Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bienvenido a Magallanes!

Albatross, penguins, steamer ducks - iconic birds of the southern cone of South America. When I was asked this past May if I had any plans for November or December, I did not expect to be asked whether I wanted to go down to Tierra del Fuego to install Motus ( telemetry towers to track Red Knot movements in Bahia Lomas, and I certainly did not think I would be seeing any albatross, penguins or steamer ducks in the near future.

Fast forward, and here I am in Punta Arenas, Chile, looking out my window. Across a busy street lies the Magellan Straight. Today's calm looking waters belie a sleepy ferocity that can awake at any moment as southern winds roar across the water, buffeting passerbys and vibrating the house. At the moment, my eye catches Southern Giant Petrels riding the winds, Tierra del Fuego's hills occupying the background. A even more distant Black-browed Albatross can be seen, gliding effortlessly. At times, the giant petrels soar so close to shore that their wings cast shadows along the breakwall and across passing cars. A quick walk along the shoreline and the bizarre Flying Steamer Duck plies the waters, and the dapper Two-banded Plover actively feeds along the water's edge. Imperial Cormorants nest on derelict piers, as Kelp Gulls and Dolphin Gulls loaf about. The occasional Chilean Skua comes in close for an inspection and makes half-hearted attempts at stealing the cormorants' catches.

I have been here in Punta Arenas since November 14th. Billed as the world's southern most city, it is hard to disagree. While Ushuaia, Argentina may debate that point, Punta Arenas is a commercial and touristic centre and offers all the amenities one could want; coaxial cables, solar panels, 12-volt batteries, metalurgical shop, steel cables, nuts, bolts, drills, volt meters, marine goop... you know, normal stuff! Take that Argentina!

For you see, those are essential parts to get six automated radio telemetry towers up and running in the wind swept wilds of Tierra del Fuego, where 120 km/h sustained winds are not uncommon. 
Stay tuned for tales from Magallanes and beyond!

Testing our tower before going to Tierra del Fuego.


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