National Geographic Endeavour
The Caledonian Star at the Romanche Glacier: We are on the path of Fitzroy and Darwin through narrow fjords, like secret tunnels from one ocean to the other. We slip between cliffs of polished rock patterned with swirls in pleasing symmetries. Beyond the cliffs are rank after rank of craggy peaks over which fleets of rare lenticular clouds drift upon the crests of a distant wind. At times the heights are not so sheer and the rocks are wrapped in dark, pathless forests dominated by southern beech and the famous Winter's bark, a precious source of vitamin C that helped to preserve the minds and teeth of Drake and his companions. Perhaps this morning we stepped where they stepped when they scoured the countryside to reprovision their tiny larders and medical cabinets. They ate this bark and sailed these waters long before my great grandfather's great-great grandfather held his first son in the setting sun of Spain and her empire. And older yet were the naked Fuegans who lit their myriad fires upon rocks freshly scarred by the cold claws of glacial rivers, icy masses which have recently retreated and now lie perched above us, like gigantic silver-blue cats in a lazy slumber. Today we find this land mostly quiet and delight in its uncivilized stillness punctuated by the leaps and puffs of dusky dolphins, the gentle sighs of soaring condors, and the rush of water down cliff and canyon. Here, time does not flow, it softly blends like the patterns on the cliffs and the dance of giant petrels in our wake.