Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cormorants, and Sea Lions, and Whales OH MY!

On Wednesday we took a catamaran out to the islands surrounding the city in the Beagle Channel.  We visited Isla de los Pajaros teeming with different species of cormorants and another island of small gulls (I forget the name.)  Sea birds don't do much for me so our next stop was a bit more exciting.  I can't remember the name, but we stopped off at an island where we took a short hike and listened to our guide explain about the indigenous people of the area, the Yamana.  It was nice to stretch our legs and learning about the Yamana people was interesting.  They were nomadic and left big mounds of mussel shells along the shores where they would stop and set up simple huts for a few nights.  The mounds are now all covered in grasses but still evident in many places along the water.  They also spent most of their time in this cold, wet and windy place naked keeping fires constantly burning in their huts, but also in their canoes if they were traveling.  Harper, Danny and I visited a museum dedicated to the Yamana people because we were definitely intrigued.  If I have time I'll write more about them later.
Cormorants on Isla de los Pajaros
Another island stop was Isla de los lobos- Island of the Wolves.  We call them sea lions but in Spanish it translates to sea wolves (and we learned a wild back in Scottish they are sea dogs.)  Our ship was able to get up close to the rookery and we got a great view of the male with his harem of females and some juveniles, though no pups.  I'll admit, I have always had a difficult time remembering the difference between sea lions and seals.  I learned this trip that they have very different pelvic configurations, making the sea lion able to "walk" on all fours, while the seal pretty much just scoots along with its back "legs" behind and drags it body.  New learning for me.

Big yawn from the mama as the little one looks around.
El Macho- the male sea lion with his impressive head
Sea birds and Sea Lions- No penguins here despite the black and white look.
Four sea lions out for a swim
After all of our stops we started to head back to the port.  We were all sitting inside the boat, comfortably out of the wind and enjoying the rounds of pepa cookies served by the crew.  We jumped up and ran out to the deck though when the guide announced the captain had just spotted some whales in the area.  He got in closer, cut the motor and we began to see the spray of three whales in the distance.  We all watched as they glided through the water, coming up for air and spraying puffs of mist above them.  It was amazing.  Danny had been up close to whales before, and Bob and Shirley had seen them as well, but the kids (obviously) and I had never.  I took picture after picture and happily scampered from one side of the deck to the other to get a good look. We ended up getting really close, with the whales just 40 feet or so from the boat.  Harper was really excited about it all and we were surprised that Cal wasn't spooked out by their size.  My guess was they were about 15 feet long.  It was pretty magical to say the least.
Que hermosa!

And nevermind my comment about penguins in the video.  Someone around me on board said they were there, but after closer look they were just some other sea bird.  Oops.

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