|Sundew, a carnivorous plant, which is very tiny and sparkles in the sunlight.|
|Dennis Cornejo photographing sundews and showing them to the passengers.|
Dennis was especially passionate about lichens and other small plants, and his enthusiasm was contagious. Here is his description of his search for the sundew from the ship's online daily expedition report:
"The day continues to be beautiful and I have a mission. I know there are sundews (carnivorous plants) somewhere here. I know their associates, soft camp, a strange tiny cushion plant that covers the ground like stiff grass. I cannot see the sundew while standing, so I must crawl across the soft camp.
"I am lucky that it is sunny making the eighth inch leaves of the sundew sparkle in the light, boldly red. People returning to the landing beach inquire about my mission and undignified posture, and to my surprise become enthusiastic participants in my endeavor." (source)
|A naturalist showing us the eggs of a squid.|
|Lenticular clouds over Torres del Paine|
The very long geological history of the mountains and numerous islands with deep channels and fjords at the tip of South America is so complex that I barely understood what was being said. On Zodiac boats, we sometimes heard brief lectures about the many types of rock and how they formed under the extreme pressure at the bottom of the ocean and were pushed up by the grinding of the continental plates.
Several other natural history topics captured my attention. Clouds, for example. One day in Torres del Paine National Park the naturalists from the hotel pointed out lenticular clouds, a particular formation that appears only in mountainous areas.
In addition to talks about botany, geology, and so on, the ship's naturalist who specialized in local peoples gave a highly entertaining talk about the gauchos and gaucho culture as it still exists. Another lecture on local lore included a clip from the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" since these two notorious bank robbers fled to Patagonia where they had further adventures, including maybe robbing a bank.
|Califate bushes were in bloom everywhere as we walked in Torres del|
Paine National Park. The berries will be ripe in November, I believe.
Accounts of a couple of early expeditions to Tierra del Fuego contributed to what I know about this vast and complex place, including a little about the diet eked out by the natives of this hostile region.
"Bill of fare for breakfast:
- Wild celery soup with English sauce.
- Kaiken* eggs with seal oil.
- Chloephaga Magellanica with Worcestershire sauce.
- Guanaco steak with Fuegian celery.
- Coffee without sugar."
-- Julius Popper, The 1886 Exploration of Tierra del Fuego, Kindle Locations 288-293.
Popper also wrote:
Fortunately, towards the south of Cape San Sebastian the land was more lavish of its gifts. We found wild celery and kaiken* and duck eggs at every step, and also guanacos, but not so wild as in the north. We killed a seal which supplied us with a good quantity of oil for culinary purposes."*NOTE: Kaiken is another name for South American geese, including upland geese, kelp geese, and ashy-headed geese. It's now mainly remembered as the name of a winery in Argentina.
--Kindle Locations 597-599
|Title page of The Voyage of the Beagle, published in|
4 volumes including Darwin's and FitzRoy's accounts.
"Whenever it is low water, winter or summer, night or day, they must rise to pick shellfish from the rocks; and the women either dive to collect sea-eggs, or sit patiently in their canoes, and with a baited hair-line without any hook, jerk out little fish. If a seal is killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid whale is discovered, it is a feast; and such miserable food is assisted by a few tasteless berries and fungi. They often suffer from famine."
Darwin also described how local people viewed the Englishmen's ship diet:-- Darwin’s Journal: Tierra del Fuego, Kindle Locations 185-188.
"At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. At first they were not inclined to be friendly; for until the Captain pulled in ahead of the other boats, they kept their slings in their hands. We soon, however, delighted them by trifling presents, such as tying red tape round their heads. They liked our biscuit: but one of the savages touched with his finger some of the meat preserved in tin cases which I was eating, and feeling it soft and cold, showed as much disgust at it, as I should have done at putrid blubber."
-- Kindle Locations 266-270.