I’ve been back home in Seattle for a couple months now, and I’m starting to adjust back to speaking English and the idea of autumn in November. I imagine that spring must be starting to creep in down south on Isla Navarino, and as much as I am enjoying the coffee and civilization here, part of me wishes that I could be there to see it.
I spent the end of 2006 on the island assisting with the University of North Texas writing course. They spent a few weeks rampaging around Puerto Williams and its environs, journals in hand, had lectures on Darwin at the top of mountains, ate limpets, and read Shakespeare to each other for hours in the forest. Despite the limpets and a two night backpacking trip, none of the students or instructors perished and we celebrated New Years with a bonfire on the shores of the Beagle Channel.
After the UNT course flew back to Texas and things got back to as normal as they ever get that close to Cape Horn, I left for a few weeks to explore Torres del Paine and then came back to Navarino for a few more months of fickle weather and birds. Rina Charlin and I continued mist netting every month, and in February and March we were able to band birds at another site a ways up the coast from town as well. We caught several hummingbirds at that site in March, which was extremely cool. Also in March I began to work seriously on a paper about the autecology of the fío-fío, which has now been accepted by the Anales del Instituto de la Patagonia. I also continued volunteering with Elke monitoring goose and duck nests on the coast, which was not only scientifically valuable but also lots of fun as we often came upon nests full of fluffy chicks or eggs in the process of hatching. Elke also traps and tags mink in the summer, but I seemed to act as a bad luck charm as the traps remained mink free whenever I checked traps with her.
Towards the end of March I hiked the five day circuit through the Dientes, Navarino’s mountain chain, and miraculously managed not to kill myself or even get (very) lost. It was pretty spectacular, what with the views of Cape Horn and the vividly colored fall foliage and jagged mountain peaks. Rina and I also took a day trip on the monthly ferry to Puerto Toro, which is the world’s southernmost permanent settlement and consists of fewer than forty people who are in turn almost outnumbered by fishing boats. We went there to distribute some of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve calendars produced by Omora, and had quite a successful day.
And then, finally, as all things must come to an end, I left the island and Omora in mid April on the overnight ferry to Punta Arenas, travelling through the most remote and beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, and after a few more months of shiftless wandering I made my way back home.