Monday, February 5, 2007

Chile - Tierra del Fuego, February 3, 2007

Extraordinary winds complicated our last day on the Island of Tierra Del Fuego. We woke early to breakdown our camp and pack everything as tightly as possible into our two trucks. They could barely carry all our equipment even though some would remain with Carmen and Ricardo on Bahia Lomas so they could finish work on invertebrates and foraging. The sun shone brightly and dried our tents making the packing easier. In the background was a stiff but not uncommon wind.

By mid morning the wind had freshened significantly. Humphrey and I left earlier to try and make a meeting with Jorge Jordan. Mandy, Mark and Steve would leave shortly thereafter. After a long wait at the ferry landing we made it across the narrows but by then the wind had grown to hurricane strength. By the time the rest of the crew made it to the ferry, it was closed and remained so for most of the day. We reckoned the Captain and crew waited for the tide to ebb so the current would go in the same direction as the wind. Most people who sail or motor the Delaware Bay know of the dangers of wind against tide where you might have winds of 30 knots against a current of 3 knots. On this day the ferry crew faced winds in excess of 70 mph with currents up to 8 knots. The sea was covered in foamy white and would put fear into even the most seasoned seaman.

But the ferry sailors restarted the ferry despite the wind and by the end of the day we were together again and furiously squaring away our gear for next year. Our next stop is Chiloe Island, located on the Pacific side of Chile about 1000 km north of Bahia Lomas. We will take our cannon netting equipment and help Brad Andres and Jim Johnson of the USFWS catch hudsonian godwits and whimbrels that winter in Chiloe but breed in Alaska. They have been working on Chiloe for the last two years to understand numbers and habitats in ways not unlike our own work on Bahia Lomas.

On the morning of our departure, Humphrey and I met with Jorge Jordan, a Punta Arenas businessman, trained in marine biology, who has help us from the beginning with our work in Tierra del Fuego. Using his lawyers, he established a Chilean nonprofit to receive funding we raise in the US for the Tierra del Fuego Bird Observatory and to establish a managing board. After a short discussion Jorge agreed to meet with the provincial mayor of the area including the Bahia Lomas and Bahia Azul to settle arrangements for the Observatory. Jorge was very supportive of our ideas about the purpose, scope and location of the building but was adamant that the manager live on site to carry out the jobs we originally planned, helping visitor, bird tours, caring for the building, but also as some insurance against vandalism and theft. This is not unusual here or at home in buildings in remote locations.

By mid afternoon we were off to Puerto Mott and Chiloe Island.


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