The strait of Magellan was a mythical place for me, a synonym of the end of the world and ancient legends. When we arrived in Punta Arenas in Chile, in front of the strait of Magellan it took me some time to fully realize where I was. And once I realized I had a deep feeling of excitement imagining the first sailors crossing these waters leading to the Pacific Ocean.
Punta Arenas is hosting the national Antarctic programs of 20 countries and plans to seat a major Antarctica scientific research hub. The objective is that at least 1,000 scientists settle in the region.
Many Antarctic expeditions left from Punta Arenas. For example, recently, Bethany Jenkins, associate professor of cell and molecular biology, led a 37 days excursion to study the biology of diatoms. It is a microscopic alga that is essential to the ocean’s role in regulating global climate.
From Punta Arenas we went on one touristic excursion in Tierra del Fuego to see the king penguins. They are the second largest penguin, just after the emperor penguin. I never saw before king penguins in their natural environment and that was THE opportunity for me. After crossing the Strait of Magellan and 2 hours ride we finally could observe a small colony of 70 penguins. The colony was divided into two groups just 50 meters from us. Despite the cold (still, since Puerto Montt we are not in the most tropical parts of the world), I enjoyed this encounter a lot. To add more magic to the moment, some chicks could be seen.
These birds are extremely slow on the ground, therefore they are easy targets for the foxes, present in Tierra de Fuego. On the opposite, they are great swimmers go regularly 100 meters deep with some birds observed at 300 meters deep.
The fauna in this area, despite the arid landscapes, is extremely diverse. It is interesting to see such a different environment just a few weeks after being in the lush forest of Iguazu. Our journey will continue toward the north and another change of landscapes. It will be soon more mountainous.