Day 25 of 68 — Punta Arenas, Chile

January 30, 2018 Paul Groves

Punta Arenas is the southernmost city on the mainland. We will visit Ushuaia, Argentina, in a couple of days, which is located closer to the Antarctic, but it is located on an island. You must take a ferry across the Straits of Magellan in order to connect with the mainland.

We are excited about today’s excursion because it will be our first real chance to see penguins. We are taking a speedboat to Isla Magdelena where there is a large breeding colony of Magellanic penguins. This tiny island is in the middle of the Strait of Magellan and was declared a national monument in 1982. These penguins breed in little holes dug out by the male penguins before the females arrive on the island. Each male penguin uses the same hole each year and breeds with the same mate as long as they both survive. Two eggs are laid and the adult penguins take turns fishing and caring for the eggs and then newly hatched penguins.

On the island, there is a roped off path that we are allowed to follow to the top of the island and back around the side to the pier. The visitors are all very quiet and the sounds of surf and penguins fill the air. If penguins look like they want to cross the path, we are to back off and allow them to pass. One penguin happened to be very interested in my shoelace, probably for nesting material.

There are 40,000 to 50,000 nesting pairs of penguins on this island as well as a large colony of seagulls. We were allowed to visit the island for 1 hour and then we took the speedboat to Marta Island where we saw thousands of cormorants on top of the island and a large colony of sea lions at the base of the island.

Coming back to Punta Arenas, we walked to the town square where it is lucky to rub the toe of a Patagon native that adorns a statue of Magellan. I also did a watercolor of two penguins in their nest.