Friday, November 24, 2006

The Beagle Channel - revisited

There are still places in this world where you stand in awe.
Where there is an aura of solemnity.
The Beagle Channel is one of them - and it is something you don’t expect when you just around the corner from Cape Horn.
Apart from its stark beauty, what struck me about it was its solemn stillness.
Glaciers and ice make little sound.
New-fold mountains sleep, their great stubbled chins pointed skywards while above them condors the size of worker bees wheel in effortless in silent circles.
A thousand streams and waterfalls glisten as they slip relentlessly over honed rock faces only to disappear in the wooded banks below.
Penguins and occasional whales grace the water, while on the scattered rocky outcrops, seals wallow unperturbed while on tiny islands innumerable cormorants hold out their flaccid wings to dry.
Beneath the crystal waters, tall weeds wave their golden fronds as the small boat passes above them leaving barely a ripple on the surface.

The Beagle Channel stretches 120 miles long and two miles wide, and Charles Darwin likened it to the valley of Scotland’s Lockness.
In his words:
The lofty mountains rise to a height of 3,000 and 4,000 feet…covered by a wide mantle of perpetual snow, and numerous cascades pour their waters through the woods, into the narrow channel below. In many parts, magnificent glaciers extend from the mountainside to the water’s edge. It is scarcely possible to imagine anything more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of there glaciers and the dead white of the upper expanse of snow. (The Voyage of the HMS Beagle).

The Channel is probably unchanged since the time HMS Beagle made its first passage in the 1830s and it will be that same scene which will greet the replica ship when she sails south in a few years time.
Thanks to Peter Grath, I have just learned of the Beagle Project Pembrokeshire,
Zoologist, Peter, and David Lort-Phillips director of the Darwin Centre for Biology and Medicine in Wales are co-founders of the project to build a replica of the Beagle.
For more information on this project go to:
The Beagle Project.

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