Expedition to research owl ecology on the
Cape Horn Archipelago
Los Dientes, Isla Navarino, Chile
In 2003 I joined a group of Earthwatch
volunteers on an expedition to Navarino Island, in far southern
Chile. I have enjoyed travel and work in Chile over many years, and
was looking for something more than a tourist visit.
Our trip began in Punta Arenas, Chile, on the north shore of the
Magellan Straits. Another flight south of about 60 minutes over
Tierra del Fuego delivered us to Navarino Island, at Port
Williams, on the south shore of the Beagle Channel.
Puerto Williams, southernmost city in the world except
for settlements in Antartica
Earthwatch supports scientific projects all over the world, by
coordinating volunteer teams to assist scientists in their efforts.
It was assured that no experience was necessary, just a willingness
to work with the team. That was good, as my life as a professional
musician has been devoid of scientific learning. This could become
the biology class that I never took!
The expedition would help resident specialists in their study of
the forest and shore of Navarino Island. Birds need counting and
banding, rodents need to be counted and weighed, insects trapped, and
vegetation measured. Even after 150 years of European occupation, the
island is considered one of 37 most pristine sites in the world.
Knowledge of the habitat will give people the information they need
to manage it.
Navarino Island is on the Beagle Channel, south of Tierra del
Fuego. The Beagle Channel was named for an English ship which
explored this remote tip of South America in the 1820s. It returned
on another voyage in 1832 with the young naturalist Charles Darwin.
The channel runs for about 125 miles east and west along the southern
coast of Tierra del Fuego, at about latitude 55 degrees south. With
the large island of Tierra del Fuego to the north, the southern coast
of the channel runs by several large islands.
The grandeur of the landscape is punctuated by snow and ice
covered mountains running the length of the channel. The forest is
lush and green, but reaches only a few hundred meters in altitude.
With only three species of trees, the forest is home to hundreds of
mosses and lichens; birds are numerous; native mammals are limited to
mice and the elusive guanaco, a cameloid animal similar to the llama.
Introduced mammals are cow, horse, sheep, beaver, muskrat and mink.
Great efforts are taken to minimize their impact on the
Róbalo Bay, looking northwest across the Beagle
Channel toward Tierra del Fuego,
recording shore birds
On this spring day in mid November, I'm strolling along the shore
of the Beagle Channel with a group of bird counters. Their job today
is to identify and count all the species we see, and my job is to
capture the bird calls on tape. We took a short lunch break in an
emerald green meadow overlooking the water.
I hope to add to the collection of recorded bird calls, a project
of the Omora Ethno-botanical Park on the island. The park is only two
years old, and is a focus of scientific study and evaluation of this
most southern land environment.
Steven McGehee, resident ornithologist at Omora
Róbalo River, cascada
We camped for three nights near this waterfall
The weather worsened as we arrived at the campsite.
By the next day we were negotiating a difficult terrain covered in a
few inches of snow
mink tracks are spotted after the storm
Ron demonstrates the technique of walking through beaver
forest in better weather
Sylvia and Devin measure vegetation
Laurier leads the way to the final peak on Cerro
And this is what we do on our day off!!!
Atop Cerro Bandera,
looking northeast across the Beagle Channel to Argentine Tierra del
Interview with Christopher Anderson atop Cerro
looking northwest toward the Cordillera Darwin
Most photos are by Roger Emanuels,
Many thanks to Sylvia, Devin and Chris for sharing