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Aim, Focus, Shoot - The HyPyC blog
Boat trip on the Beagle Channel – An encounter with Fur Seals and Cormorants

Boat trip on the Beagle Channel – An encounter with Fur Seals and Cormorants

On the First leg of my epic Antarctic journey, I travelled to Ushuaia which is considered to be the southernmost city in the world. This small town can be found on the tip of Tierra del Fuego at the southern end of Argentina. Surrounded on one side by the mighty Martial mountain range, the town hugs the coastline closely and is the starting point for cruise ships departing for the white continent. To reach the turbulent waters of the Drakes Passage, and then on to Antarctica, the Beagle Channel must first be traversed – This stretch of water serves as the gateway to the southern Antarctic ocean and provides a scenic and calm period of sailing before the relative chaos of the aforementioned Drakes passage.

Setting off from Ushuaia onto the Beagle Channel

Before I set sail for Antarctica, I took a boat trip on the Beagle Channel and explored the various islands that can be found here – The tour was memorable and offered me some fantastic wildlife sightings while showing me the beautiful landscapes of this rugged stretch of water.

Setting off from Ushuaia onto the Beagle Channel

The Beagle Channel – The passage to Antarctica

The Beagle Channel is a strait in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago that spans both Chile and Argentina. This stretch of water splits the Isla Grande from the smaller islands of Picton, Nueva and Lennox. This channel, together with the Strait of Magellan the Drakes Passage, forms the three navigable passages between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Charles Darwin visited this stretch of water during his expeditions in the 1800's and sailed through the strait on the HMW Beagle, hence the channels name. Many ships set sail from Ushuaia and travel through the Beagle Channel to reach the Falkland islands and then on to Antarctica.

Sailing out onto the Beagle Channel Moving away from the Southernmost City in the world, Ushuaia Heading out into uncharted waters The Argentinian flag flies proudly Fur seals lounge on the rocky islands The life of a Fur seal - Pure bliss The Martial mountains loom in the background Looking out towards the Les Eclaireurs Lightouse The last lightouse you will see before reaching Antarctica

Sailing on the Beagle Channel

There are several tour providers who run boat trips on the Beagle Channel and I chose the "" operator. The boat tour was reasonably priced and the guide was friendly and informative – He provided a great amount of information about the Beagle Channel and its history. The boat set off from the main port area in Ushuaia and we set out into the strait. The tour was fantastic and I saw some amazing sights which are listed below.

A rocky island covered in strange orange moss and mould

Imperial Cormorants - I had never seen a huge nesting of birds before and this spectacle blew me away. Imperial Shags or Cormorants nest in the Beagle Channel and I was lucky enough to witness hundreds of the birds doing so during this boat trip. The noise from the birds was tremendous and I was taken away by the sheer amount of nests and animals present. I saw these birds again in Antarctica and the distinctive blue ring around their eyes was unmistakable.

Hundreds of Imperial Cormorants nest on the islands

Fur Seals - Another first for me - Until this point in time I had only ever seen a Seal or an aquatic animal in a zoo! As we approached several of the smaller rocky islands in the Beagle Channel we could see many dark shapes on the rocks. As we drew closer, it was apparent that they were Fur Seals! I was overjoyed to see these pinipeds up close and will treasure the memory forever. The Seals had wonderful brow fur coats and simply lounged in the sun without a care in the world. Several of the Seals did swim into the water close to the boat, but for the mainstay they were content watching us from their rocky perch. We even managed to see a couple of baby Fur Seals that exhibited a lighter brown coat and never strayed far from their mothers.

Fur Seals and their pups lay basking in the sun

Walking tour of one of the islands - I didn't expect this part of the tour, but we actually got to set foot on one of the larger islands in the Beagle Channel and learn about the flora and fauna present here. The boat pulled up on a beach full of stones that was sheltered from the current. We walked onto the island and enjoyed a pleasant hike through the rugged terrain. The wind was fierce but the amazing scenery made up for it. I took one of my favourite photos from Ushuaia on this island that displayed the true wild nature of this part of the world. Our guide gave us some fantastic knowledge about the plantlife here and the patches of green moss that sprung up on the rocks.

Walking through the shrubs and wild landscapes of the islands

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse - This is considered to be the southernmost lighthouse in the world and stands on one of the smaller Les Eclaireurs islands. The lighthouse stands at 11m high and is painted in the standard red and white pattern. I managed to take some fantastic photos of this lighthouse and I found it a truly intriguing structure. To think that this is one of the most southern lighthouses in the world was an awe-inspiring thought. I wondered what ships had passed this structure and used its light to guide them to safety.

The southernmost Lighthouse in the world!

These sights were all truly fantastic and made for a memorable boat trip. We spent what felt like hours on the water and made great headway into the Beagle Channel. I was wrapped up and even though the sun was beaming down, the temperature was still low and the air felt fresh and alive. As my first taste of this extreme part of the world and as a pre-adventure before the wilderness of Antarctica, the Beagle Channel really amazed me. If you are lucky enough to travel to this remote part of the world, ensure that you make your own journey to explore this remarkable stretch of water.

My favourite photo from the Beagle Channel boat tour
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