Beagle Channel

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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The Beagle Channel is just one reminder of the presence of Charles Darwin in the remote reaches of South America. This English naturalist established the theory of evolution based on his observations during his five-year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle from 1831-36. Also in the immediate area are the Charles Darwin Range and Mount Darwin, which a grateful captain named for the naturalist after he saved one of the captain's long boats.

The Beagle Channel is a naturalist's wonderland, with miles of fjords, glaciers, and inlets running along the southern coast of the large island of Tierra del Fuego. Kayaking is a perfect means for exploring the icy majesty of the many fjords. October through May, the summer season, is the time for voyages to these glaciers; the seasons in the southern hemisphere are the reverse of those in the United States, which is in the northern hemisphere.

Beagle Channel Voyages

This passage is ideal for sailing vessels such as tall ships that can act as mother ships for kayakers. Paddlers must be knowledgeable about the tendency of glaciers to "calve" chunks of ice that can capsize a kayak--or worse. Even if the chunks miss, they can cause waves that are hazardous.

Birds are one of the wonders of this region. Watching the world's largest birds, the condor and albatross, with their unbelievable wingspans is breathtaking. Giant petrels, Magellanic penguins, and Chilean green parrots are also abundant. Voyages on tall ships through the Beagle Channel are dependent on the weather, but if there is a calm stretch, passengers can go hiking, camping, and trout fishing along the coast.

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