Exploring the Patagonian Fjordlands: A Hike in Tierra del Fuego

 

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.

01 Ainsworth BayAinsworth Bay

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. 

02a Ainsworth Bay

02b Ainsworth Bay

03 Ainsworth Bay

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.

04 Ainsworth Bay

The vegetation was unlike anything I'd seen before, with many interesting plants (the names of which I can't remember).  

08 Ainsworth Bay

09 Ainsworth Bay

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.  

11 Ainsworth Bay

12 Ainsworth Bay

15 Ainsworth Bay

We followed the stream from this rock face onto a clearing, where we had nice views of the mountain, including some with distant waterfalls.

16 Ainsworth Bay

18 Ainsworth Bay

19 Ainsworth Bay

Especially striking was the orange-red growth of lichens on the rocks.  Quite lovely really.

21 Ainsworth Bay

23 Ainsworth Bay

We worked our way back to Ainsworth Bay, enjoying the scenery as we hiked.

24 Ainsworth Bay

26 Ainsworth Bay

27 Ainsworth Bay

29 Ainsworth Bay

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.   

32 Ainsworth Bay

34 Ainsworth Bay

35 Ainsworth Bay

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.

38 Ainsworth Bay

40 Ainsworth Bay

41 Ainsworth Bay

(next post in 2 weeks: The Birds of Tucker's Islet)

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Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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