After a good dinner, an evening of pleasant conversation with our fellow cruisers and a good night’s sleep aboard the Australis, we found ourselves in Ainsworth Bay, in the Tierra del Fuego region of Chile. The area is part of the protected lands of Alberto de Agostini National Park. Ainsworth Bay is a fjord fed by the meltwater of the nearby Marinelli Glacier, itself part of the larger Darwin Ice Field.
We boarded the zodiacs and were zipped to shore, where in small groups of about 10-12 we were lead by a guide through a subpolar Patagonian coastal rainforest.
The weather was highly changeable. When we landed it was gently drizzling, but after a while the rain broke and soon the sun poked out briefly. The landscapes are quite lovely, but daylight changes the atmosphere of the place.
The vegetation was unlike anything I’d seen before, with many interesting plants (the names of which I can’t remember). We spent several hours exploring the ecosystem. Among the first stops was a large peat bog where a trickle of water coming down a rockface fed mosses and thick vegetation. We followed the stream from this rock face onto a clearing, where we had nice views of the mountain, including some with distant waterfalls.
Especially striking was the orange-red growth of lichens on the rocks. Quite lovely really. We worked our way back to Ainsworth Bay, enjoying the scenery as we hiked. Another striking aspect of the landscape was this large open space beside the Bay which had a colorful growth of an orange clover-like wildflower.
We were told that some groups could encounter wildlife, like beaver and seals, but we didn’t see anything except birds.
I later did a little research on this region and learned that it has a subpolar oceanic climate. Summers are short and cool and winters are long but relatively mild, the temperature on the coast averaging about 0 °C (32 °F) in winter. Precipitation averages 300 cm (118 in) along the coast and decreases quickly the further inland you go. It can snow any time of the year.
As we departed by Zodiac for the Australis, the weather had cleared enough so that we could appreciate the view of the Marinelli Glacier.
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