Expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia,
Cape Horn, Falklands & Tierra Del Fuego
Tierra Del Fuego Adventures (Continued)
Making up the left-hand side of South America's tapering tail,
Chile's lean strip has been described by author Benjamín
Subercaseaux as an extravaganza of `crazy geography'. It
extends some 4300km (2666mi) from the desert north to the
glacial south, is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west
and shuttered by the Andes on the east. Chile shares most
of its extensive eastern border with Argentina, and borders
Peru and Bolivia in the north. Rarely extending beyond
200km (124mi) in width, Chile makes up for longitudinal
mincing by rising rapidly from sea level to 6000m (19,680ft)
while the country's latitudinal extremes give it a formidable
array of landscapes. Snow-capped volcanoes plunge to river
canyons; the Great North, where some weather stations have
never recorded rainfall, is counterpoint to storm and
snow-prone Patagonia; and Chile's razored and sculpted
coastline has endowed it with beaches and bays perfect for
fishing and swimming.
Chile also lays claim to the offshore territories of Easter Island
(3700km/2294mi west), Juan Fernández (700km/434mi west)
and half of the southern island of Tierra del Fuego (which it
shares with Argentina).
The variety of habitat supports distinctive flora and fauna,
which are protected by an extensive system of national parks
- one of the country's major draw cards for visitors. In the
parks, animals such as the endangered vicuña (a wild relative
of the alpaca), the Patagonian guanaco (a wild relative of the
Andean llama), flamingos, pelicans, penguins, otters and sea
lions do the food chain thing. Chilean plant life includes
stands of araucaria (the monkey-puzzle tree), cypress and
rare alerce trees (similar to the giant redwoods of California).
Outside protected areas, extensive logging denudes the
landscape at an alarming, and increasing, rate.
Chile's climate is as varied as its terrain, with arid but
surprisingly temperate areas in the north, a heartland which
enjoys a Mediterranean climate, and the wind, rain and
snow-battered lands of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del
Fuego in the south. The rainy season in the heartland is from
May to August when temperatures are cooler, getting down
to an average maximum temperature of 10°C (50°F) in July.
January's neat gin average is 28°C (82°F). Chilean
Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego have summer averages of
just 11°C (52°F) but if you think that's manageable, muff up
and get ready for the wind chill, baby.
USHUAIA, Argentina, Tierra del Fuego
From my journal:
"Ten minutes till midnight and it is finally
dark. The view from the third floor lobby of
our hotel now consists of an arc of blue and
yellow lights - the city of Ushuaia - floating in
the blackness and marking the edge where the
beech-covered slopes of Tierra del Fuego slid
into the waters of the Beagle Channel.
Earlier this evening, as I watched the same scene
from the hotel dining room, it struck me that these
electrical 'fires' that we now use to light
up our habitations are reminiscent of the fires
that Charles Darwin watched as he sailed in the
ship whose name was taken for these waters.
The inhabitants then were known for wearing little
in the way of clothing. They did, however, carry
fire with them everywhere they went,
even in their canoes. As Darwin and the crew of
the Beagle sailed this passage they watched
fires spring up along the shore as night fell. If
they were to return today, they would see that
the Fuegians are still faithful to their name.
Tierra del Fuego - Land of Fire.
We embark tomorrow for the Drake Passage and Antarctic waters. Have we
enough good omens to insure a safe and just-sufficiently-uneventful
to thrill us but not endanger us?
Perhaps. The first omen of the day was the wondrous view from the
of our plane as we climbed out of Punta Arenas and crossed the
Darwin Range: glaciers and meandering, braided rivers. A scene I never
of, a scene reminiscent of similar geography I have seen in the
New Zealand and the Central Range in Alaska.
Glaciers - rivers of ice - the surface cracked and stretched, buckled
compressed, revealing in those distressed patterns the slowly flowing,
unimaginably fluid substance: hard, incredibly dense blue ice.
rivers reveal another aspect of fluid flow - energy shifting and
picking up bed loads and laying them down in gravel and sand swaths,
forever wandering back and forth across their valleys. Both examples of
changing the nature of our world just as it has for millions of years.
- Roy Beckemeyer, 19 January, 1998
The Tierra del Fuego was leaving early (5AM) Friday morning on
Puerto-Natales - Puerto Montt trip, and we were asked to board the boat
the night before. I would rather have spent the night on shore, but
to play it safe and stick to the rules, since alternative transport out
of Patagonia was very difficult to arrange (all buses, planes, and
sailings of the Tierra del Fuego were fully booked weeks in advance),
I needed to catch an international flight from Santiago in a week and a
The main topic of conversation as we waited to get on board was the
del Fuego's encounter with a rock 3 weeks ago, which (according to
left a 40-foot gash in the hull and (verifiable fact) had forced the
to spend a week in Puerto Natales being repaired. There are lots of
rock-filled channels around Puerto Natales, and the then-captain (now
had decided to go through one of these without waiting for high tide
claimed he was was under management pressure to make up lost time). No
had been hurt, but we all knew that if the boat had a more serious
and sank, we wouldn't last long in the ice-cold Patagonian waters ...
The Tierra del Fuego had four kinds of accommodation - cabins, bunks,
A seats, and class B seats. I never saw a cabin but heard they were
nice. Bunks were quite comfortable bunkbeds in reasonably-sized rooms
bunks to a room), class A seats were reclining seats in a small
(13 seats) with a view, and class B seats were reclining seats in a
`container' (80 seats) on the truck deck. The class B container was
to some trucks carrying sheep, cattle, and other animals, so those of
fortunate fortunate enough to have better seats cracked innumerable
about how the ship's livestock section included a `human pen'. Besides
sleeping areas, the only indoors space available to non-cabin
was the dining room - there were none of the lounges, snack bars, TV
shops, etc that are found in most US or European ferries.
I had been unable to get a bunk, since they were mostly reserved for
drivers, and had instead settled for a class A seat. When I got on the
I quickly unrolled my sleeping bag on a choice bit of floor space, as I
prefer sleeping on the floor to sleeping in a chair. Many other people,
particularly in class B, had the same idea, and some brave rain-loving
even staked out semi-sheltered spots on deck to sleep in. Some of these
hardy souls were a bit taken aback, though, when they discovered that
they had been sleeping on deck, their seats had been sold to people on
Friday: I didn't get much sleep (partly due to a loud snorer in my
but the beautiful scenery soon revived me. The boat was meandering
various channels, many of them narrow (and rock-filled!), on its way to
the main North-South channel. I had once taken a boat trip on the coast
of Norway, and the scenery here reminded me of that - narrow channels,
of forested islands, mountains plunging directly into the sea. The main
difference was that while most of the Norwegian coast is settled, and
little valley and island has its Viking history, the Patagonian islands
are uninhabited except for a few fishing villages. A true wilderness
in other words, one of the few places on this globe that has not yet
`exploited' by man. As I watched the islands go by, I wondered what it
be like to jump overboard (in a wet suit, of course), swim to a random
and live a Robinson Crusoe type life, completely out-of-touch with the
of the human race. I talked a bit to a nun and a teenage girl who were
to a religious retreat on one of the islands, and I half-thought of
an instant conversion to Catholicism and then asking if I could join
I spent a few hours around lunchtime talking to Jim and Linda, a couple
who were returning to Britain after a job in Tuvalu, a South Pacific
nation. They laughed when I told them I wanted to stay on one of the
and said that they had spent two years on a remote island whose only
with the outside world was a monthly ferry, and they were looking
to being in a place that had bookstores, telephones, and an occasional
face that they hadn't seen before!
The weather during the day was typical Patagonian - clouds with
bursts of sun, frequent bursts of rain, and odd bursts of hail. Gray,
other words. Kind of like Scotland, except that the rain, when it came,
was a lot stronger than Scottish drizzles. The human passengers could
least go inside, but the livestock, sitting in their open trucks on the
open truck deck, had to suffer through the rain and hail. When we stood
on deck we could see the animals shivering and huddling together, and
hear their pitiful bleating when the weather got really nasty. It
crazy to me to subject animals to this kind of treatment - if nothing
sick or dead animals are presumably worth a lot less than healthy ones
but it seemed to be standard practice on the Tierra del Fuego.
Saturday: The snoring wasn't so bad this night (or maybe I was just
used to it), so I actually got some sleep before waking up at 5AM to
Puerto Eden, the boat's only stop between Puerto Natales and Puerto
Puerto Eden has about 300 souls or so, and is the biggest village on
of the islands. The boat did not dock, but just stopped in the middle
the channel while small boats came out from Puerto Eden to load and
cargo and passengers. It was quite fun to watch, especially because
of the Puerto Edenians were Indians, the last remaining descendants of
of the fierce tribes that once ruled Patagonia. I waved good-bye to the
nun and her teen-age charge as they got off the boat, and then went
When I got up, I discovered that the boat hadn't budged - it was still
in the channel off of Puerto Eden, and remained there until 12 noon.
we had to wait for a high tide in some channel (I suspect the captain
being extra-cautious because of the recent accident). I asked some
if it was possible to go ashore and explore Puerto Eden, but the small
had all left, and there didn't seem to be any other way to leave the
del Fuego. It was a nice day, though (i.e. occasional drizzles but no
rain, and even a bit of sun now and then), so I hung around on deck
various other tourists. After the boat started moving, it hit a windy
and we all stood around on deck and tried to see how far we could lean
the wind without falling over.
I had lunch with some of the Chilean truck drivers, and they clearly
(although they didn't quite say so) that all of us Western tourists
crazy. Why on earth were we paying $100 to spend 3 days on a boat, when
a bus to Puerto Montt (through Argentina) cost $50 and only took 36
Was there some odd element in Western culture which made us enjoy
4 nights sleeping in a chair? A difficult question to answer ... I
mention that, excluding the truck drivers, 90% of the passengers were
tourists, and the handful of Chileans generally had good reasons for
taking the bus (e.g., they were moving house and needed to take a
full of furniture).
Lunch, by the way, consisted partly of a stew with rather odd chewy
of material in it. It wasn't bad, just strange, but I made the mistake
asking one of the truck drivers what it was. When he responded "cow
stomach", I gulped and pushed the bowl aside, much to the amusement
of my companions. Sometimes its better not to know ...
I spent the afternoon hanging around with Susan, a fellow traveller I
met in Puerto Natales. Susan and I had roughly equal competence at
(not fluent by any means, but able to converse with people if we could
them to slow down and speak clearly), and we had fun trying to figure
a poem in one of Susan's books. We eventually decided it was too
and asked a Chilean to explain it to us, but he told us that he
understand the poem either! I told Susan afterwards that I had decided
stick to non-fiction in the future ...
In the evening, the boat entered the dreaded and aptly named "Gulf
of Sorrow" (Golfo de Pena), the only true open-ocean part of the trip.
The crew passed out sea-sickness bags to the tourists, and I headed up
my favorite semi-sheltered spot on deck (it was, of course, raining
again). Juan, a Chilean oil engineer from Punta Arenas, had discovered
same spot, and we sat and talked about politics as we watched the boat
crashing through the waves. Chile had just recently made a transition
dictatorship to democracy, and Juan was saying that although he didn't
approve of Pinochet, the ex-dictator, he had to admit that the man had
gone things for the economy. I'd heard quite a few other Chileans make
remarks, and it set me to wondering - how do you evaluate a bloody
who overthrew a democratically-elected government and killed and
hundreds of political prisoners, but who also saved his country from
chaos and raised the living standards of millions? In college
class I would have said the killings outweighed any economic gain, but
I'm less sure, since the vast majority of people I've met in my various
wanderings around the Third World seem to care much more about economic
well-being than about politics.
It's absolutely clear, though, that however one evaluates Pinochet's
as dictator, he was certainly acting badly at the time of my trip to
- making numerous veiled and not-so veiled threats of staging another
(especially when corruption investigations started getting too close to
him), and generally causing lots of unnecessary problems for the
democratic government (which, I should add, consisted of some of the
decent, capable, and honest politicians that I saw in any Latin
Enough politics. I must say that this moment of the trip is the one
most clearly sticks in my mind. My memories of gliding through
sun-lit channels are already starting to fade, but I can still vividly
seeing the twin smokestacks of the Tierra del Fuego silhouetted against
the crashing waves as the ship fought its way through the misnamed
ocean, while Juan and I kept up a deep political discussion as we
for shelter from the rain and hail. I could really feel the boat as a
self-contained world afloat in a hostile sea, trying to battle its way
the elements to safety ...
Sunday: I wasn't too badly affected by the boat's rocking, but I heard
of running in the hallways (presumably to the toilets) at night, so I
the seasickness bags saw a bit of use. By breakfast time the water was
a bit calmer, but I still noticed that far fewer people than usual had
down for the meal ...
The weather improved somewhat, and we spent a few glorious sunny hours
through inter-island channels. Some dolphins kept us company for a bit,
and the waters were full of ducks, the skies full of birds, and the
full of trees and mountains. We waved at a few fishing boats in the
and at one container ship that passed pretty close by. This is the part
of the trip that the tourist brochures all talk about, I'm sure,
as I said above, it's not the part that most sticks in my memory.
I spent the day, as usual, drifting around the boat chatting to the
people I had met. As I grow older I seem to be doing more of my
on boats (always ferries - I've never yet found a cruise that both goes
somewhere interesting and is within my price range). I guess I really
the atmosphere; plenty of room to move around in, plenty of
to hang around and meet people, nice scenery by and large, and more
than is usually found in buses, trains, or planes.
I spent the evening talking with my friend Susan and with Carlos, an
from Spain (Susan and I had once again combined forces to achieve
Spanish fluency). Carlos was interesting to talk to because he knew a
deal about Patagonia and its history, but he also complained a lot
the trip. I guess that while the backpackers (such as myself) had more
less known what to expect, and in any case were used to roughing it,
was a well-off professional, and did not appreciate spending four
in a chair. I gathered that he had only seen glossy tourist pamphlets
signing up for the trip, and had been shocked when he saw what living
were like. So, a warning to readers - I took quite a few boat trips in
and while they were all beautiful, they were also all very primitive
and facility- wise, except for passengers in cabins. Be warned, and get
a cabin unless you're used to roughing it.
Day 4: The last day of the trip. We arrived at Puerto Montt harbor at
9AM, but once again had to wait a few hours for high tide, and didn't
dock until noon. I felt kind of funny as I walked off the boat. On the
hand, I was certainly looking forward to days without rain and nights
on a bed. But on the other hand, I remembered all the magic moments of
trip - watching the boat battle through the South Pacific waves,
for birds and dolphins in the sunlit inter-island channels, and just
around and talking to Susan, Linda, Jim, Carlos, Juan, and all the
people I had met on the trip - and I knew that the voyage of the Tierra
del Fuego was going to be one of the most unforgettable experiences of
trip to South America.
Postscript: I hope I have succeeded in giving the reader a feel for the
voyage of the Tierra del Fuego - the most uncomfortable, but also the
beautiful, boat trip I have ever taken. For anyone who is tempted to do
the same trip, I should say that 1990/91 was the Tierra del Fuego's
season in Patagonia. The boat has been sold, and, according to rumor,
shortly appear somewhere in Italy. The Puerto Natales - Puerto Montt
will be taken over by a new, and (so I have been assured) better
boat. But if anyone happens to go to Italy and see a medium-sized RO/RO
ferry with two smokestacks, an open truck deck, minimal facilities, and
a few scars on its hull from Patagonian rocks, please let me know - I
mind riding on the Tierra del Fuego one last time ...
Travel in Chile is quite easy by Third-World standards. You can drink
water and eat the food without worrying about getting sick (the most
dietary problem among tourists seemed to be `fruit overdose' - when
and Europeans realized how incredibly cheap and good fruit was in
they sometimes tended to eat just a bit too much. As I discovered,
a kilo of cherries or grapes in half an hour is not advisable, no
how good they taste!). Theft and violent crime is rare, and most travel
services are reasonably efficient. Most of the population is of
descent, so the tourist can `blend in', and does not stick out out of a
crowd. Prices are cheap by Western standards (although not as cheap as
the countries in the northern half of the continent), and I ended up
about $25/day, not counting international airfare. Many other
did fine on $15/day. Fluent English speakers are not common, but many
in the tourist business do speak a few words (I strongly recommend
to learn some Spanish, though, as your trip is likely to be much more
if you can talk to locals, read newspapers, etc).
If you're like me and have always most loved remote unpopulated areas
snow-capped mountains, lakes, forests, and fjords, then go to Chile,
I only hope that you fall in love with the country as much as I did.
South American Ski Geography
The South America Ski Guide is a rather presumptuous title as skiing is
developed in a relatively small part of the continent. On a land mass
is approximately 7,650 km (4,750 miles) long and 5,600 km
(3,500 miles) across at its widest point, all the skiing takes place in
a narrow strip which is just 2,650 km (1,650 miles) long. Excluding the
tiny ski run at Chacaltaya in Bolivia, all the developed ski areas lie
a region which occupies just 23 degrees latitude of the 70 degree-long
at the narrowest and southernmost part of the world's longest mountain
The Andes, or simply the Cordillera as it is called by its residents,
the north-south continental divide that splits South America into very
halves. It is the world's second highest range behind the Asian
and boasts America's loftiest point on Cerro Aconcagua at 6,960 m
ft). The Alto Cordillera is the high-altitude portion which extends
the equator to the Valle de Las Leñas where even the lowest
are above 3,000 meters. The range is extremely narrow and abrupt by
standards. The widest point is in Bolivia (650 km, 400 miles), and the
is never more than 300 km (200 miles) from the Pacific Ocean.
The Alto Cordillera
Between Santiago and Mendoza, the Cordillera is high and desolate. Very
little vegetation grows in these mountains, and only one difficult pass
links Chile and Argentina. Tupungato, the central peak in the region,
on the border at 6,570 m (21,555 ft). The area is typified by Portillo
is dwarfed by the awesome peaks that loom above the comparatively
ski slopes. This region contains South America's best ski areas
Las Leñas, Penitentes, and Vallecitos in Argentina, and La
El Colorado, Valle Nevado, Portillo, and Lagunillas in Chile. With
elevations approaching 3,650 m (12000 ft), this northern sector has
America's best snow, steepest slopes, and longest seasons. Skiing here
the open, alpine terrain of Europe with the deep and dry snow of the
American West, producing world-class conditions.
The Lakes Districts
Farther south, the Cordillera shrinks dramatically in elevation.
volcanoes begin to dominate the landscape with the highest elevations
from the crest of the true Cordillera Central. Almost all lie west of
Andean border, and the tops of many continue to puff steam. The last to
erupt was Lonquimay in 1988. The mountains are densely covered with a
of ferny deciduous rain forest which gives way to open snowfields at
1,500 m (4,900 ft) level. Trout-filled lakes gather icy snow melt and
spring water in the foothills between the mountains and the valley. The
area was perfectly described by the North American ski writer John Jay
1947 as "a combination of New Hampshire, Norway, and Sweden."
On the Chilean side, all the ski areas are located at the base of
including, from north to south, Chillán, Antuco, Lonquimay,
Villarica-Pucón, Antillanca, and La Burbuja. In Argentina, only
is located near a (hot) volcano, while Primeros Piños, Chapelco,
Cerro Bayo, Gran Catedral, Perito Moreno, and La Hoya all climb some
of hills. Skiing in these areas is characterized by low elevations (up
2,000 m or 6,500 ft) meaning heavy, wet snow (sometimes rain), and
seasons. The most successful of these resorts have aerial lifts to
skiers from the warmer base below tree line to upper snowfields where
is generally good all season. The slopes can be vaguely compared to the
smaller resorts of the Cascades.
Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia
The third geographical zone includes the southern end of Patagonia and
del Fuego. The Cordillera is at its humblest here as the rugged peaks
been eroded into rolling hills by the Patagonian winds which rip
the region each spring. Although the area is home to the world's most
everything, the latitudes are no more polar than Glasgow, Scotland, or
Alberta. The winter landscape is characterized by frozen bogs and
and mossy but otherwise bare trees.
Most of the ski areas are within sight of the ocean fjords and channels
that permeate the region, and the normal snowline is just above the
The area is best suited to nordic skiing because of the flat terrain
low elevations. Of the four alpine ski areas of the region (Cerro
Valdelén, Wolfgang Wallner, and Cerro Martial), only Mirador has
more than one run. Skiing in Tierra del Fuego is thus a believable
to explore the unique region in the off-season when travellers enjoy
The "normal" ski season in South America lasts from late June
to early October. That definitive statement needs to be qualified
by emphasizing that almost anything is possible. Snow is all but
from mid-July to early September, with the heaviest snowfall in August.
The best time to ski is early September when the winter storms have
and the slopes are least crowded. Argentine vacations are in their
frenzied peak in the last half of July, the most crowded and expensive
of the ski season.
It is not unusual to ski outside this "normal" season. May was
the traditional start, but climatic change seems to have postponed
opening dates. On the plus side, the seasons seem to continue later
ever and a few of the areas, notably La Parva, have extended seasons
December! One of the most remarkable springs of the century is
in Alive , the story of the Andes plane crash survivors, in which the
describes heavy snowfall in the Alto Cordillera throughout November in
Climate and Snowfall
Each region has its own climatic patterns and snow characteristics, but
hard data is only gathered and kept at the major cities. Precipitation
for Santiago are about the only reliable data available, and a study of
the figures shows a huge variance in annual precipitation. It also
that, in spite of sub-par years in 1988 and 1989, the decade of the
was one of the wettest of the century. This data is valid only for the
flank of the mountains near Santiago where storms approach loaded with
from the Pacific Ocean. Most systems on the drier east side spin off
Atlantic Ocean and only release their treasure in the higher elevations.
In the Lakes District, Pacific storms have no trouble crossing the
They blow in strong from the Pacific Ocean and dissipate quickly over
Fog is common in the central valley of Chile but this should not
skiers who are likely to find clear skies at high mountain elevations.
weather at lakeside ski areas like Villarrica-Pucón is
by increased humidity which results in significantly more, but heavier,
snow. The areas closest to the international border and in the deepest
of the rain forest, particularly Antillanca, suffer from an almost
falling mist that may or may not turn to snow at ski lift elevations.
The landforms of Tierra del Fuego hardly effect the storms that circle
globe from west to east all year long. Wind can be extreme in the
and winters can be severe (over 500,000 sheep perished in the winter of
1995- See Below). Just a few centimeters of snow can last a long time
in the cold temperatures and short days of 55 degrees S latitude. Of
note, the atmosphere's ozone hole is widest above Tierra del Fuego, and
daily readings are taken and reported at Punta Arenas.
Sheep Buried in Patagonian Snow
First Page - by Kaitlin Quistgard - Buenos Aires - 28 July 1995
Snow in July? Well, it's not exactly uncommon in Tierra del Fuego, the
"end of the earth" where South America stretches down toward
But this year record-breaking cold threatens to kill hundreds of
of sheep on the island shared by Argentina and Chile, much of which has
been buried in meter-high snow drifts for over 30 days.
Argentine ranchers, some unable to leave their estancias without
from evacuation helicopters, estimate that as much as 30 percent of
stock will starve before the freeze is over. "There's no way to even
guess how many have died. You just can't get to them," says Adrian
president of the Tierra del Fuego Farmer's Association, whose great
was the first to farm the island.
Some estimates have put the potential death count as high as 300,000
Goodall says the number is more likely to be around 120,000. "I hope
it won't be that bad, but there's really nothing we can do. Even if you
could get to the sheep, there's nothing to give them to eat -- we don't
grass stocks," he explained, coming in after a long day in the snow.
Just down the road, Juan Carlos Apollinaire is trapped in his house,
to surmount three kilometers of snow banks which separate him from the
leading into the town of Rio Grande. "It's a feeling of total
he admits in a telephone interview, "to know your sheep are dying and
there's nothing you can do. It's your capital, of course, but also
creatures that you have cared for."
According to his wife, Rachel Scoffield, worse than today's fears will
the days of reckoning this spring, when the snow is gone and the
appear. "You have to be strong to accept what's coming. We flew over
the fields in a helicopter and you really couldn't see many sheep or
However, many of them are probably still alive under the snow. During
sheep huddle together and, while they may be buried in the drifts,
body heat helps create natural igloos, where they can live for about
weeks, eating each other's fur and licking ice for water. But after 45
at temperatures below freezing and another snow storm forecast for this
weekend, it is unlikely that the woolly ones will have a chance to get
and find food.
"This is the worst snowfall we've had since 1954," says Goodall.
"And in '54 the snow came on the 13th of August, so it was a much
freeze. This has been a month already and it's going to be a long
It has snowed nearly every day for a month in parts of Tierra del
and the National Weather Bureau reports that record lows have been
almost everywhere in Patagonia, along with winds as high as 100
per hour. Some roads have been impassable for weeks and several farms
been completely isolated.
A few people have been evacuated by helicopter -- a risky operation in
gale-force winds -- although many "puesteros," farmhands who live
alone in distant cabins to tend to matters far from the main house,
isolated. "They are very stoic people, used to being alone,"
said with admiration. By helicopter he recently checked on the keepers
his estancia's most distant outposts, but is now thinking of revisiting
the outlying areas and bringing the men in from the cold.
There is nothing to be done but wait. "You have to have a lot of
says Scoffield. There is essentially no danger of people freezing to
in this harshest winter in 40 years, as island residents know how to
for the cold. "Just about every estancia is well stocked with
to last for months," Scoffield adds. "Then you have to have good
books and a radio," and the heart of a farmer.
"Things were looking up last year," Goodall recalls. "Good
wool prices and good prices for lamb, but now with all this snow,
look pretty bad."
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