Dam the Beavers! They Have Messed up Tierra del Fuego

Day 5: Our Morning Stop – Ainsworth Bay

As dawn breaks we consult our Garmin Montana on board Via Australis and find ourselves navigating through Almirantazgo (Admiralty) Sound, at around 9 knots.

We dropped anchor inside Ainsworth Bay, an anchorage within the Alberto De Agostini National Park. Our zodiac tenders are quickly deployed and we are efficiently whisked ashore.

Walking ashore in the marvellous sub polar Magellanic forest, we discover a beaver dam. Its existence is evidence of mans menacing intervention with nature.

In the 1940’s a local farmer had the idea of breeding the creatures in a terrain that, in theory at least, mimicked their natural habitat in Canada.  

They imported just 25 pairs in the hope of breeding them and harvesting pelts to create a profitable fur trade.  The quality of fur however never matched the high standards seen elsewhere in the world and the business failed to flourish.  

Convinced that the animals would die if allowed to fend for themselves in the wild they were set free.  Instead the animal quickly adapted to its new farm free environment and began to conquer the environment.

Today without predators the beaver population, said by some to number 100,000 and more, are dramatically altering the terrain by diverting rivers and little is being done to stop it.

We walked back to the beach enjoying a view of the Marinelli Glacier, as it descends from the Darwin Mountain Range.  Like almost all glaciers in theses parts it is in a period of retreat.

We are quite hoping to see elephant seals that come to breed at this time of year.

It is impossible to guarantee the precise location of the colony because they are somewhat nomadic and therefore their movements are unpredictable.  It is sad to report that we did not see any during our stay.

But we did find the crew had set up a hot chocolate stand and a slug of whiskey made a fine pre lunch aperitif! 

On board lecturers explain how it is the ice that has been the dominant factor in the sculpting of the Patagonian landscape.  From those we discover Chile is the number 3 in a list of countries listing the largest covering by ice fields and the southern most Darwin Range in which we are cruising covers 24,000 km2
Glaciers can best be described as massive masses of ice in motion.  They are the most erosive force yet discovered on earth and it is they alone that are responsible for the creation of the myriad of fjords and channels that have created this most wonderful and isolated cruising ground.