February 15, 2023
Here is our wonderful casino team on Valentine’s Day!
This morning, on our way to Ushuaia, I got some great shots of the snow covered Andes mountains as we sailed in the Beagle Channel. The Channel was named for the British ship, HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy during its maiden voyage surveying Tierra del Fuego. The weather changes frequently, and during my walk around the deck, it was cold and windy, then rainy, then the blue sky would once again reappear.
Our tour today was called “End of the World Train, Tierra Del Fuego National Park.” We arrived in Ushuaia at around 11 AM and our tour didn’t start until 1:15, so we had a nice lunch before setting out. We thought we would be taking a bus to the train and returning by catamaran, but it turned out to be just the opposite for our group. There were 8 ships in this port today, since it is the gateway city to Antarctica, and this is the prime time to visit there. Our guide said 8 ships on the same day has never happened before. And it did put a strain on all of the tours. Four of the ships were expedition ships like the one we sailed on when we went to Antarctica, and 4 were like ours, just doing a sailing without touching land or exploring by zodiac. Our sister ship, Marina, was also in port.
In any case, we boarded a large catamaran and sailed in the Beagle Channel for a LONG time! The guide had a microphone but between the noise of the passenger conversations, the low volume of the microphone and her Spanish accent, we didn’t get to hear too much of her comments. We saw many rocky islands with what resembled penguins but were actually Imperial Cormorants. There were also many sea lions just lying about on the rocky islands. The boat captain spent time circling the islands so we could all get pretty good views of the wildlife. You could go outside, but I was too cold to do so. Again, the weather changes minute by minute and it was rainy a lot of the time. so my pictures aren’t that great but you get the idea.
We also saw the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse. It is still in operation, is remote controlled, automated, uninhabited and not open to the public. It guards the sea entrance to Ushuaia. Electricity is supplied by solar panels. It was put into operation in 1920.
When we got to the place where the buses were to take us to the train, there were other groups there so we had to sail around the area for quite a while. We sat with friends Shari and Rob so we had our own conversations.
When we finally got to the train, we got headsets to listen to the commentary about the history of the train. Basically it was constructed to take prisoners from Ushuaia’s prison out to the open areas of Tierra Del Fuego to work. It was a pretty brutal existance for these prisoners. They also did most of the construction of the town’s public buildings, including building their own prison! Eventually the prison was shut down by Peron because of the cruelty.
Ushuaia is known as “the end of the world” and that is the name of the train journey. We made one stop at a station in the middle of the hour long trip. And it snowed part of the way.
After the train trip, we had a 20 minute bus ride back to the ship. We had a guide named Ana who gave us more information about the area. The temperature and weather conditions are pretty much the same here all year around due to the archipelago located between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Tierra Del Fuego means “land of “fire” due to the volcanic activity here years ago. It is an island and a protected National Park. It is too cold for snakes and other amphibians and mosquitos. The main animal here is the fox, but we didn’t see any of those.
We got back at 8 PM which was the time the ship was supposed to leave (a good reason to take ship sponsored tours), so they pulled out just minutes after we got back. We were very hungry so had a quick dinner, I had a shower and we went to the show which was “Broadway” by our entertainment team singers. It was very good.
Each night, one of the Antarctica expedition team gives a short overview of what to expect the next day. We will be in the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica and it can be very rocky. By all reports, it seems it won’t be too bad on the way there. The trip to Antarcica will take a day, then we have three days sailing in Admiralty Bay, Paradise Bay and Half Moon Bay in Antarctica and one day back in the Drake passage en route to the Falkland Islands.
This continues to be an amazing, fascinating voyage!!