Sailing Through South America's Fjords in Chile

by Andrew Vallis

Sailing through South American Fjords on Princess
Sailing through South American Fjords on Princess

As dawn broke, we entered the Trinidad Canal and started our transit through the Chilean Fjords while on our South American cruise. For those who awoke in the early hours of the morning to view the splendid sights of the glaciers we were greeted with a fresh, icy cold morning that numbed the face and fingers.

Regardless of the temperature we were in awe of the sheer beauty and magnificence of the Chilean Fjords while scenic cruising to the Amalia Glacier. We were informed by our port lecturer that the glaciers use to run all the way to the edge of the waterline but over the years it was slowly melting. I could only imagine what it must have looked back then in all its glory.

I felt suddenly sad at the thought that eventually it would keep receding and what will it look like in ten years’ time. I was so glad I was on this cruise to this part of the world.

As the sun broke through the clouds it illuminated the blue colour of the glaciers. It was a sight to behold and all thought of the cold air vanished.

As the Star Princess, which is quite a large cruise ship, gracefully glided through the still, narrow waters of the fjords I was thrilled at how close we were to the glaciers. You could see chunks of broken pieces of ice from the glaciers scattered around the ground and some floating at the water’s edge. In some parts dark clouds hovered above the mountains which made for a more dramatic effect. In other areas rays of morning sunlight broke through the clouds and illuminated the ice. Some glaciers looked like cascading waterfalls, with a deeper hue of blue at its base and snow white at the upper part.

The icy chill of the air was punctuated with the clicks of cameras with people not wanting to miss a single moment. Luckily we all have digital cameras with a large memory capacity! Every image was worth capturing as who knows when we would ever pass this way again and if we did what changes there might be in the future.

As we listened to the commentary on the glaciers you couldn’t help but wonder what it was like when explorers first came through the Chilean Fjords and set eyes on this landscape. How they managed to navigate their way through the various canals without the modern day luxuries. The cold temperatures they experienced without any means of keeping warm apart from their clothing. It gave me an appreciation of modern day technology as I could easily go and get a hot cup of coffee from the nearest eatery.

During the next few hours the cruise ship made its way through the various canals such as Canal Concepcion, Pitt, Esteban and Castro. The waterways were surprisingly narrow. As I stood up on the top deck, which gave me an uninterrupted view of the scenery ahead, it almost felt, at times, that we were heading straight for the shoreline but the ship slowly made the turn with ease and continued to meander its way through the narrow canals – the captain and the Chilean pilots had everything under control!

As someone who comes from Perth, Australia, which is about as far away as you can get and which is one of the most isolated cities in the world, the scenery around me was breathtaking. Each glacier had its own uniqueness. When we left Perth we were experiencing very hot summer days, I was savouring the cold temperatures and scenic beauty of this landscape – it was worth the long plane trip!

Later in the day we would be leaving the glaciers of the Chilean fjords behind us as we cruise back out into the Pacific Ocean heading for our next cruise destination, Punta Arenas and land! For now I was hoping the time would go by as slowly as possible.

Can the start of any morning get better than this?