Monday, February 18, 2013

Straight of Magellan and San Gregorio

View Larger Map

A Ship Graveyard -- the Straight of Magellan

It's hard to understate the impact of the Panama Canal on this part of the world.  Still today, cafes and restaurants all over the area proudly display grainy, black and white pictures of their bustling 1913 waterfront -- countless ships and sailing vessels all awaiting the shifting tide to continue their voyage to destinations in California and the Far East, or returning to home ports in New York, London, or Hamburg. Practically overnight, in 1914, the trade in this area simply ended.  No longer an important hub connecting East and West, the end of the world was once again silent.

This legacy is visible all over Chile if you watch for it, but nowhere feels more lonely and abandoned than San Gregorio.  Once the largest sheep station in the world, it became a massive provisioning depot for the endless parade of exhausted seafarers and their battered vessels rounding the horn.

Imagine this beach packed with ships?

Kaia remembers San Gregorio as the place with a really nice cat.
Oh yeah, cool shipwrecks too

After the opening of the Canal in 1914, ship owners watched their sailing rigs slip into obsolescence; many simply ran them aground in these remote --and notoriously treacherous waters -- knowing full well that insurance companies would never come this far to investigate. Ship carcasses still litter the coast.

The Embassador, a former tea ship and last of the tall ships.

  A sister ship to the famous Cutty Sark, -- now a museum ship in London.

A late lunch break in the wind shadow of a provisions warehouse.

After exploring the ruins for longer than planed, and with a classic Magellanic wind storm brewing, we needed to find a good place to camp.  It felt a little too eerie overnighting in San Gregorio with the wind howling, clanging and whistling through the corrugated metal ghost town.  So we, too, moved on.

Further down the coast outside of Punta Arenas we discovered a dense and magical grove of moss covered beech trees, twisted and dwarfed by the cold and relentless cape winds that routinely batter the tip of South America.  By sun down, we could hear the 70+ km/h gale just above the tree tops.  Below, in the still and quiet forest, we gathered sticks and dry moss and drank hot cocoa.  The only thing missing were woodland gnomes.

The storm passed by morning and Kaia was so determined to watch sunrise over the straight that she didn't have time to change out of her PJs.

After breakfast, we were all anxious to get to Punta Arenas, or more specifically, the airport in Punta Arenas to pick up Grampa, just in time for his 76th birthday.

No comments:

Post a Comment