Today we meet the first part of our tour group as we head toward Chile's Pacific coast.  We knew this expedition included scientists, but we had no idea how how unique this trip would be.  Now we are getting the full sense of what that means.  Almost all the people in our group are geologists and their families from the Jackson School of Geosciences, UT Austin.  As we travel from the Falklands on board our ship for three weeks to Antarctica some of these world renown scientists will present lectures and discussions during our days at sea.  Wow!  

For now, we get to know the group during our day trip.  We pass the Cordillera de la Costa.  Not far to the northwest of Santiago, the lower mountain elevations are covered with brilliant green bands outlining the contours of the slopes.  This is the wine country of the Chilean Costal Range and vineyards cover the landscape.Vineyards of Cordillera de la Costa, the Chilean Costal rangeVineyards Cover the Cordillera de la Costa, Northwest of Santiago, Chile

Our first stop is La Campana National Park.  Charles Darwin spent time here during his 1834 voyage of the HMS Beagle.  The hedgehog or Easter lily cactus, is tree-like and covers huge swarths of the area.  Giant hummingbirds fly through the trees, but they are too fast for a photo--or at least my photo.Easter Lily Cactus, La Campana National ParkThe Easter Lily Cactus in La Campana National Park, near Santiago, Chili

We next stop at Parque Ecológico La Isla Concón on Chile's Pacific Coast.  This is a bird paradise.  Riders on the beach spook the birds and we have a massive lift-off of Inca Terns and Kelp Gulls.Lift off at Parque Ecologico La IslaRiders Amid a Lift-Off of Kelp Gulls and Inca Terns at Parque Ecológico La Isla Concón, Chile's Pacific Coast

The waters are filled with Chilean pelicans, some gracefully landChilean pelicans at Parque Ecologico La Isla ConconParque Ecologico La Isla Concon near Santiago, Chili, Chilean pelicans

Others bob in a chorus line.

Yellow-billed pintail ducks march across the beach.

At last we arrive at the Humboldt Penguin Sanctuary on the beautiful Pacific coast near Valparaiso.  Humboldt Penguin SanctuaryParks and Wildlife near Santiago coast, Chili A Kelp Gull strikes a regal pose on the shore rocks.Kelp GullCoastal Park near Santiago, Chili

And finally--our first penguins of the trip, the Humboldt Penguins.  Named for the cold-water current where it swims, it is now an endangered species.  Another case of habitat destruction.  It nests on rocks and these birds have a perfect spot about 100 yards from shore.Humboldt penguinsHumboldt Penguins near Santiago, Chili

We spent time watching the waves crash over this tide pool.  Taking in the colors and the power of the ocean were a great way to end the day.

Tomorrow--we fly to the Falklands!


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