In our May issue, Tom Zydler recounted the first portion of Whale Song’s great round-the-world adventure. The 94-foot Trinity Halter expedition yacht was carefully refit for the rigors of voyaging in extreme climates and sea conditions. Then off they went — owner Grant Wilson, captain Tom Zydler and first mate Nancy Zydler, Tom’s wife — from New England to Antarctica, where we now rejoin the voyage.
Cape Horn To Puerto Montt
The great swells of the Drake Channel died down. The hulk of Cape Horn, Tierra del Fuego, loomed abeam. At midnight the overcast sky slid open, revealing the glowing tail of Comet McNaught over the famous rock — an unforgettable finale to our Antarctic voyage. At the end of January 2007, we were just returning north from an attempt to penetrate Antarctic Sound. Whale Song couldn’t break through the dense ice into the Weddell Sea. This foray had brought us into a universe of free-floating ice — flat-top ice cliffs the length of the English Channel filled the northern end of Bransfield Strait.
The Drake Channel treated us well in a season that saw the giant cruise ship The World forced into storm mode and the huge Stadstam beaten back into Argentina’s Ushuaia with 20 injured passengers. We wouldn’t encounter killer waves in our next venture through the Chilean Channels, just a certainty of screaming winds in fast-moving waters between iron-bound shores and piles of rocks.
Westbound from Ushuaia in the Beagle Channel for the Strait of Magellan, Whale Song steamed past glaciers in Brazo Noroeste. Their monumental size reduced a cruise ship in Seno Pia, Chile, to toy size. We had Seno Garibaldi all to ourselves, the bow right up there when a buttress of ice collapsed with a boom, sending waves rolling across the formerly still water. A low, dark sky let go sheets of water as we anchored Whale Song and then ran stern lines to the tortured vegetation at the base of sheer rock spewing cascades of rain. This weather continued, but the surrounding islands kept the seas down until the U-turn northward around Chile’s Peninsula Brecknock exposed the full swing of swell from the Southern Ocean. Then in the Straits of Magellan williwaws knocked Whale Song over like a sailboat. Our stern lines on 600-foot reels were in daily use because of the abysmally deep anchorages. In Puerto Profundo, with the bow yards from the shore, we dropped anchor in 180 feet while the stern swung over an underwater canyon — we were thankful Whale Song carried 800 feet of chain on each anchor.
Powering northward brought improving weather and prolific bird life — the bow wave sent flightless steamer ducks into a frenzy of wings pummeling the sea into froth. North of 50 degrees south it became balmy. In Seno Ringdove two Commerson’s dolphins led Whale Song into Richmond Cove and then mouthed the stern lines taken ashore in the tender. Farther north, forests covered the highlands, and from Isla de Chiloe to Puerto Montt in southern Chile the scenery turned bucolic: tilled fields, salmon and mussel rafts, and hamlets. Only white-capped volcanoes in the background hinted at the forces under ground. A year after our departure, earthquakes shook southern Chile, mercifully bruising Puerto Montt only lightly. The yacht facilities in town make it a base for heading south — the equivalent of Ushuaia in the Beagle Channel.