10. Blue Screen of Glacier

Sometimes, we take a side trip to see scary things even when we should not. Sometimes, curiosity wins out, and we take reckless actions that could cost our lives.

One day, as if compelled by an unseen force, Aomi intentionally veered off course, heading deep into a narrow inlet.

-- This is a real story. --
Seno-iceberg Chile Patagonia

I want to see a glacier with my own eyes at least once in my life.

I want to sail the sea of floating ice, yet it always seems like an unreachable dream.


A few weeks before entering the Patagonian archipelago, I first heard about the "Seno Iceberg" while gathering information at the Naval Headquarters in Valparaiso, Chile's largest port.

It is said that glaciers from the Andes mountains crash into the sea at the far end of this narrow inlet, which spans one to two kilometers wide and stretches over 20 kilometers long.


Aomi and I arrive at the entrance to Seno Iceberg one afternoon, as the islands around are drenched in light rain. The color of the surrounding seawater has somehow turned milky white. I reach out from Aomi's deck to touch the surface, and it stings my fingers with its cold like ice. The spray on my face is almost tasteless, unlike the ordinary salty spray at sea. It must be the water from the glacier; undoubtedly, a glacier lies ahead.

Steep mountains rise like walls on either side of the narrow inlet, and gusty Williwaw winds often tilt Aomi's mast wildly. Riding the following wind, Aomi navigates the winding corridor-like passage to its farthest end.

The going may be good, but the return will be against the wind. Tacking back and forth against the wind in a narrow inlet is difficult. Should I turn back?

"What is the point of doing this? This is an unnecessary detour. I should not risk it just to see the scenery."

But the desire to see the glacier prevailed.

The air temperature drops steadily as Aomi goes down the channel. This must be a sign of a glacier ahead. I will finally see the real thing soon, but I can still hardly believe it.

Eventually, after rounding a bend, the landscape ahead shifts dramatically, exposing the canal's end. It is a sight beyond anything I have ever seen.

Seno Iceberg map Chile Patagonia

The glaciers fill the channel of the mountain valley in front of me, and the waterway has come to a dead end. It is as if a movie screen has been set up at the end of the channel, projecting images of the pale blue ice wall. In front of the ice wall, countless ice floes drift on the water. Under the dimly lit, overcast sky, each ice floe glows in white and blue, as if emitting its own light.

I feel as though my eyes are out of focus; I can't grasp the size of the ice, its distance, or its actual appearance, even though it's right in front of me. I find myself leaning forward to look at the scenery while holding the helm, excited.

I let Aomi approach the drifting ice and then stop, worried about its unexpected hardness. The slightest contact could puncture the hull. Going on is definitely impossible. Besides, the return trip will be against the wind. If I don't hurry back, the sun will set on the way, and it will be dark before I reach a safe anchorage. After taking photos, I immediately turn Aomi's bow back.

While Aomi is leaving, I look back many times; the glacier is just too beautiful, like a blue screen rising beyond the drifting ice. It is hard to believe that this is a scene from this world. I want to cut through the drifting ice and go right up to the glacier, but I can't. It would be reckless and something I should not do.

Aomi continues on her way back. I turn around once more, grab my binoculars, and take a closer look. Even though the water appears full of ice, there seem to be sparse areas, too. If I meander through the drifting ice, I might be able to reach right in front of the blue glacier.

I turn Aomi's bow and head toward the glacier's blue screen again, in the approaching nightfall and the rising headwind.

I should have known the consequences that await me.

Patagonian map

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