We cruised for 3 days on the Mare Australis, out of Ushuaia Argentina.
The Mare Australis is 235 feet long, 44 feet wide and was built in 2002. It holds 129 passengers and 40 crew.
We flew from Santiago to Ushuaia, Argentina which claims to be the southern most city in the world - we boarded Mare Australis for our 3 night cruise to Cape Horn and through the Beagle Channel and Strait of Magellan....here´s the route:
Here's a shot taken at the Ushuaia port - Holland America's Rotterdam was in port that day - good comparison of size of the ships!
Following are a few shots of the interior of the ship - the dining room, the bar, our cabin which had a nice big window, and our bathroom (functional, clean and lots of hot water - we comment alot about hot water, don't we!!??)
“All Inclusivo” – the God of Tourism – has smiled on our trip to date – and particularly at Cape Horn. We rounded the world’s most infamous transit in perfect weather – sunshine and calm seas. (Normally our cruise takes the inside passage - the last time they actually transited the Cape was last November). Below, Liz and Dick with Cape Horn in the background and a shot from our ship of what has been the graveyard of at least 800 vessels. It’s just a hunk of rock, but we were moved.
If you want more extreme cruising, here’s a 50’ steel sloop that had just sailed from Antarctica – the crew looked tired!
You see us at Cape Horn. What is more interesting is what the cruise people have to do to get us there.
First of all we have to dress up like Gumby. Rubber pants, waterproof jackets, orange life jackets, gloves, hats, cameras wrapped in plastic bags. Then we get on to the zodiacs – awkwardly! The Mare Australis has 6 zodiacs:
To go ashore, the crew of our ship transport a steel dock which they put in place so we tourists don’t get our feet wet (this is not the sun drenched Galapagos). The water is 5 degrees Celsius – if you fall in your life expectancy is 15 minutes. When we disembark from the zodiacs they have 2 staff in the water (in wet suits) in case one of us takes a swim. Their sense of safety is impressive.
They also have two one-man zodiacs that act as “outriders” when we cruised the fjords in the large zodiacs – they ride alongside in case anyone falls off the passenger zodiacs.
Life for a guy does not get better than being a zodiac driver.
The chips on the zodiac props were are not the result of rocks – it’s the ice in the fjords which makes much noise when you go over a small berg.
One amusing by product of landings is that in order to “de-Gumbiate” the passengers all leave their life jackets as a temporary orange day-glo graffito on the harsh landscape.
One of the joys of the cruise was the porpoises. They come leaping out of the side fjords like welcoming puppies. Easily outrunning our ship, they surf in the wake – it was pure exuberance (photos are a little hard to make out).
Tierra del Fuego is the land God gave to Cain, but it is hauntingly beautiful, as hopefully captured in the following portraits.
Next, glacier gazing….what we came for and we weren’t disappointed on our trips to the ice falls of 3 glaciers – 2 actually, since the third glacier has retreated from the fjord, believed to be a result of global warming. The blue of the ice (about 100-150 years old) is perfect – bracketing the ice fronts are numerous art-directed waterfalls and a large number of birds roosting next to the ice.
Setting the mood is one thing we can’t share – the sound of the constant clatter of small shards falling into the sea, punctuated by the snare drum crashes of larger floes.
Then a long term dream…..walking with the penguins – 120,000 of them! They are cute, fearless, and simply adorable. They go about their own business and have little concern for ours.
Humans are allowed to walk on roped paths. When the penguins cross, you must stop – but who wouldn’t to watch miniature butlers out for a stroll. Pairs live in burrows and there is much affectionate mutual greeting.
One thing that surprised us was how far inland some of them have to walk to their burrows. Waterfront property is clearly prime in the penguin world too!