The Director of Peace Boat US, Emilie McGlone, recently coordinated a trip to Patagonia, Chile in February 2018 with an aim to make the Chilean side of Patagonia a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO. Peace Boat has been working alongside Chile’s most venerable environmental organization–the National Committee to Protect the Fauna and of Chile (CODEFF)—on a campaign to declare 7,500,000 hectares of Chilean Patagonia territory a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In recent years the Chilean Patagonia has faced an uphill battle against private interests. The Aysen region, which houses diverse wildlife and other biological and geographical features, is continually endangered by development and resource exploitation. By becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site–like its Argentinean neighbor, the Patagonia will enjoy the benefits of global funding for conservation initiatives, ecologically responsible tourism, and recognition of its autonomy from the private sector. Peace Boat US recently ventured on a trip to the Patagonia region for the purpose of the aforementioned initiatives. Below is an interview conducted with Stephanie Hawkins, a participant on the trip led by the Music & Art Peace Academy to raise awareness about environmental issues through creative means. For the interview about the Patagonia trip with the guest artists Holmar Filipsson and Philipp Jung (M.A.N.D.Y.), visit this link : PATAGONICA VOL 10 in Chile
Tell us about your experience traveling to Patagonia:
I can’t imagine a more perfect team of people. The trip as a whole was ideal because of the people I was with! As a team we were together almost every moment of the tour and before that the majority of us had never met. The fact that we were able to not only tolerate but enjoy each other’s company throughout the whole trip is really impressive. I think it speaks directly to the wisdom of our organizer and leader Emilie McGlone!
What left the most impact on you from the trip ?
The real answer to this question is “everything”. Chile is such a beautiful place, even the 6-hour-long bus rides were fulfilling! It was really hard to rest on those long bus rides because the changing views out the window were so beautiful you didn’t want to sleep and miss anything.
There were so many moments on the trip where the landscape reminded me of my home state, California. But in many ways the Chilean landscape is more wild and naturally
beautiful. This was especially true at the beach we visited near Valparaiso. The beach itself was filled with big boulders that formed small tidal pools. The seaweed and kelp all looked vibrant and overgrown on the rocks. In less than 5 minutes I spotted 4 of the coolest looking starfish I’ve ever seen in the wild. A few feet from all of this there were children playing and a crowded cafe and lots of beach goers in general. Regardless, the beach was pristine. I didn’t see one piece of litter.
What did you learn about Climate Change and the Penguins ?
I’ve always identified with penguins. They’re kind of clumsy but they have amazing endurance. Also, they’re black and white. Like penguins, I keep a pescatarian diet and can be very loud. The fact that I get to exist in the same time and space as these flightless
creatures gives me joy. Visiting an island filled with them was overwhelming and something I’ll cherish forever.
On the boat ride to Isla Magdalena the captain and crew of the boat provided clear instructions on how to limit our disturbance of the penguins. There was a roped off circular path that led up to the lighthouse at the hilltop and back down to the waiting boat. By the time we exited onto the island, most of the tour group had already made it halfway to the lighthouse. We were given a full hour to make the loop so I lingered at the beginning of the trail until I was almost alone.
The Magellanic Penguins chose this island as a nesting site long ago because of its proximity to abundant food resources. At the time of our visit in early February most of the babies had lost their fluffy down feathers and looked more like slightly smaller versions of their parents.
On the trail I witnessed different stages of the penguins nesting. Hundreds of different little groups and couplings of penguin communities nestled in their little burrows and
waddling their way to the shore. I wasn’t on the trail long before I was surrounded by the sounds sights and smells of the penguins; flapping, preening, cooing, squawking honking and calling to one another in the cool wind. These birds have a healthy lifespan of 25 years in nature and they mate for life. Traveling thousands of miles each year to return to the exact same burrow to nest each spring. It’s not hard to imagine stories like the ones narrated by Morgan Freeman in March of the Penguins.
The lighthouse keeper shared the real narrative. During the summer of 2014 Magdalena Island had a population of over 60,000 penguins. This year the population was just 23,000. The Magellanic penguins were first named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan when they were spotted in 1520. Their conservation status is “near threatened” and rapidly declining. Because environmental changes have displaced the fish populations that serve as their main food source. They now swim an average 50 miles further to find food, which delays the time away from their hungry penguin families.
I’ve seen documentaries and television specials about penguins. It was a privilege to witness this precious environment and I plan to share the experience with everyone I can now that I have first-hand information and experience.
Do you feel you have made a positive impact on the purpose of this trip?
I hope so! It was a privilege to join a team full of so many inspiring individuals. Being
surrounded by them for nearly 2 weeks has certainly left an impact on me. As we moved from town to town the general buzz created by the tour was palpable. I think the true impact of this tour is still building up now. At the very least, I helped prepare a plant-based barbecue for a crowd of hungry carnivores and introduced the concept of biodegradable glitter to some new friends on the dance floor.
What was the most inspiring portion of this trip?
On a professional level it was really inspiring to watch Holmar Filipsson and Philipp Jung perform with great music night after night. Their energy was consistent and it kept me smiling on and off the dance floor. It was a privilege to watch these two collaborate, they were clearly having fun and that kind of joy is infectious!
What was your personal goal for this trip?
Whenever I travel I try to manage my expectations and keep an open mind and heart. For me, this trip was the farthest South anyone in my entire family has ever traveled. I had no other expectation than to have accomplished that and what I truly accomplished was much more than that. To be honest I’m still processing my goals for this trip.
I decided to go to Patagonia with the MAPA project because of the group of amazing people that were going. In my wildest travel dreams I would never be able to see this much of Chile with so many people that I love and respect. The more I learned about the itinerary the easier it was to make the decision!
Blog post written by PB US Intern, Vivienne Hólmarsdottir