Patagonia – Chile: 2009
The highlight of the cruise was a four-hour journey in a small ice cutter through the iceberg-strewn waters of a fjord. Because there were so few passengers, we all managed to squeeze onto the small ship. The bow was narrow and sharply pointed and looked quite battered. Unlike most ships, ice cutters have reinforced hulls and very powerful engines that allow them to break through ice. I saw this demonstrated as we crashed through sheets of ice, shards pummeling the sides, creating a narrow path.
The sounds of the engine and ice were deafening. I had earplugs, ear cuffs and a hood and the noise rattled my brain. Though the boat was covered and there were space heaters, the sides were open, and the spray and rain soaked all of us. Though it was midsummer in Chile (January) it was brutally cold.
Nothing prepared me for the experience of bobbing in the middle of an ice sculpture garden nestled between towering rock walls and deep blue glaciers. There was no green, red or yellow. We’d entered a perfect blue and white world. The visual images were so compelling, I didn’t have time to focus on the discomfort.
I now know the meaning of ice blue, which spans a hundred shades from crystal clear to near white to iridescent pearl to deep ultramarine. The relentless wind sculpts the ice into graceful forms, some reminiscent of Brancusi or Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth. Others resembled ice dunes. Every few minutes, we’d pass another glacier oozing down to the sea. Sprinkled between the glaciers were hundreds of waterfalls.