Skipper Pulls Through – Visit to the Big Apple of Beaver Cities

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 9 Mar 2012 13:44

Position: 55° 11.148S 069° 33.409W

Caleta Nutria, Estéro Fouque

Date: 7 March 2012


I would like to report that after the mutinous poisoning of the skipper by his evil crew, I have spent the last couple of days fighting death, lying in my bunk delirious with fever and wracked with pain. However, that would be deviating from the absolute truth. The fact is that since I was tricked into sampling the witches brew, my gums haven’t bled, none of my teeth have fallen out and I have no rheumatism, so it must have worked.


The weather has remained mixed with overcast skies and occasional drizzle but nothing that would stop us from continuing with our adventure. Yesterday morning we motored back eight miles down the deep fjord, stopping at a glacier on the way, parking the boat within 100 metres of it whilst Andrew got into the kayak with a bunch of cameras for a photoshoot of “Mina2 in front of glacier”. After the photoshoot, Andrew went up to the snout of the glacier to get a lump of clear ice to supplement our diminishing supply of Antarctic ice for the G&T’s (soon to be infused with locally picked berries). We then continued to the bottom of the fjord and anchored in a biggish bay, Caleta Nutria.


We had noticed that in the spectacular bowl at the end of the fjord, surrounded by an amphitheatre of high mountains and glaciers there was a wooded plain at the head of a valley that strongly indicated beaver country, viz, patches of completely dead trees standing bare and silver coloured amongst the dense forest. We took the dinghy round in the early evening to investigate.


What we discovered was a veritable beaver city; layer after layer of dammed lagoons reaching far back into the valley, the dams ranging from small affairs blocking the entrance to a small stream, to long twisting elaborate affairs of 100 metres or more. We were stunned by the landscaping on a grand scale that these small animals collectively construct with, as the DS put it, “eternity swimming pools, trickling water features and rippling rivulets”. (You may well be able to see them on Google Earth at 55° 11.3S 069° 34.5W).


As we sat patiently and quietly at the side of the large expanse, we were privileged to see a number of beavers swimming through the still pools very close to us. The moment they became aware of us (Andrew’s scarlet jacket may have been a giveaway), within the blink of an eye their flat tail would whip up, slap the water, and they were gone, swimming into the murky depths. I said that witnessing such an extraordinary manifestation of nature I felt like David Attenborough. The DS said that I might feel like Atters, but with my Antarctican beard I looked like Bill Oddy. Rather unkind I thought.


When we came down to the bottom of the fjord on a recce a couple of days ago, we were greeted by groups of small dolphins of a type that we hadn’t seen before. Out came the reference book on cetaceans and the only conclusion we could draw was that they were Black Dolphins, but as the book said they were so scarce that few had ever  been observed, we assumed we were wrong. The same dolphins came to greet us again as we arrived yesterday. I sent an email to Natalie Goodall at Harberton who is a world leading specialist on marine mammals in the area and she has confirmed that from our description they are indeed the scarce Balck Dolphins (or Chilean Dolphins as they are now called). Quite exciting.