Day 62 Estero Elefantes

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Sat 15 Oct 2016 02:02
46:08.86S 73:42.86W

Estero Odger, half way down Estero Elefantes is as far as we got today. We had hoped to get all the way to the first tidal gate into Golfo Elefantes but it wasn’t to be. While the tide was with us, we were flying but when it started to slow down and a head wind picked up, we were reduced to a crawl. Luckily one of the few anchorages was nearby and Caramor clawed her way in. To reach Laguna San Rafael and the glacier, we will have to pass two tidal gates located 8 nautical miles apart and it won’t be possible for us to transit both in the same day.

Estero Elefantes - looking South

A high speed tourist boat, in and out in a day!

According to the authors of the ‘Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Nautical Guide’, the name ’elefantes’ refers to the numerous elephant seals that used to breed her. The many sandy beaches would have been ideal for them to haul out. Unfortunately they are all gone, massacred down to the last one and although populations have recovered, this area, so far, has not been recolonised.

During the last ice age, a vast glacier scoured a deep trench extending from Santiago to the Golfo de Penas. As the climate warmed, the ice melted revealing the Chilean Central Valley, famous for all those delicious wines for sale in the UK. At its southern end, the ditch was deeper and the sea gushed through the lateral depressions, flooding the valley as far as Puerto Montt. Estero Elefantes is the southern, flooded end of the Chilean Central Valley, and Franco is bemoaning the lack of vineyards. 

Franco putting the sail away with the Andes in the background

The Mapuche’s have their own explanation as to how the Chonos Archipelago was created and the valley flooded:

Cai Cai, the evil serpent rose in rage from the sea and flooded the land, he then attacked the good serpent Tren Tren’s fortress in the mountains. She was fast asleep and blissfully unaware of the assault. The Mapuche tried to awaken her but still she slept. By this time, Cai Cai, with his allies ‘Thunder’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Wind’ had nearly reached Tren Tren’s cave.

A little Mapuche girl laughed, at last awakening Tren Tren from her deep slumber. She responded with a giggle so insulting, that Cai Cai and his acolytes fell down the cliff. Furious, Cai Cai charged again and broke the earth, sowing the sea with islands (the Chonos Archipelago). 

The story doesn’t end there. As the waters rose, Tren Tren arched her back and with the strength of the twelve guanacos in her stomach, pushed the cave roof upwards and the mountains grew towards the sky. Eventually the peaks were so high, they were out of Cai Cai’s reach and he fell into the abyss where he is still lying, stunned, thousands of years later.

The Mapuche inhabited mainland western Patagonia. They fiercely defended their lands against the Spanish and today there are several communities still living a semi-traditional lifestyle.