Saturday, 19 November 2016

Puerto Chacabuco

Events of Friday, 18th November

The land of South America, of course, tapers as you go south. Chile occupies a relatively narrow ‘sliver’ of territory extending inland from the West Coast into the Andes mountains which run through South America like a backbone. Argentina occupies the land from the Andes mountains to the east coast.

After our visit to Chiloe Island on the 17th November, my ship, ‘Silversea Explorer’, continued south. There is a complex string of islands off the west coast, which allowed us to cruise down the channels between the islands and the mainland, enjoying much smoother water. The coast of the mainland is perforated by the estuaries of various rivers which descend from the mountains, called fjords, in a similar manner to the coast of Norway.

We sailed south throughout the night and anchored at the head of the Aysen Fjord a little before 8.00 a.m., as I was finishing breakfast in the restaurant. We were overlooking a port area called Puerto Chacabuco. Until 1960, the port for this area was 15 kilometres north-east at the important town of Puerto Aysen. The Chilean earthquake that year destroyed much of the port facilities and town. The town was rebuilt but permanent changes in levels resulting from the earthquake made it impractical to reconstruct the port on the original site. A new port was constructed at Puerto Chacabuco, connected to Puerto Aysen by a decent road.

From the windswept observation deck, I surveyed the bay we'd anchored in. Off to our left, the elegant lines of the rusting remains of a substantial beached steamship – the ‘Vina’- were visible. Otherwise, the vessels, port facilities and associated buildings were modern. To our left large passenger ferry in a striking livery of orange, white and blue operated by Havier Austral lay at anchor. Also to our left was a large, modern steel-framed building I took to be engineering workshops marked ‘Oxxean’ (probably the port operators and presumably pronounced ‘OCEAN’). On the hard standing next to this building or moored at the adjacent quay were a number of smaller vessels. In the background, there was an extensive tank farm.

Puerto Chacabuco.

In front of us was a large, modern passenger and vehicle ferry in the red and white livery of Navimag. I’d spotted the Navimag ship in the distance the previous afternoon when, like us, it was heading south.

Puerto Chacabuco, Chile: NAVIMAG passenger and vehicle ferry 'Eden'.

At the dock to our right lay a cargo vessel with two large self-loading/unloading cranes. Further round the bay was a group of smaller launches, vehicle ferries and unidentified craft. In addition, close to our anchorage was a medium-size container ship, 'Copihue', also at anchor. Off on the far right I could also see a fish farm, probably producing Atlantic Salmon. All-in-all, quite an impressive port. At about 8.30 a.m., Zodiacs started to take guests from the ship ashore.

Puerto Chacabuco, Chile: 'Silver Explorer' and, in the background, cargo ship 'Copihue' at anchor, viewed from the 'Zodiac' taking us ashore.

We landed at a modern, floating steel landing stage (covered with anti-slip matting) which led to a new and attractive wooden terminal building marked ‘OXXEAN’. Backpacks were subject to X-ray and inspection by the Agricultural and Livestock Service within the terminal building but I only had my camera with me, which was waved through. Three tour buses were lined up outside the terminal to take us to the Aiken del Sur Nature Park.

We drove away from the port in convoy past an industrial area, a school, a Fire Station and an area of housing.

Leaving Puerto Chacabuco by coach.

The coaches took the road towards Puerto Aysen but, after 4 km, we turned right onto an unmetalled road which we carefully bumped along for 5.5 km to reach the entrance to the Aiken del Sur Nature Park. The coaches parked at the Visitor Centre at the starting point of our nature trail. We were offered the choice of a “moderate” or “more challenging” trail. Almost everyone opted for the latter, at around 2 km in length and 2 hours duration. We were divided into two groups of around 30 for the longer trail and a third group for the short trail, each with a guide from the Nature Park and members of the ship’s expedition crew.

Aiken del Sur Nature Park Visitor Centre.

Related Posts

Next post describing this trip: Aiken del Sur Nature Park.
All posts describing this trip: Chilean Fjords.

My pictures

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view or, alternately, my pictures from this (and earlier) trips may be selected, viewed or downloaded, in various sizes, from the albums listed:-
Pictures of Puerto Chacabuco are here.
Pictures of Aiken del Sur Nature Park are here.
Pictures aboard 'Silver Explorer' are here.
All my pictures of Chile can be found in the collection Chile.