On the Shore of the Strait of Magellan: RGS's Circumnavigation Reached Punta Arenas

Тримаран кругосветки РГО на берегу Магелланова пролива у маяка Сан-Исидро. Фото участников экспедиции

The Strait of Magellan — we know about this narrow passage between Tierra del Fuego and continental South America from the school geography course. A natural channel 575 km long, sometimes extremely dangerous for navigators. It  connects two oceans: the Pacific and the Atlantic. Now, almost in the middle of this path, in the harbor of the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, there is a trimaran of the circumnavigation expedition of the Tomsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society. The crew repairs their vessel after a difficult way to Cape Horn, replenishes supplies and prepares to continue sailing.

Having the New Year celebration on the far side of the world, the Russians moved to the Pacific Ocean. By the evening of January 7, it turned out that the cards officially purchased on the Internet are not reliable in these places.

“There are no islands where they are shown. Islands grow where passages are shown. Until deep darkness comes, we cope with the choice of trajectory visually. At night, Stas almost ran into a buoy in complete darkness, which was not marked on the map,” shared the head of the expedition Evgeny Kovalevsky.

Navigation is also complicated by a large number of algae fields. The utmost concentration of attention is required from the crew member on duty. I am glad that it is getting warmer. There is no snow on the hills surrounding the strait, there is no ice floating around. However, the cold wind still permeates to the bone, you have to sleep dressed.

That is why each of the three crew members — Evgeny Kovalevsky, Stanislav Berezkin, Egor Muzileev — is glad if Pasoka comes into his sleeping bag for the night. This little dog has already become a full member of the team.

“When it wakes up, it runs around the deck, climbs onto my lap, licks face, then runs to Stas, who is on watch, and licks him. Then it returns to Egor, who begins to crawl out of the sleeping bag, and licks Egor. This procedure is already becoming a ritual. Pasoka is very freezes, loves warmth. Comes into someone's sleeping bag all the time. It sees us all as family. It and I share the food we eat ourselves. Pasoka basically does not eat dog food, only what we eat. And we eat noodles and rice. This is the main food. We also have onions and garlic against scurvy, salt, sugar, coffee, tea," says Kovalevsky.


Пасока — полноправный член команды кругосветки. Фото участников экспедиции

Each of the circumnavigators leaves some food for Pasoka after the meal. The dog eats food directly from the plates and licks them so that it is not necessary to wash them at all. There is, however, one problem — the pet needs a real toilet. And it has to be safe.

“In bad weather, which happens here in 90% of cases, Pasoka will simply be washed overboard. Therefore, we want to accustom her to a specially made box. The box is stored in the tent on the central cylinder in front of our eyes. Pasoka should always be in sight. A wind of more than 20 knots will simply take the dog into the sky, like Ellie in the book "The Wizard of the Emerald City," Kovalevsky explained.

There are other problems with circumnavigation. One night, the trimaran got into another field of algae, the rudder blade was knocked out. It took about an hour to untangle it and set it. It is good that at this time another cruise liner did not pass through the strait about 500 m wide. To fall under such is not included in the plans of the crew.

On January 8, closer to noon, the closeness of the Pacific Ocean begins to be seen. The trimaran is lifted by wide and long ocean waves. It's getting colder. The wind pours drizzle in the face — either snow with rain, or rain with snow. The temperature is already slightly above zero. Soon a fair current comes across. There are beautiful mountains with glaciers around.

“Everything is calm, cold, majestic. We decided to raise the quadcopter. Along the way, we risk doing it a second time. For the first time, when landing on the deck, we could not accept a flying car for a long time. The quadcopter is afraid of the rigging and jumps away. The first time I miraculously grabbed it with my hands, and Stas helped to hold it. Then Egor abruptly turned the quadcopter over and it calmed down. And now it's afraid again. Egor somehow managed to drop it on the side," Kovalevsky noted.

In the early morning of January 9, the trimaran enters the bay at the famous San Isidro Lighthouse on the southern tip of the Brunswick Peninsula. Here the crew pulls the ship onto the pebbly shore of the Strait of Magellan.

“There is no connection. There is no road, we walk along the shore to the place where the dead end of the road is marked on the map. It's not easy to walk 5 km on pebbles, it's not a hard surface. Several times we jump over the rivers flowing into the strait. By 8:30 we go to the place where the connection appears,” says Kovalevsky.

The crew manages to contact Punta Arenas and arrange with a local Russian girl Olesya and her fiance Waldo about a trip to the city. We need to arrange arrival in Chile and buy gasoline.

Punta Arenas is the southernmost city on Earth with a population of more than 100 thousand people, as well as the southernmost city on the continent. Its name means "sandy cape" in Spanish. It is located on the Brunswick Peninsula on the shore approximately in the middle of the Strait of Magellan surrounded by mountains.


Олеся, Вальдо и кругосветчики РГО. Фото участников экспедиции

Upon returning to the trimaran, a new problem is discovered — this time with the cylinders. A layer of fabric has collapsed on the upper part of the nasal section of the central balloon, and air is escaping. It is being lowered for repairs.

“After half an hour, we pay attention that the prow section is inflated again. This is an extremely bad sign and unpleasant news. This means that the bulkheads between the sections in the central cylinder have collapsed. And instead of three sections, we now have a "monocylinder". We can't repair the prow in this place. The conditions do not allow," explained Evgeny Kovalevsky.

The crew inflates the central cylinder "until it rings" and waits for the night tide to move to a nearby campsite. On January 10, almost the whole day is spent on repairing the prow section. Then the circumnavigators go to Punta Arenas, where they settle all immigration issues and buy 170 liters of gasoline.

“We are also shooting a monument to Magellan, who converts Indians to Catholicism. We visit two museums related to the history of the development of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. We return to the trimaran. We have to finish the repair of the central cylinder in order to continue swimming”, summed up Evgeny Kovalevsky.


У памятника Магеллану в Пунта-Аренасе. Фото участников экспедиции

On July 1, 2021, Siberian travelers Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin set off along the route of the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century: Ivan Kruzenshtern’s (1803-1806), Yuri Lisyansky’s (1803-1806), Otto Kotzebue’s (1815-1818, 1823-1826), Vasily Golovnin’s (1817-1819), Fedor Litke’s (1826-1829), Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev’s (1819-1921). The international project of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society "Following the paths of Russian explorers" is dedicated to the 250th birthday anniversary of Krusenstern and the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors. These events for a long time determined Russia's leadership in the development of the oceans and the discovery of new lands. You can learn more about the project and provide all possible assistance in its implementation on the website of the expedition.

Alexander Zhirnov