Punta Arenas

My last stop in Patagonia was Punta Arenas in Chile. After a quick flight across the strait the afternoon before, we checked in to a nice old hotel and I woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the Strait of Magellan. At breakfast I could see the sky developing and went to the balcony on the top floor that faced east toward the strait. I basically balanced my camera on the rail of the balcony to steady it in order to take photos for an HDR merge. Below is sunrise over Punta Arenas and the Strait of Magellan.

Sunrise in Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas is situated on the Strait of Magellan and is southernmost significant city in Chile. Tourism is one of its main industries, as it is one of the main gateways to Antarctica. Earlier in the city’s life it was a somewhat significant port city as it lay at the key crossing point between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. But the US decided that there should be a canal across Panama at the beginning of the 20th century and the Strait of Magellan shipping route is no longer so important and cargo ships no longer need to stop for coal and supplies on their journeys anyway. The city is also know for very strong winds, but the wind was quite calm during my stay.

After boarding the bus, our first stop was down by the shore. We wandered along the shoreline promenade at around sunrise to see the sights. After everyone had moved on, I worked on a pier and the Punta Arenas sign for a while trying to get a good composition. I wasn’t especially pleased with my photos of the pier, but I think the city sign photo worked well enough. The image below is a single exposure and probably my best take on it and I really like the silvery letters as they reflect a lot of color.

Punta Arenas sign with Strait of Magellan

Not too far down the shore is a prominent shipwreck. A frigate called the Lord Lonsdale was enroute from Germany to the west coast of Mexico and apparently caught fire in the Falkland Islands and was scuttled. A company bought the remains and were trying to move it to Puerto Natales when they lost control of it or abandoned it in the Strait of Magellan and it washed up in Punta Arenas and became a popular attraction for sea birds. It is a slowly rusting and disintegrating part of the cityscape now, so we stopped and took a few photos.

Shipwreck of Lord Lonsdale in Punta Arenas

South down the coast from Punta Arenas we found Fuerte Bulnes Park. Fuerte Bulnes is a Chilean fort founded in 1843 on a rocky hill jutting out into the Strait in order to solidify Chile’s claim to the area and protect the Strait of Magellan. It was the intended site of a settlement but the people thought the Sandy Point area made a better location and that is where Punta Arenas is today. The fort was abandoned and destroyed in 1848, but reconstructed as a historic site in the early 1940s.

The photo below shows the fort’s cannons facing out into the strait with the Chilean flag illustrating the strong prevailing wind. The strait is quite wide here (about 8 – 10 miles) and I am not sure how much of it they were able to cover with these guns. But, I got the idea it was more of a political statement than a strategic outpost.

Fuerte Bulnes

On the opposite wall of the fort I found one of my most lucky photo-ops of the trip. A full rainbow was on display to the southwest and I had a cannon directed almost directly toward it. I may have gotten a few rain drops on me, but I crouched there anyway and fired off my Canon, I mean Nikon, at the rainbow.

A rainbow shot from Fuerte Bulnes

Later in the afternoon we drove north of Punta Arenas to an estancia and watched Andean Condors fly about the high cliffs where they live. By the afternoon it was quite cloudy and the sky was grayish white, which made it difficult to photograph the dark birds against the sky. So, I mainly photographed them as the swooped down by the cliffs, sometimes to land, other times to buzz their neighbors I guess. Andean condors are considered to be the largest flying bird in the world by combined weight and wingspan. The Andean condors live up and down western South America and are relatives of the California condors, turkey vultures, and black vultures we see in the US. They aren’t critically endangered like the California condor, but they are considered vulnerable. Like many other animals they suffer from habitat loss and also lead poisoning from consuming ammo used by hunters. Below are a few cropped photos, the males have a large dark comb atop their heads, so you can easily see the difference.

This was our last stop on the trip and then it was back to the hotel for the final dinner.

The next morning after breakfast, I decided to climb the hill behind the hotel and wait for sunrise. I was hoping it would be as colorful as the previous day but it was a bit too cloudy. Even if the sunrise is not as spectacular, the image below has the hotel in the foreground with the city and Strait of Magellan in the distance. It was a Saturday morning and the city was very quiet and calm. I stayed in the room behind the windows at the upper left corner of la Yegua Loca in the photo below.

Sunrise over Punta Arenas

After this, I walked down the street you see in the image above to a shopping area and bought a few gifts. I boarded the bus for the airport around lunch time and began my 24 hour trip back home. That wrapped up a fun journey to see parts of Patagonia. It was a great trip and I’m very glad I got to go.

I was part of a tour group, which I hadn’t really done before as I usually just make my own way wherever I go. But with having guides, I think I probably had ten times the experience and none of the stress that I would have had if I had tried to plan this on my own, so it was probably worth the added expense. The company that I was with is called Natural Habitat Adventures based in Boulder CO, they have tours like this all over the world with local guides and some of the money from the trip also goes to the World Wildlife Fund. Some of their expeditions, like this one, have a photography focus and the host of this tour is an accomplished wildlife photographer. I will consider some of their other photography focused trips in the future.

I took over 2000 photos and culled them down to 311 in writing these blogs. I will probably try to remove another third of them before committing them to cloud storage. Thanks for reading my blogs about Patagonia.


22 thoughts on “Punta Arenas

  1. Great photos. I like the cannon in the rainbow shot best. And the Canon pun. And yes, I doubt those cannons could have reached far enough to hit any ships sailing miles away. But they could have helped repel any landing party of invaders. Or tour groups.

    I’ve always assumed I would chafe at a guided tour, given my itchy feet and love for striking out on my own. But taking away the stress of planning such an adventure sounds tempting. I might look into that tour company. My wife, who can’t hike anymore, might appreciate such a guided tour.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is very hard to repel tourists. We just know there’s a gift shop there somewhere.

      I like to go out on my own a bit too. There were some opportunities that I took from time-to-time to get away from the group and do my own thing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I really liked the pier sign with the water, and I did have to smile at the rainbow that you shot with your “cannon”. 😶🤚!
    Wonderful that you enjoyed the trip so much! Look forward to seeing and hearing about the next adventure you choose.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think I like the last one the best, “Sunrise over Punta Arenas”. I like the early morning sky. And there are a couple of cloud-whales swimming over the junction of the road and the sea. Interesting, sharp divisions in the photograph when taken as a whole, and none of them as “thirds”.

    So you stayed at, “The Crazy Mare”.

    Liked by 1 person

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