Nope, we’re not talking about Snoopy or that breed of dog. We’re not talking about the ship Darwin made famous either. Well, maybe a little. The Beagle Channel is actually named after the ship Darwin sailed in. But it had a history before Darwin’s voyage started in 1831.
The Beagle Channel was named after the HMS Beagle during the ship’s first hydrographic survey of the channel. During that voyage the ship’s captain committed suicide and Captain Robert FitzRoy took the helm and finished the survey.
The channel itself is a challenge to navigate and the only way a large ship can pass through its waters is with a Chilean captain at the helm. Even then accidents still happen due to rapidly changing conditions. There are a couple of sayings in Patagonia which allude to how rapidly the weather can change. You can experience all four seasons in one day and if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.
We ventured out twice on the channel on the same day. In the morning the wind blew, it rained and heavy swells tossed the ship about. Anyone who was brave enough to leave the warm cozy confines of the cabin would have surely been soaked from the waves breaking over the bow. We weren’t completely certain we were going to go on the afternoon cruise.
However we decided to test the 15 minute saying and sure enough, we got the summer season that afternoon. The Beagle Channel went from waves breaking over the bow of the ship to being as smooth as glass. It was simply amazing. As a result of our bravery (foolhardiness?) we were rewarded with two fantastic experiences in one day.
You’ve already enjoyed the penguins photos from an earlier post – now you get to see the Beagle Channel in all its glory. Majestic snowcapped mountains flank each side of the channel. On the trip we saw cormorants (a penguin cousin that can still fly) and sea lions. We also cruised by Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world and a rusting wreck of a ship that ran aground.