We spent our second full day in Ushuaia exploring the Tiera del Fuego National Park, just east of Ushuaia. Our tour guide Isabel walked us through the park and taught us all about the wildlife in the forest and the history of the island natives, the Yamanas. The weather was clear, warm and sunny – perfect for sightseeing and picture-taking!Those that were brave, took a plunge in the Beagle Channel for a photo opportunity with the amazing Chilean mountain range as a backdrop. After drying off and warming up we were on our way again!
Many different species of birds were spotted and there was a burst of camera shutters every time one sat still for long enough! A few of us got some practise in with our bird ID’ing in preparation for the vessel survey, spotting the difference as a black browed albatross glided between a few kelp gulls. Our first albatross sighting, and we haven’t even gotten on the ship yet!.
Before heading back, we had one final stop and visited a beaver dam. Our guide explained how Canadian beavers are an invasive species and were originally introduced for hunting, as they have a thick coat which was particularly valuable for the fur trade. Unfortunately, as Tierra del Fuego has a milder climate than Canada, the beavers’ coats were much less dense and no longer valuable. Canadian beavers have no natural predators in Tierra del Fuego and so their population rapidly expanded out of control. To make matters worse, beavers are compulsive wood gnawers and destroyed the forest. Even when trees were not available, the beavers adapted and chewed fence posts instead! This is still a problem for the island and several techniques have been attempted to remove this species, none of which have been successful.
We headed home, worn out from all the walking, but with enough energy left for a quick ID lesson from Sonja and Lars in preparation of what we will see aboard MV Plancius… Starting tomorrow!
written by Sarah Bond