13. Williwaw

Sometimes, we read or hear about the amazing power of a person, a work of art, a natural disaster, or the latest scientific technology. But perhaps only when we encounter it firsthand can we truly feel its tremendous power.

One such thing is the fierce winds of the Patagonian region. 

-- This is a real story. --
a weck in the Patagonian Archipelato

Anything unexpected can happen in the remote and unexplored area of the Patagonian Archipelago in Chile. 

Here, everything is beyond our comprehension, especially the raging Williwaws—fierce winds intensified by the fjord-like, complex terrain.

My fifth encounter with the Williwaw occurs at Isthmus Bay, at 52° South latitude.

 

It is a narrow, three-kilometer-long inlet surrounded by rugged, rain-drenched, purple mountains that rise eerily as if to threaten those who approach. Enclosed by these mountains, the inlet presents a desolate and forbidding sight, as if it lies at the end of the world.

Although strong winds blow between the densely packed islands, they do not reach inside the inlet. The surrounding steep mountains act as a screen to keep the wind out. Even the US Navy's Sailing Directions describe this place as "one of the best anchorages in the channels."

" I can rest easy tonight in this safe anchorage."

After a day of sailing, Aomi reaches the end of the quiet inlet and sets down her two anchors.

A few mornings later, still anchored there, awaiting better weather, a fierce wind begins to blow in from the mouth of the inlet. Aomi's mast howls eerily with a low-frequency sound while the sails, lowered to the deck, flap as if about to tear.

I quickly run out of the cabin to secure the flapping sails with ropes, careful not to be swept away by the strong wind. Rushing back to the cabin, which is occasionally tilted violently by the sudden gusts of Williwaw, I look out the window.

The sea is already whipped into whitecaps. Along the shore, the low trees bend so severely they could snap at any moment. Whenever a gust surges through the inlet, it scatters the birds on the water, rolling them like violently spinning wheels and sending sprays into the air. The dinghy tied to Aomi's stern repeatedly rises in the air and falls back onto the water, until it finally disappears beneath the water.

Should the wind strengthen further, the anchor might fail, and Aomi could be swept away. The wind's roar equals that of a jet fighter, its overwhelming intensity upsetting my thoughts. The turbulence shaking Aomi's hull is also so intense that my body shakes just as much. I must act quickly, or the five-millimeter-thick hull might suffer fatigue failure and break, causing Aomi to sink. 

However, all I can do is cover myself with a blanket and only shiver in bed. The loud noise, the vibrations, and the overwhelming fear paralyze me, leaving me unable to act.

 

The winds in this region are undoubtedly beyond our comprehension. Data from the meteorological observatory on Evangelistas Island show that gale-force winds (force 8) occur once or twice a week. In fact, the barometer in Aomi's cabin dropped to a typhoon level of 974 hectopascals. I have come to an incredible place. 

But any storms, any misfortunes, and any difficulties cannot last forever. When the fierce winds of the Williwaw subside, Aomi leaves the inlets and begins to sail through the gaps between the islands. As heavy rain obscures the landscape, I rely on compasses, depth gauges, and perhaps even my sixth sense to help Aomi navigate through the gray-painted world. Then, as the rain subsides and the gray curtain lifts, strange purple rock formations appear, stretching like endless pictures on either side of the waterway. The deep purple hue is so vivid it burns into my vision.

On days when rain is scarce, sunlight pierces through small, hole-like gaps in the dense clouds. It casts spotlight-like beams onto the islands, which glow luminously against the dim sea. The previously dark purple rocks now shimmer in shades of pink and sometimes gold under the shifting light. Watching these magical islands change colors under this dynamic illumination is like witnessing a dream.

Looking up at the mountains, the overflowing glacier itself seems to radiate a green fluorescent light in the dim, cloudy sky. On the soul-stirring deep purple cliffs on either side of Aomi, pure white waterfalls cascade like tangled threads or flowing somen noodles. Every time I witness this otherworldly scene, a new surprise irresistibly fills my heart.

But it is strange; one of the small islands ahead appears unnaturally painted in red. I check the charts and discover that it is a shipwreck.

Peering through my binoculars, I see a four-story ship tipped over, with its stern propeller exposed. Did the Williwaw cause this? What happened to this large ship, even though it was manned by a well-trained crew and provided with sophisticated equipment?

Can the small sailboat "Aomi" navigate safely to the southern tip of South America, Cape Horn?

ship wreck

Patagonian map

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