South America, Chile, Isla Santa Inés, Patagonia

Publication Year: 1966.

Isla Santa Inés, Patagonia. Peter Mortensen, Hector Vittone, Hermann Joos and I got together in Punta Arenas on January 26. We spent a fruitless week trying to get a boat to take us to the island, then buying gasoline, taking things out of customs and doing the last arrangements. Having decided to go on our own, we took our equipment across the Brunswick peninsula to an estancia, Los Canelos, where the road ends on the coast of the Seno Otway. After waiting for two days for the weather to calm, Mortensen and I set off at night (when the wind generally dies a bit) in our rubber boat powered by an outboard motor for the entrance to the Fiordo Silva Palma. Joos and Vittone walked, since we were too heavily laden for the rough waters. All four ascended the fjord by boat to its head. From there we headed south along a chain of five lakes. The first four were united if you used the tides, though the rivers then became rapids. The fifth lake was higher. We had to carry supplies to it and then from the far side across land to the Straits of Magellan. Mortensen had to return from the lake, having no more time. We missed tough Peter’s carrying power in the swamps and thick forest. All this land may be compared to a great sponge, thanks to the unbelievable rain. The crossing of the strait was one of the highlights of our adventure, a frightening experience in the unpredictable currents, which took 2½ hours. It had taken us 14 days to get to Santa Inés. We landed in the Bahía Nash. It was our intention to find a route to the interior and to explore as much as possible. We found as we suspected that the island has about a quarter of its surface covered by a great mass of glaciers, which do not really form an icecap but radiate in all directions from a central range, which sticks out in the form of nunataks. A number of snow peaks rise to a height of perhaps 4500 feet above sea level, the highest being Mount Warton near the edge of the strait and one in the southern part of the "icecap.” We found no land animals but many seals, penguins, steamer ducks, condors, gulls, petrels and skeletons of nutrias. At lower altitudes Santa Inès has much vegetation, with forests so thick that they are impenetrable. We found five lakes, full of trout. We returned by the same way. Three enormous waves which seemed to come from nowhere nearly swamped us in the strait. We returned in only six days, being lighter and knowing the way, after our fifteen days on the island.

Peter Bruchhausen, Centro Andino Buenos Aires