Antarctica, Day 14: The Garibaldi Fjord and back to Punta Arenas

March 16, 2022 • 12:30 pm

To give stymied passengers a treat, the Expedition Leader decided to take us up a Patagonian fjord: the Garabaldi Fjord, created by the Garibaldi Glacer at its beginning. Hurtigruten has its own page on the Fjord since its ships sometimes top there:

One of the most important things to see in Garibaldi fjord is the retreating Garibaldi glacier. Regarded as one of Chile’s most beautiful glaciers, this mammoth wall of sapphire and teal-colored ice doesn’t disappoint, as it towers over visitors.

A notable feature of the Garibaldi glacier is its medial moraine. What’s a medial moraine and why is it so notable? A moraine is a formation of unconsolidated rock and debris that’s carried along by a glacier, while a medial moraine is one that forms when two glaciers meet, meaning that the Garibaldi glacier is the coming together of two separate ice flows.

You can see the medial moraine in the photos below. Another site says this:

A prime specimen of the region, Garibaldi Fjord is known for its beautiful glaciers, which rise as tall as New York skyscrapers. The glaciers extend across a series of steep mountains and valleys, but they still harbor a rich ecosystem of plants and wildlife. As your ship passes by the fjord, watch for Andean condors, sea lions, Magellanic penguins and possibly even a pod of orcas. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a glacier splinter and calve, dropping an enormous chunk of ice into the sea. Fun fact about glacial ice: It has no air in it, so if you put a piece in a drink, it will sink to the bottom rather than float. Some glacial ice has remained in a frozen state for tens of thousands of years.

That’s true, but not all glacial ice is airless: some has bubbles in it and will float.

Here’s the location: off the Beagle Channel:

The view from my balcony when I woke up; we were parked at the mouth of the fjord.

As she ship sailed into the channel, you could see the glacier, which our expert tells us that (in contrast with many glaciers in the area) has actually gotten larger in the last decade.

You can see the medial moraine as the line of rocks where the two glaciers meet. This was again from my balcony. What a view to wake up to!

And then out on deck to get some photos with my Panasonic Lumix. The channel was clogged with ice that fell of the glacier in small bits, agglomerating into larger bits. We had hoped to get closer to the glacier before launching the Zodiacs, but this didn’t look good.

A better view of the medial moraine. I bet you haven’t seen one of these before!

And a closeup with extended zoom. There’s clearly a line of rocks where the glaciers meet.

And so we got as close to the glacier as we could before we launched the Zodiacs. It was cold and rainy, so I put my camera inside a sealed plastic bag, pulling it out briefly from time to time to take a shot. But I forgot my gloves, as well, so my hands froze.

You can see how the ice nuggets from the glacier accumulate into floating mats:

The ship docked while we traipsed about in the rubber boats. The fjord is lined with many lovely waterfalls that come from other glaciers up above:

Although the Zodiac driver said he saw a seal popping its head above the surface from time to time, I saw no animals save this colony of birds, identified as Imperial Shags (Leucocarbo atriceps), a type of cormorant.

The photo above was taken at an extreme zoom magnification (30X) from a rocking Zodiac in the rain, so the results aren’t fantastic. The Imperial Shag is a handsome bird, though. Here’s a photo from Wikipedia:

The waterfalls were gorgeous. As I said, the rain mandated that I keep my point-and-shoot in a plastic bag, pulling it out only for a few seconds at a time to frame and snap a photo. Even doing that I got water on the lens, clearly visible in the photo below. When I got back to my cabin, after thawing out my hands I used isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth to get the water off my camera.

These waterfalls are very peaceful, and make a murmering sound as they hit the fjord:

Rows and rows of hills:

I like this photo because the textures and colors differ among the peaks.

More waterfalls:

Puttering back to the ship. We had to go slowly because of all the ice. This Zodiac driver was also one of our naturalists on the expedition team:

I was freezing, as I’d left my gloves behind thinking it would be warmer in the fjord, and because you can’t use a camera with them. It took a while to thaw my hands, and after a long, hot shower, it was time for lunch. I wanted a lunch today, which I often skip, because I wanted to see what was on offer in the fancy restaurant for non-suite passengers (the Aune). It was mixed:

Appetizers (I quote directly from the menu): “Ham hock terrine with horseradish creme fraiche, pickled beets and onion with rocket, grilled shrimp with marie rose, herbed cream cheese and chilled tomato pasta”. It was okay, but the melange didn’t go together: as Winston Churchill supposedly said of a dessert, “Take that pudding away; it has no theme.”

I’ve moved items aside so you can see the ham hock in aspic. In general (make that “all the time”), I’m not fond of items in aspic. This was no exception:

The pasta was good, but I felt guilty about eating it (I wanted pasta): “Fettucini duck ragout”:

The dessert was the best part: “White chocolate and cranberry bread and butter pudding.” It did have a theme, and I could have eaten another portion. But I”m being a good boy.

And a fairly light dinner, but not one lacking calories.

Pork quesadillas:

And my beloved blueberry milkshake.

After writing this post and reading A Suitable Boy for half an hour (I’m only 400 pages into that 1400-page behemoth), I hit the sack. I usually go to sleep around 9:30 here and wake up at 4:30. As usual on vacation, I sleep very well.

31 thoughts on “Antarctica, Day 14: The Garibaldi Fjord and back to Punta Arenas

  1. And a closeup with extended zoom. There’s clearly a line of rocks where the glaciers meet.

    Likely some of them were meteorites

  2. “Ham hock terrine with horseradish creme fraiche, pickled beets and onion with rocket, grilled shrimp with marie rose, herbed cream cheese and chilled tomato pasta”.

    Sounds like haute cuisine leftovers night.

      1. The greenery is not rocket, which is arugula in some parts of the world and related to watercress. It is chicory. You can tell because it is curly. Rocket has small flat dark green leaves like watercress.

  3. That two glaciers coming together is a pretty rare photo. I have never heard of that before.
    The waterfalls reminds me of the same thing in a completely different climate – Hawaii. Living on the windward side of Oahu we had those often.

    1. Sounds like something the Brit tabloids might’ve called that bird Diana Spencer before she got in the backseat of the limo with Dodi.

      1. There is a very old joke about that incident…..but it’s a family website..and also involves a posthumous discussion between Dodi and his driver – so might offend our host on religious grounds.

      1. Hoo boy – a lumbering, hypnotic waltz… for some reason, I found myself singing Radiohead’s Electioneering as an antidote…

        Also for that “mammals” tune – I had forgotten it….

    1. Yes they do. At first, I thought they were skinny penguins.

      How peaceful it all looks there, especially the waterfalls. Beautiful!

      1. What’s the word for flightless birds that came up recently? There’s a specific two-word name… sort of like, pace Prince, “The Bird Formerly Known To Fly”…

  4. …the medial moraine. I bet you haven’t seen one of these before!
    Dangerous bet as you have swiss readers! Look at Great Aletsch glacier.

  5. Have you told us (and I missed it) if you’re enjoying reading A Suitable Boy? It’s been on my list for years, but I’ve been putting other books before it, partially because of the length-I don’t want to have any pressing books to read while I’m on page 200 of that.

    I wonder if aspic is coming back in fashion. Or maybe it’s never been out of fashion in Europe? In some of the older cookbooks I have, there are many aspic recipes, and then it just disappears. It’s not very appealing to look at, and I wonder what the attraction is. Maybe it’s something that requires a certain level of skill to make? The one you ordered didn’t look very good, but as you pointed out (I think with apple crepes) recently, not all food that looks like a mess tastes like one. Also, I think there’s a perceived need in “fancy” restaurants for novelty and for putting a twist on things, and, though food doesn’t always need that, it’s still interesting to see what chefs come up with.

    The photos in this post are magnificent. Those waterfalls!

    1. Yes, I am enjoying the book. I’m up to about page 500 but that still leaves me 900 pages to go–a comfortable cushion. With luck the book will see me through the rest of this trip. It’s not a world classic so far, nor is the quality of prose outstanding, but the tale is good and absorbing; it’s a very good travel book. And of course it’s appealing to someone who loves India, as it uses a lot of terms that I wouldn’t understand if you I been there, so there’s a bit of “insider’s appeal”.

  6. Great fjord + glacier photos. Highlight of the trip if you ask me. (You didn’t, so OK.)

    But what’s this about glacial ice not floating because it has no air in it? Where do icebergs come from then? Ice doesn’t float because it has air in it. It floats because unlike almost everything else, water expands as it cools below 4C and so is less dense when it finally freezes. Good thing, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to skate unless the lake froze solid from the bottom up and all the overwintering fish and invertebrates would die.

    All right, I suppose ice from the bottom of a glacier could have been compressed over the millennia to be denser than regular ice but I’m skeptical. Ice is indeed plastic, but compressible??

    1. “…the overwintering fish and invertebrates would die.”—not so good for our lovely Canuck beavers, either!

    2. The compression and air concepts are related; it is formed when snow gets compressed (slowly, over long periods of time, I think), and the way this happens evidently gets rid of the air. So a comparable volume of blue ice will be heavier than the same volume of regular ice. Not because the pure ice in the blue is denser than the pure ice in the regular, but because the regular is less pure; the air in it makes the overall chunk less dense. Seasonal ice is the ‘regular’ type.
      As for glacier bits dropping into the sea and forming floating ice bergs, good question/comment. I don’t know what the answer is. But I would guess that the lower parts of the glaciers are bluer, and the top parts are not, because of the snow compression thing. So if you shear off a vertical column of ice you might get a mix of both, I would guess that that would float.

    3. I don’t know of any way that ice would be denser than cold water, especially cold sea water. New glacial ice does contain trapped air and is less dense than old ice, but water will be more dense still.

      1. The reference is to ice in a drink, which could be a mixture of water and ethanol, which could be less dense than ice.

      2. Interesting thought – I think “out loud” in writing below :

        Salinity – crystal packing – pressure… water is very interesting…

        There’s a video of an amazing crystallization of ice below water … the “brinicle” :

        … but I still cannot see how solid impure water can be denser than liquid impure water. the phase diagram is for pure water (easy to look up), so that doesn’t bring in the ionic strength… not sure if there’s … what, a multidimensional phase diagram?… on that somewhere…

        Water – it’s easy to forget how amazing it is!

  7. My maps don’t, but the article

    gives the name of the map’s icefield which feeds this glacier, that is,

    Cordillera Darwin Icefield,

    connecting now doubly to our intrepid traveler/writer.

    I’m not sure about Himalayan ice fields, but, modulo that and ignoring the huge Greenland ice sheet and the much huger Antarctic one, it seems that (areawise anyway) the largest in descending size:

    the one up where Alaska and southwest Yukon meet, but apparently not geographically named;
    the south Patagonian ice sheet;
    Severny Island ice cap of Novaya Zemlya, north of Siberia (cf. Nansen north pole attempt);
    Vatnajokull in Iceland;
    Austfonna in Svalbard (Spitzbergen);
    the north Patagonian ice sheet;
    then this one above, furthest south in this list.

    It seems that outside Antarctica and Greenland, the one with a point where you’d need to ‘walk’ the farthest in any of the directions to get off the ice, is Vatnajokull. From the space station, many of the others look like a giant white worm in shape.

    I nerdily got interested in this because of many Iceland trips from 2011 to 2019, and am happy to stand corrected—I could not quickly find a single source.

    1. My list is way out, since I forgot to check the far north of my own country! E.g. especially Ellesmere Island—and also other stuff north of Siberia, where I think ice stays permanently (for the time being unfortunately for all these ice sheets and glaciers! One little ice cap has recently disappeared in Iceland, where they held a kind of funeral ceremony IIRC).

      Those others make an accurate such list quite difficult to produce. They are much north of Iceland for example, the latter being just south of the Arctic Circle except for one small island. The trouble with just inspecting large area maps is that the far north and south are usually relatively bloated due to the projection. Maybe my list is accurate if referring only to outside the Arctic and Antarctic Circles.

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