Monday, April 16, 2018

Puerto Edén. . . . .Cruising the Chilean Fjords

Villa Puerto Edén, Chile
March 15, 2018
Temp.Range - 40-51F
Cloudy with Rain

Tucked under the shadow of the snow-encrusted Andean peaks, lies
 Puerto Edén, a Chilean hamlet and minor port only accessible by sea. 
Located on Wellington Island west of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, 
it is the only settlement, has a population of 176, and is renowned for being
 home to the last Kawésqar people, a nomadic seafaring people. 
Also called 'canoe people' by some anthropologists, they built canoes 8-9 meters
 long and one meter wide which would hold a family and its dog, on which they lived.
They continued this fishing, nomadic practice until the twentieth century, when
 they were moved to settlements on land. Their traditional language is
 Kawésqar and is now endangered as few native speakers survive.

In 1881, European anthropologists took eleven Kawésqar people fom Patagonia 
to be exhibited in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, and the Berlin Zoological Garden.
Only four survived to return to Chile. Early in 2010, the remains of five of the 
seven who died were repatriated from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where
they had been held for studies. Upon return of the remains, the president of Chile
formally apologized for the state having allowed these indigenous people to be
taken out of the country to be exhibited and treated like animals.
A very sad story needless to say.

Puerto Edén has an extremely wet subpolar oceanic climate and is widely
 reputed to be the place in the world with the highest frequency of rainfall, and an
 average of 226 inches per year.
Because of the extraordinarily humid climate, the village has no roads, only
 pedestrian boardwalks connecting the houses and few shops. These walkways, 
sadly in disrepair, were very wet and slippery due to the climate conditions, 
and one of our passengers fell and broke her wrist - she however remained a
 trooper and continued on with the trip following attention by our charming
 Ukrainian ship's doctor. 

Puerto Edén is a very poor village but it was interesting to see how people manage 
to carve out a living in such a remote part of the world. There were a few
 handmade objects for sale by two women in a tiny shack, and it is always
appreciated to spend some cash for although landing fees are paid by the ship,
the villagers themselves gain something directly out of tourist visits.
We were told we were the first tourist ship to visit the island in 13 months - of course
only small ships are able to get there and landing is only possible by Zodiacs.
We were asked not to purchase any food items from the tiny grocery as the people
receive supplies infrequently via a Navimag ferry - their only lifeline with the outside
 world - and a weekly transport boat which takes local fish and shellfish products
 to markets. The inhabitants' livelihood comes from diving for mussels and sea urchins.

It was a dry landing onto a jetty with staircase and handrails.
Brightly colored wood and corrugated sheet metal buildings make 
up the hamlet.

A wet welcome - hard to tell which was humidity and which was actual rain - not
 a very cheery, comfortable climate that's for certain.

A typical house in the village - few people were actually seen.
Fuchsia was rampant on the island and home to many hummingbirds - they
 were so fast though I was unable to take photos of those beautiful tiny birds.

Our ship at anchor in the fjord, and fishing boats from which the men dive for
 mussels and sea urchins - the latter sold mostly to Japan. Most do not use air tanks, 
just hoses attached to an air compressor on the boats.

We left Puerto Edén with a forecast of a severe weather system affecting the
 Chilean Pacific coast. 
This produced a very rough, stormy night - a lot of people seasick - and required
 changes to our planned route as we were required to take shelter longer in the fjord
 system before continuing north on our ocean voyage. 

Next time, visiting Melinka where damage from the huge earthquake of 2016
was still visible - but people go about their lives despite tremors 
almost daily! 


  1. That was a very sad story indeed! I can not even imagine living some place so remote.

  2. Seems strong, hardy people must live there. Your poor husband looks purely miserable in that weather. Too bad about the woman who fell and broke her wrist, which must have been sobering for all. And a night of seasickness? You have talked me out of this adventure. 🙂 Beautiful photography!

  3. It's amazing to learn how some people live in the most remote places of this world. We truly live on an amazing planet.

  4. It seems beautiful, but yet sad. I can't even imagine living in such isolation. How sad that they are endangered. It does look wet and cold.

  5. Absolutely fascinating, and a rare peek into a little bit of history and geography I have never heard of. Thank you for sharing it all Mary.

  6. Great Photos Mary. Those colorful buildings are a wonderful contrast to the bleak weather.

  7. That is a sad story...your photos are beautiful...despite the poverty, the village looks very quaint and friendly. :)

  8. This village reminds me of similar places on our coasts where the indigenous people have lived for so long and exist in conditions that most of us would not tolerate. The story of the people taken to Europe for display is so sad. What an adventure you're describing, seeing parts of the world that so few get to. I'm loving it all (except for the seasickness and broken wrist).

  9. I am really enjoying learning about parts of the world that I've never even heard about. So beautiful, but yet a little sad, too. And so sorry to hear that one of your shipmates fell and broke her wrist. The seasickness didn't sound too fun either. Yikes!


I would enjoy reading your comment - thanks so much for stopping by.