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Amalia Glacier


While this page is titled "Amalia Glacier" it covers far more than the single glacier. We will begin our photo journey on the morning following our departure from Puerto Montt, Chile. The journey will cover a brief passage through the Darwin Canal, that took about two hours, on our way to the Pacific Ocean where we sailed through the day southward. Fog was heavy so we spent the day with the activities aboard ship.

Darwin Canal

We are in the Darwin Canal sailing with the current toward the Pacific Ocean.

The rocks are a form of granite pushed from deep beneath the surface from the sliding plates that create the Andes Mountains. As we passed through the canal we came upon a number of 'rock islands' that were sanctuaries for birds. Our destinations tomorrow will find us sailing within a number of fjords and past a number of glaciers.

The large circled area on the map is the area that we will cover for the continuation of this page. 

Chile possesses 2,650 miles of coastline. It is on the southern stretch that Seno Eyre Fjord is located and referred to as the Patagonian region. It is home to some of the most interesting scenery on earth with Fjord stretching from the Strait of Magellan to Puerto Montt. Patagonia is a region or an area, (not a country or state) that belongs to both Chile and Argentina.

We entered Canal Trinidad in the early hours of the morning, joined Canal Wide and eventually Seno Eyre towards Pio XI Glacier.

We are sailing in early morning (approximately 7:00am). We have learned to expect heavy fog / low clouds in the fjords. On this day the sun struggled to fight its way through the clouds in an effort to brighten the land.


As one can see, the canal is quite narrow in places. Small lighthouses stand watch to warn nearing ships that the rock is unfriendly.

Waterfalls seem to emerge from the face of the mountain. The water is flowing through cracks in the rock that join with trapped ponds of water from melted snow and ice at the top.


Notice the "U" shaped cuts in the mountain. These are caused by past glacial movement at they clawed their way to the sea.

In the above photos the 'U' shape is easily seen.

Here the sun whispers on the mountain peaks to awaken the traveler of the beauty of the natural, although desolate, landscape.

We were intrigued by the string of boats. They belonged to a group of fishermen making their way to a cove to lay their nets. The boats were tied bow to stern with lengths of rope. The only powered boat was the one pulling them. A good method to conserve gasoline at the rate of $4.00 per gallon.

We knew we were getting close to a glacier when we began to see chunks of ice floating on the water ahead of us.

As soon as we rounded the corner, there it was -- Pio XI Glacier. It is a hanging glacier meaning that it hangs on the mountain. The ice chunks are those that broke off and slid/rolled down the mountainside to a stream that carried them to the channel.

One can tell glacial ice from mountain ice easily. Notice that glacial ice is blue. This is because it has been compressed for hundreds of years and doesn't reflect light in the same manner as 'normal' ice does.

Seno Europa Glacier

We continued our journey up the canal toward the second glacier of the day -- Seno Europa.

A couple of hours after passing Pio XI Glacier we began to see small chunks of ice and eventually larger pieces. Although the ship is large the captain sailed slowly and moved to avoid hitting any of the icebergs that were floating. Some of the icebergs shows are approximately 20 - 30 feet across with 90% of the mass being below water. They could cause a lot of damage to a ships propeller.

We could see the Seno Europa Glacier in the distance. Its blue mass began to grow out of the fog.


The depth of the channel at this point was announced to be approximately 50 meters translating into about 150 feet. The glacier is solid to the bottom and is frozen to the floor.

We were intrigued at how the color of the water changed as the sun poked it face through the clouds on occasion.

We would have liked a sunny day to take photos but one must tolerate what they can get.

We stay at the glacier for about an hour and then continue on toward another fjord that will take us to Amelia Glacier. Notice again, the 'U' shaped cuts that past glaciers have made on their journey through the mountains.

About two hours after we left the sun came out and laughed at us.

Amelia Glacier

We arrived at Amelia Glacier around 8:00 am. The sun was rising with a clear sky for a change, except scattered clouds that mirrored themselves on the still water. We stayed in the area for about an hour and watched the skyline change as the sun rose in the north-east. Often the sun would light up a valley between the clouds and seemed to whisper across the landscape as the light grew brighter.

The height of the glacier at the water's edge is about 20 - 30 feet. The depth continues to the bottom of the fjord that was indicated on the ship console 45 meters at this point.

Looking across the sound from the glacier one can see the landscape being lighted from the early morning sun.

The jagged peaks of the mountain in the distance reminded us of a sleeping dragon.

It is now around 9:00am and time for us to retrace our tracks back into Canal Sarmiento and cross into Canal Smyth.

Around 4:00pm we approach Isla Shoalon where the Santa Leonora was shipwrecked in 1964.

The ship was on her maiden voyage carrying Chilean pilots northwards through the area. She was a passenger ship of around 18,000 tons. At that time, aboard the bridge, helm orders were given using the terms 'left' and 'right' instead of 'port' and 'starboard.' As they transited Shoal Pass the pilot and the captain were engaged in conversation and on completion of their talk the captain said, "Alright pilot!"

The nervous helmsman responded to what he thought to be a helms order and applied full right (starboard) rudder. The ship veered to starboard and mounted the nearby shallows at full speed.

Fortunately, no lives were lost. The passengers were rescued the next day. The investigation into the incident revealed that the use of the words 'right' and 'left' were the cause of the accident. As a result of that incident, all directions on the ship are given as 'starboard' (right) and 'port' (left). It's easy to remember which side is the port as the word 'port' and 'left' have the same number of letters in them.


From here we sail once again via the Sarmiento and Gray Channels into the Magellan Strait for the northerly approach to Punta Arenas. As we approach the Strait we sail past the granite bluffs of the nearby landscape. Yes, it is raining again.

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Last modified:    April 2013