The high mountains could be seen far away
The border between the glacier water and the salt water as we approach the glacier.
On November 9 we had the alarm clock set for six o'clock. We had a plan, if weather permitted, to make a detour of about 15 nautical miles, apart from the 15 miles to get to the point for the detour, to the north to visit a glacier. If we left early we would make it there and to a Caleta close by the glacier. The glacier were according to the guide book supposed to be one of the most spectacular ones since it was broad and reached all the way down to the canal, in spite of its unromantic name of Pio Eleven. It was part of the huge ice cap covering a large part of the interior Patagonia. It is the third largest ice cap area in the world after Antarctica and Greenland.
We casted off all the lines we tied to the dock in the blow, including the ones we had doubled up for the boat inside us, and sneaked out of the harbor which was silence apart from a rooster giving a morning call. There was a weak southerly breeze and some scattered clouds, but it all looked promising. Soon the wind died completely and the clouds disappeared and one of the very rare days in Patagonia emerged with clear blue sky and not a breath of air. We motored through canals were we could see the mirror reflections of spectacular mountain ridges in the water without even a ripple. It was breath taking and we were just grateful for what the show that Mother Nature was presenting before our eyes.
Love at first sight
Apart from the beautiful sceneries the tide was with us so we made good time. So if we were to visit the glacier, today was a very good day indeed. The excitement was growing as we approached the corner where we would turn north towards the glacier, and hopefully get our first glance. We were not disappointed. It looked small from a distance but we knew anyway that it was enormous; we still had over ten miles to go. Soon we saw a couple of penguins in the water which brought our mood up even more. But that was only the start. Before we knew it we were surrounded by dolphins who clustered by the bow riding the bow wake of Artemisia II. They followed us more or less the whole way up to the glacier, sometimes taking off on a detour only to return minutes after. It was a picture perfect day.
The closer we got to the glacier the more we understood how immense it was. It was not only wide, it was following the valley inland for as long as you could see. As we went north up in the canal towards the glacier the small ice bergs that had broken off the glacier became more frequent. The shapes of each ice bit changed constantly as the angle towards it changed. It was as they were living sculptures. About half way up the canal there was a sharp line where the water change color from greenish to more blueish, this were where the fresh water from the glacier dominated. As we got really close the wind picked up as well, now blowing from the north – from the glacier. It had to have been a type of the land breeze affect were the cold air from glacier was sucked in to replace the air warmed up and rising by the sun radiating at the surrounding land.
Another effect of the sun we soon noticed when we were less than a mile from the glacier. With a thundering noise you heard the calving of the glacier. It was happening in quite a rapid pace and from the area where the glacier was resting on water, not on land. And it happened often enough that if you looked in that direction, you could see pieces of the edge fall in the water with a huge plunge and afterwards hear the noise. Milo, who has some ice experience from earlier trips to Antarctica with Greenpeace, decided that it was not a good idea to get too close the wall of the glacier, which was towering between 50 and 100 meters straight up. We kept a respectfully distance from the edge and just enjoyed the powerful view. We also decided for me to go down in the dinghy with camera equipment (I have a water tight back pack) to take photos while Milo was navigating the boat around me.
We had a hard time to tear ourselves away from the spectacular surrounding. We could not only see the impressive glacier but also mountain ridges and tops over 4 000 meter high that under normal Patagonian conditions are covered in clouds or a haze. But we had to get to our Caleta before dark so slowly we saw the glacier disappear behind a point as we headed towards our anchorage, and the wind again went down to almost nothing. For the first time we opted to change our chosen Caleta since we thought it was to open. There was another one on the opposite side of the canal that gave better protection from winds all around since it felt a bit uncertain. The predictions were northwest but it was still a light breeze from the south. So after close to 50 nautical miles we reached our anchorage, Bahia Elisabeth. It was a beautiful Caleta but it was hard to appreciate all its glory in relation to what we had experience. Not even an appearance from a sea utter helped.
The following day started off with still a rare day with clear skies and little wind. And we again passed by the glacier on our way south again, this time without stopping. Slowly it disappeared behind us as the dolphins came to greet us again to check if we had enjoyed what we saw. And nature showed off a couple of spectacular water falls with drops of over fifty meters to make sure we would remember the time at Pio eleven.
We could not have asked for a better start but after checking the barometer we started to worry. It was falling rapidly, about 2 millibars an hour, which was an indication for increasing wind. And we would get more wind, right on the nose from the south. A direction that is unusual and which made the trip uncomfortable and a Caleta with good protection hard to find, but more on that subject in next entry.