The Ferry from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams | Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Conservation Program

The Ferry from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams

Tired and anxious of how we would spend our next couple of days, not one person in the group had a clue of what to expect. Was it covered? Would there be seats? Did a bathroom exist? What about food and water?

Just before 6 p.m., our bus dropped us off at the port and we finally boarded the Chilean "broom" (a.k.a. ferry). After throwing our packs in the storage room we at last had an opportunity to scout out what would be our home for the next 40 hours. While it was, by no means, a Holiday Inn, it was definitely better than we had been led to expect. Our beds would be the upright chairs bolted inside our small enclosure, with four portholes about a half-foot in diameter dotting the wall. What was lacking in amenities and conveniences, the Beagle Channel's awe-inspiring scenery made up for it.

A sky filled with colossal rainbows and graceful birds such as cormorants and albatross provided a beautiful backdrop for our adventures. Because the cabin, which seated around 20 passengers, was small and cramped, our group spent most of the trip on deck, trying to capture the moment with film and journal entries, making new friends from different parts of the globe, and learning the art of yerba mate drinking.

As we unsuccessfully combed the water for signs of blue whales, we began a game of tag with a family of sea lions who chased after us down the channel. When our broom finally drifted past the first glimmering blue glacier, named after Italy, tension and excitement peaked and had a constant growth as we then passed the German and French glaciers and continued down the channel. When it started getting dark around 11:30, the stars seemed to shine almost as bright as the moon; even when it was dark, it was never actually dark. The steady rocking of the vessel kept most of us at least half-awake, listening for a call to come on deck and gaze at a new wonder.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had the right idea when they wrote the song "Southern Cross," inspired by the constellation Southern Cross, which is also found on the flag of the Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic Region.

"When you see the Southern Cross for the first time,
You understand now why you came this way.
Because the truth you might be running from is so small,
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day."

Contributor: Melissa Crowe, Department of Journalism, Undergraduate, University of North Texas

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