. 49°F/10°C
While bunkering (taking on fuel) at anchor in Punta Arenas two nights ago, the winds picked up to 35 knots (65 kph) around midnight, which meant that the fuelling process had to be interrupted. 97,743 gallons of fuel were successfully loaded, but that was only about half of what the Captain wanted. We don’t need the fuel to reach our next destination, but he wanted the extra weight as we prepare to round Cape Horn.
As a result, we headed into the Beagle Channel for a “technical stop” in Ushuaia to take on more fuel: 95,102 more gallons, according to Captain Olaf, who is always happy to be specific about these things. Argentina is not accepting cruise ships for any other reasons, so we all remained on board.
When we came through the fjords three days ago to visit the glaciers, it was smooth cruising. Not as much early yesterday. Even in this protected area an impending storm system created winds of up to 35 knots (65 kph). There were significant swells until mid-morning, when the winds seemed to shift course, leaving the rest of the day perfectly calm.
Ho hum, just another stunningly beautiful glacier. What a wonderful world we live in.
This glacier above is on Tierra del Fuego, in the northwest branch of the Beagle Channel north of Gordon Island. To give a sense of scale on the three pictures above, the kayakers are in all 3 photos. They are so tiny in comparison to the glacier that they cannot be seen with the naked eye when the photo included the entire glacial wall. Where we are is just absolutely spectacular!
Early last evening we got a rainbow, and hoped that was an omen of good weather and calm seas.
Sadly, yesterday we also got the unwelcome news that after weeks of zero Covid cases on board, we now have one positive. The “victim” (or, as the Captain quickly corrected himself, the “patient”) is “in custody” in quarantine, and contact tracing has identified a couple of people who have been put in 10 day “preventive quarantine “.
We’re due to dock in Montevideo Uruguay on February 13th and all have our fingers crossed that this single case will not prevent the Uruguayan authorities from allowing us to disembark for excursions.
Our itinerary showed us continuing south and rounding Cape Horn. BUT… as of mid morning yesterday there were hurricane force winds of 65 mph (100kph) around the Cape. As we are regularly reminded, Viking’s mantra is: “the safety of our passengers is our first priority.” The decision as to whether we round the Horn or take an alternate route would be made ad hoc, depending on actual weather conditions.
While the Captain and the Navigator concern themselves with our route options, Ted and I had a lovely dinner and good conversation with the Bradleys, and enjoyed the evening’s live entertainment: soprano Tanya Roberts, born in Ottawa, raised in Toronto, and a graduate of McGill. She gave a great performance, making us Canadians proud – despite the fact that she now resides in New York City and Puerto Rico.
February 9, 2022. 51°F/11°C
This morning at 9:30, the Captain announced that we had optimal conditions – which is anything that doesn’t include rain, snow, or gale force winds – and would indeed be circumnavigating Hornos Island.
(Factoids from Wikipedia: Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island. Although not the most southerly point of South America, Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and marks where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. Cape Horn was discovered and first rounded in 1616 by the Dutchman Willem Schouten and Belgian Jacob Le Maire, whom named it Kaap Hoorn after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands.
Captain Olaf warned us all to be careful if we ventured out on deck to take photos, because of strong winds as we go around the island in a counterclockwise direction, but the earlier threat of hurricane force winds has passed. The wind today is at about 35 knots/65 kph, just barely within the range for gale force winds (34-47 knots). It really doesn’t get much better here. Plus, given that it either rains or snows on 270+ days per year, we were incredibly lucky to have a mostly sunny day.
Here’s the route we took today (the zoom buttons don’t work in the blog; they were part of the television screen when I took the photo)
Our Assistant Cruise Director, Damian, got some great shots of the Cape Horn lighthouse, and kindly airdropped them to those of us sitting near him on Deck 7. Isn’t technology great?
The lighthouse keeper lives here with his wife and 3 small children. Once a year they receive provisions, as well as a milk cow and several hens, but that’s likely all the face-to-face contact they’ll have with the outside world in the entire year. One has to think that this is a family who were uniquely suited for the isolation required of most of us during Covid.
Proof (above) that Ted was on the ship rounding Cape Horn. That’s Hornos Island in the background. According to maritime tradition, Ted is now entitled to wear a gold hoop earring in his left ear, and put one foot up on the table when dining. I’m assuming the latter only applies on board a ship or in a sailors’ pub!
So, the answer to the question of rounding or not rounding the Cape was an unequivocal YES! (And, our passports were all stamped at Cape Horn, so we’ll both have proof we were there!)
Last evening’s entertainment was a classical piano concert by Enrico Agudo, who is the keyboard player for the Viking Band. He performed sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Grieg, as well as accompanying the heart wrenching vocals of Annalyn singing “On My Own” from Les Miserables. We knew Enrico was good, but until tonight had no idea he was a classical piano virtuoso. We now wonder who else in the band is hiding a secret passion.
February 10, 2022. 50°F/10°C
Around 8:30 this morning we were cruising between mainland Argentina and the Falkland Islands. We still have 2 more sea days as we make our way past Argentina to reach our stop in Uruguay.
We’ll be attending lectures, reading, enjoying all the great food, and taking in the evening musical performances, but there won’t be another blog Episode until we reach Montevideo, unless Ted manages to cull his bird pictures AND the wifi speed picks up.
As always, thank you for following along !