South Georgia, Cape Horn, Patagonia canals: five weeks of sailing and hiking in South Georgia, and Tierra del Fuego.
In this unique travel, the approach is at the “image of the project”. The primary objective is to browse, explore a beautiful and sublime nature , and discover its wonders.
This entire trip tends to explore unique locations, both for their geographical and geomorphological situation as for their difficult access. Each site is remarkable for its history, and for the way life fashioned it.
No ground activities will be mandatory and everyone will participate according to their desires. The boat will be our base and our refuge. We will return there at the end of hiking or crossing from fjord or bay to the other, during daily activities or not.
On land, the planned outings will not be technical, if not to honor special requests. They will reflect the wishes of each one, in accordance with the calendar, climate and navigation contingencies.
Navigation will be integral to the quality of travel: assist the crew, participate under its control maneuvers, life on board, take the day shift and night … Make the boat live!
From Lyon, Paris, Geneva and Brussels our different flights will converge on Madrid, our meeting point. Then, by a day flight, we will reach Argentina, Buenos Aires and finally Ushuaia. This end of the world will be the point of departure and return from our trip to the Furious Fifties.
About six days of sailing will be required to reach the northern end of South Georgia. Six days at sea on a sailboat designed for polar routes, six days during which everyone can learn ocean navigation …
In the high seas, a goal is clear: East at all costs. Six marines days in this world where one does not move in hours of walking, distance or altitude change, but in nautical miles, where each unit represents one minute of angle which, multiplied by 60 and then by 360, represents the circumference of the earth.
It is approximately 1 100 miles of endless sea that we will have to travel to loose 3° South!
Beyond the sea of Argentina is the South Atlantic and all its legends… After this crossing, surreal and from nowhere, the “Shag Rocks” hang time. Black and glittering fangs, they dominate the sea, rimmed of ocean waves, crowned by flight of cormorants with acute squeals, covering the sound of waves and wind.
“The blades have become extremely steep, with the top of the foam cones remaining on the back of the main swell. This is much like the strange sea […] after the Horn”
These days are necessary. They allow to get sea legs, to acclimatize in some way, and to get used to the boat. Learn to live, to move around and have a good use of everything…
Georgia is only a few hours away, and the first icebergs, like cathedrals, can sometimes appear at the turn of a fog bank.
Beyond, to the south, no land, except those of the Antarctic Peninsula at 550 miles further south, and 4 days sailing in the infernal waters of the Drake.
After the departure formalities (administrative), we will sail for South Georgia. Part of the United Kingdom, under British administration, it is part of the eponymous group (with the South Sandwich) which is the largest of the islands. It is in the form of a crescent, whose upper end is oriented to the west and the lower end, to the south.
With an approximate length of 170km and a width of about 35km (the widest part), it is located between South Atlantic and Scotia Sea, by 54 ° 20 ‘south latitude and 36 ° 45’ west longitude.
Its northern coast turns slowly toward the south, and it is in this first area protected from ocean fury that the whaling bases are located (6) which were active between 1904 and 1965, year of the international moratorium which goal was to save the whales population.
This coast will be systematically explored. The island is very mountainous and has no less than 123 glaciers ending all at sea.
It consists of two distinct ranges: the Allardyce Range, at the north of the island which culminates at Mount Paget at 2935 meters, and the Salvesen Range at the south, with Mount Sugar Top and Mount Carse at 2330 meters.
It is in the Allardyce Range, along the northern coast, where the Shackleton Route is whose origin “King Haakon Bay” is located in the west coast, near its northern extremity.
Georgia is approached by the north. First to appear are Wilis Island, Bird Island, Church Bay and a whole string of islands covered with tussock (fat and abundant grass) nesting exceptional wildlife and thousands of birds.
Discovered by James Cook in 1775, we discover many of the seals, penguins, albatrosses and giant petrels. The British Antarctic Survey manages, at Bird Island, a biological research station. These islands are particularly protected.
This is the whaling base reached by Shackleton after the stranding of the James Caird at King Haakon Bay, after crossing 700 nautical miles and seventeen-month survival.
The commemorative plaque of this superhuman feat is located precisely there, near the residence of the manager of the station, where he found, haggard and dying, the necessary help for his survival and that of his crew.
It took another six months and the Chileans help for Shackleton to get his entire crew back aboard the Yelcho.
They returned to Chile, triumphant, war was declared, they had to go to the trenches. Initially a whaling base, this station was quickly converted into a technical base for the maintenance of the fleet of fishermen.
KING EDWARD POINT & GRYTVIKEN
The heart of the island is the historical basis of “Grytviken” unique tourist place, with its renovated chapel and its marine cemetery. Today, the administrative capital of the island, King Edward Point “KEP”, is 2 km away. This is the necessary administrative crossing for all travelers arriving on land (clearance).
Cumberland Bay surrounds these places and marks the “halftime” of the coast. Besides administrative control, in summer we find in summer different services, for example customs.
Grytviken was the Georgian first whaling base, one whose business was the longest, from 1904 to 1965. Today, dismantled, there remains little evidence of its past.
Only a few of the buildings reflect the importance of the place: a church, a cemetery and a small museum with lots of testimonies of the time, a library and a few buildings testifying to the life back then.
Currently, the little life present, in summer, is concentrated at King Edward Point, at the mouth of the bay, where the British Antarctic Survey maintains a scientific mission containing the port authorities.
There is also a small post office where it is possible to acquire, in addition to traditional souvenirs, some interesting English editions on the life of the former island.
The memorial and grave of Ernest Shackleton are located in the small cemetery at Grytviken. This will one of this trip’s unforgettable stages.
SAINT ANDREWS BAY
Saint Andrews Bay is the “spot” of Georgia. This bay on the south of the Allardyce Range has a gray sand beach with a length of about 3 km, facing East.
Thousands of king penguin couples are organized between the Cook glacier and the coast, in an exceptional scale rookery, even in the lagoon formed by meltwater from the surrounding glaciers. The penguin breeding cycle is not annual, so this site is perpetually attended.
How to describe this world of penguins in procession doing their mysterious business under the round eyes of sea elephants or Weddell seals, impassive, contemplating the appearance of a killer whale or humpback whale in the mirror of gray water.
How to describe this so subtle light which all shades come to dress and give life to what could not be without it.
Saint Andrews concentrates practically, besides anything that flies (skuas, petrels, Antarctic prions, cape petrels, penguins, cormorants, Albatros …) all marine mammal species common in South Georgia : Seals, sea Elephants, penguins (Royal, Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Macaroni …)
COOPER BAY & LARSEN HARBOUR
Ultimate site at the southern tip of Georgia, near the highly protected “Cooper Island” (nature protection) Cooper Bay and Larsen Harbour sectors offer incredible scenery of this pristine nature immune to mass tourism abuses.
Incredible fjords deeply penetrate this exceptional and wild volcanic nature, where the only rule is not to disturb anything…
Exploration of Georgia will determine the “timing” of the general calendar. This global spot deserves the attention of travelers who came to enjoy this untouched paradise, free of any structure.
Beyond it’s the Scotia Sea …
TIERRA DEL FUEGO
The second part of this trip will be the southern part of the archipelago of 74 000 km extending over 400 km from north to south and 720 west to east.
Tierra del Fuego is administered by Argentina and Chile. This is the archipelago of the “World’s End” at the extreme south of South America, where Chile and Argentina compete for precedence and sovereignty of these desolate lands,based on the Patagon myth, when Kaweskars, Yagans or Selknams haunted the Fuegian canals …
“In 1951, while traveling in Tierra del Fuego, through the Strait of Magellan, I met, within one hour, in the snow, the wind, one of the last boats of Alakalufs. I will never forget it […] Did It haunt me? ”
Tierra del Fuego… The large island, between two oceans. Magallanes in the north and Hoste and Navarino which organize the South with Picton, Lenox, Nueva around the Beagle Canal. Then, Wollaston islands and finally the Horn. To the west, the canals…
This is the south … the deep south, almost at the bottom of the globe … where, upside down, we discover the beauty of things in the light of a world that the almost polar circle makes iridescent .. .
Returning to Georgia will probably take eight days of sailing, upwind.
The goal, in the extreme south and largely detached from the continent, at some 150 kilometers at the south of the Beagle Canal, is a small archipelago named from the largest of its islands: Wollaston. It spans some 2500 square kilometers.
Yachkusin has at its southern extremity, the Cabo de Hornos island that supports the two most austral lighthouses in the world: the Faro Cabo de Hornos and the Lighthouse Monumental isla Hornos of the Chilean Navy.
Although any timeline on our return is impossible to know because everything depends both on weather conditions and the willingness of the military on the island — we have not yet made our official entry in Chile, nor in Argentina — logic would dictate that we approach Chile by its southern extremity, before heading west to reach the Pacific Ocean.
CABO DE HORNOS
The island belongs to the National Park Cabo de Hornos “Biosphere Reserve”. It is known as the southernmost land of the planet, although this title belongs to the Diego Ramirez islands at a hundred kilometers to the southwest. 6 km by 6 km, Cabo de Hornos rises to 425 meters and will certainly be one of our stops, with the required visit, at least one of its two lighthouses.
The Monumental Faro at 55 ° 57’81 S latitude is guarded all year, the Armada Chilena maintains a station with a house, a technical building, a chapel and the lighthouse. The only permanent residents are the keeper and his family.
This is where lies the memorial built in honor of the missing sailors, a monumental sculpture representing the silhouette of an albatross.
Faro Cabo de Hornos further west is the southernmost of the two at 55 ° 58’64 S latitude. Located on the Punta Espolon at forty meters above the sea, its commissioning dates back to 1902, it was active until 1991.
THE BEAGLE CANAL
The Beagle Canal crosses the south of Tierra del Fuego from west to east. It is divided into two parts : the northeast and southeast sides, and its origin is Cook Bay, the western entrance. The arms meet in the east, at the Gordon Island to spin towards its eastern extremity, Nassau Bay.
In its northern shore, substantially at its center: Ushuaia, Argentina; in its south shore, farther east, Puerto Williams, Chile.
The presence of two antagonistic and finicky governments (Argentina and Chile) forces us to return to Chile, Puerto Williams, prior to any activity.
So must we go through this “checkpoint” before turning around to go back down to the Wollaston Islands, cross the Horn and tackle Cook Bay on the Pacific coast.
Similarly, to leave Chile in favor of Argentina, we must return to Puerto Williams before also turning around to reach Ushuaia on the north bank of the canal.
There are two checkpoints in Puerto Williams. However, if the “winds” are favorable – and the Chilean authorities complacent – we will go directly to the canals, after crossing the Horn, by the Pacific Ocean and the Bay Cook, to return to Chile to Puerto Williams, and leave it by the same way.
“Chile” is a Mapuche word meaning “where the land ends”. True or false, this assertion applies fully to this secret and hermetic nature that, like Kaweskars, can be covered only by boat. And in this secret world, it’s difficult to determinate who is the true master of the earth or the sea.
In successive steps, Darwin Island, the Pia Glacier, Gordon Island, or one of the outstanding sites in southern limit of the Cordillera Darwin, will be explored.
Considering the probably climatic and administratives changes, it’s impossible while composing this data sheet, to develop any fixed program, it’ll be done in sit.
Capital of the Chilean Antarctic, the city was built in 1953 for military purposes. Today, there are 2 200 inhabitants, located on Navarino Island on the south shore of the Beagle Canal, it is the southernmost of the world.
Due to obligatory administrative transit, every boat bounding or coming from international waters halts in Micalvi which legend has far exceeded international borders.
Converging point of all crossing skippers, the Micalvi hosts the Yates Club Naval Micalvi of the Chilean Navy. It’s the meeting point of a cosmopolitan population awaiting favorable weather. Coming from the whole world, beside classicals drunkards, there are among sailors: “alcohol drinkers, noisier and quite serene: those who come back from the Antarctic. The window issue is behind them”.
It’s built for Southern navigation, its name: “Le Podorange”. This is a great polar yacht of 43 tonnes and 223 meters wing to 20.4 meters long.
Steel hull and deck, it’s equipped with a Perkins motor 135 CV, and includes 2 place-cabins, showers (hot water) and toilet. Moreover, it has central heating. The availability (the group),is for a maximum of 7 participants, beside the staff and supervisors. The boat will be our haven for 5 consecutive weeks.
This boat is “skipped” by professional and regularly established sailors, accustomed to Great South Road.
Based in Ushuaia, they are customary to these familiar courses of the Southern Ocean which they consider their garden.
It may be difficult, the southern seas are not always calm and you could be seasick. Six days of navigation will be needed to reach South Georgia, and probably eight days to come back.
The Beagle canal is relatively protected, but does not exclude some difficult weather conditions (katabatic winds can sometimes prohibit the navigation).
Nassau Bay may be exposed to the weather.
In Georgia, the northeast coast is more protected, but can sometimes be rough.
The Wollaston islands can also be exposed, while the northwest and southwest arm of the Beagle Canal are quieter.
Aboard and ashore
Get familiarized with the boat, learn the maneuvers, participating will be your daily routine on the sea. Everything will take place under the supervision and responsibility of the staff. No obligations, but more than that: “A boat is not a floating hotel, it’s a community where everyone has to participate so that the stay runs better”.
The onshore activity will be a classic off-trail hiking, in mountainous ground, moraine and / or fund glacial valleys, sometimes crossing a pass or ridge.
The ashore activities will be decided with everybody, all the trips being systematically supervised. Unless specifically requested, they will take place starting from the boat in the morning to return in the evening. These trips are not obligatory.
In case of glacier hiking or ascent to a nearby summit, the technical level will be basic, the progress is the same than in the Alps, both in behavior and in usages.
The equipment required for these activities will be described more accurately upon registration. However they will be those classical for mountain hiking: hiking boots, Gore-Tex clothing, hot pants, gloves, hats etc.
All activities will be in marine land and / or mountain with all that a such situation implies (bad weather, wind, humidity). Local conditions may however be equilibrated, or amplified by the proximity of the sea.
This trip will take place during the southern summer, sunburn can be daunting. Very cold climate is not to be feared.
The organization of this trip is provided by Juni Christian, CEO of the TIRAWA agency. The expedition leader, myself, will ensure supervision on the field.
Our shared knowledge of the area allows us to identify more closely the risks of this trip: Christian is familiar to all Ushuaia sector since he has organized several expeditions, we have gone together to the Antarctic Peninsula in 2010, I have led 2 expeditions in South Georgia (in 2004 and 2006).
Other than your own conditions (medical certificate, insurance certificates …), listed in the registration ticket, the participation in this trip is subject to the approval of a “Shipping Convention” describing the trip and defining everyone’s roles and duties.
Most information is in the shipping description. Further information can be provided on request. Do not hesitate to contact me.
Price per person
- Guiding fee
- Transport to the start of the trip
- Transport during the trip