precariously on the slick edge of an inflatable zodiac boat,
I grip the thick anchored rope behind me tightly.
One loose flip of the boat, and I could tumble
backwards into the frigid waters of the Beagle Channel!
why worry about an accident like that at a spectacular
moment such as this!
around me massive icebergs jut out of the freezing channel
waters surrounding our tiny black boat. At first, I am
startled by the ominous squeaks and crunching sounds I hear
as we slide over the ice. A huge colony of Magallenic
penguins eye us curiously from their rookery on the rocky
beach nearby, and a colony of lazy fur seals doze on the
rocks of the barren cliffs that rise up sharply from the
narrow channel waters.
can't believe I've finally made it.
Here I am in the southernmost region of Patagonia in
Chile. I am drifting on the same waters that Ferdinand
Magellan explored over five hundred years ago in 1520 on his
legendary search for a path to the Indies. As if that isn't
enough, Sir Francis Drake navigated these same waters in
1578, and the naturalist Charles Darwin and his ship, the
Beagle, navigated here
in 1830-- and this channel is named for this ship.
years I have pictured myself coming to this, one of the most
remote spots on the globe.
I had set my sights on seeing Torres del Paine in
Chile some day but until this moment had not managed the
call Torres del Paine one of the most inaccessible and
beautiful mountain regions in the world. It is a spectacular
natural environment, covering over 700 miles at the southern
tip of the Andes Mountains in Chile.
Established as a national park in 1959, Torres was
declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. Today,
it still harbors one of the planet's most pristine
environments---mammoth glaciers of blue ice, emerald green
lakes, towering snow-covered peaks, and dry desolate steppes
where ebony-faced guanacos still roam.
knows how long this dramatic landscape of glaciers, granite
mountains and fjords will remain unchanged before global
warming or its rising tides of tourists encroach
disastrously on the natural beauty? I've
dreamed of spending time here before that happens, and I
almost achieved this goal just six years ago-- and failed.
Recently, I decided I could wait no longer.