Thursday, December 28, 2017

Capillas de Mármol

The Capillas de Mármol, or Marble Chapels, is a group of mineral formations of calcium carbonate located on several small islands in Lago (Lake) General Carrera, near the town of Puerto Tranquilo in the Region of Aysén in central Patagonia, Chile.

Many tour operators in Tranquilo offer a 90-minute tour by boat of the Capillas. Note the color of the lake water, the milky hue indicating water from nearby glaciers. The lake is the second largest in south America (after Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia) and is shared with Argentina, where the name changes to Lago Buenos Aires. Its surface covers 714 square miles (1850 sq. km.) and has a maximum depth of 2789 feet (850m). I first saw this lake from the air in 1965 and was so impressed by its size and especially its color that I determined to return some day. This was my third visit to the lake.

Lago General Carrera / Buenos Aires Feb. 1965

Over millennia the wave action in the lake caused erosion of the escarpment into myriad formations.

Some of the caves are so large that our boat enters and we can touch the walls

The fellow tourists are not seasick, but are impressed with the view under the water.

The roof of the capilla

And now the tour takes us to the small island called the Marble Cathedral.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Glaciar San Rafael, Patagonia Chilena

A day trip to the largest glacier in the Chilean northern ice field was arranged with Destino Patagonia in Puerto Tranquilo, on the shore of General Carrera Lake in the Aysén Region of central Patagonia. A vehicle took several of us tourists to Bahía Exploradora to begin the expedition. We were 13 tourists, the captain, and guide on a fast moving covered boat which traveled through the fjords to arrive at the Laguna San Rafael, where the glacier empties.

There are hundreds of icebergs which calve off this rapidly melting glacier.

And here is the glacier. It covers 293 square miles (760 km2) and is said to be moving at the rate of 55 feet (17 m) per day. According to a BBC news report, "In recent years, the glaciers of the Northern Patagonian Icecap have been melting rapidly as a result of global warming, and the San Rafael Glacier has mirrored this retreat."

The captain grabs some blocks of ice near the glacier for the ancient Chilean custom of serving whiskey and millenary ice to the tourists. He chose a block that had a natural depression where the whiskey could be poured and drunk. 

A fellow tourist demonstrates the technique while our guide pours.

The difficulty was getting the whiskey in the mouth while the ice was melting in the hands. 

Bottoms up!

The return trip through the fjords

There are waterfalls everywhere, rushing down steep mountains as we drive back to town.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Coyhaique, Chile

Panorama of the countryside around Coyhaique, a city of about 70,000 inhabitants in Chilean Patagonia. It was founded in 1929 at the confluence of the Simpson and Coyhaique Rivers. The highway, Carretera Austral, was built in 1980, linking it to the rest of the country. I first visited the town in early 1965, when there were only 4,000 inhabitants. I arrived by ship at the nearby port of Aysén. I was teaching in the Peace Corps further north in Valdivia.

Puerto Aysén, but this is not the ship I arrived on!

Coyhaique in 1965

I met these boys while walking on the road toward Argentina. They offered me a horse to return with them to town, as they doubled up on the two remaining saddles. The first photo above looks down on this road, now paved and lined with many homes and farms, almost 53 years later.

I hired a car and driver/guide to explore the gorgeous country around 6 Lagunas and the Simpson Valley, which I last visited in 2002. This is one of my favorite areas in Chilean Patagonia. Livestock ranching is about the only activity, as the soil is very shallow and doesn't support growing crops.

It's springtime and the lupines are blooming throughout the region.

Farm landscape near Lago Frío

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Chihuly glass art, day 2 in St. Petersburg, Florida

My visit to downtown St. Petersburg included a comfortable hotel room (The Inn on 3rd) within easy walking distances to nearby major attractions. One is the permanent exhibit of the glass art of Dale Chihuly, a native of the U.S. northwest, Chihuly's work has attracted attention of viewers worldwide.

The above is a hanging chandelier, about 10 feet in length, created on a private commission, now at the Morean Art Center in St. Petersburg.

Next is one of many works entitled "Ikebana," reflecting the Japanese tradition of floral arrangement. Each element is a separate item.

Chihuly grew up in the Pacific northwest of the United States, where glass floats from Japanese fishing nets occasionally drift ashore. Here is a boat full of globes representing fishing floats. Click here for the video.

Here is another chandelier. Each piece is created separately and then assembled in place.

The "Persian ceiling" consists of many different glass objects, all reflecting light. Our guide explained that Dale Chihuly built a swimming pool with a "Persian" base.

At the far end of the Persian ceiling is another beautifully balanced Ikebana arrangement.

This is a blue neon installation:

And here is the Pièce de resistance, entitled I Fiore, "Flowers:" 

The Chihuly permanent exhibit is at the Morean Art Center in downtown St. Pete. An admission ticket to the exhibit includes an opportunity to view local artists working in the "Hot Shop" and learn about the process of creating a new work.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Dalí in St. Petersburg, Florida

With a strong interest in the art of Salvador Dalí and with sufficient accumulated travel miles to have a free flight to Florida, I decided to make a short visit to St. Petersburg. The extraordinary collection of Dalí's work is the result of a private collection that was donated to the city of St. Petersburg. The city's responsibility was to create a space to display the work.

St. Petersburg is a wonderful city to visit, with 255,000 inhabitants. It's western edge faces the Gulf of Mexico, while the eastern edge faces the large Tampa Bay. A visitor feels welcomed in this attractive and vibrant city. I was surprised by the many passing strangers who smiled and said hello. The downtown arts district has this painted intersection:
(Click on any photo to enlarge)

A local hair salon has a socio-political message:

The city built the museum on the waterfront, facing the yacht harbor and Tampa Bay. The Dalí can resist a category 5 hurricane, but just in case, all the artwork is on the third floor of this impressive structure, to avoid any possible contact with flooding water.

View from the inside looking at the marina and Tampa Bay.

In addition, The Dalí has a temporary exhibit of the Basque artist Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002), with several works in iron, clay, stone and paper. This large work, In Praise of Light, is a block of alabaster, a favorite material of Chillida. It is a beautiful stone and the artist has created some remarkable pieces.

Another view of the same piece:

This smaller piece of alabaster invites long viewing because of the angles and curves.

Another favorite material is iron, reflecting the age old tradition of Basque iron extraction and forges. Chillida created a technique to bend iron into shapes that reminds me of drawings of Escher. This is called Union, created in 1992:

Embrace, created in 1992:

More about the Dalí collection in Florida. 

This was a visit well worth the effort. It was a first experience for me, flying across the country to visit a museum. I seldom drive 90 minutes from my home to museums in San Francisco! 

But there is more, as next day I was astounded by the glass art of Dale Chihuly. That's the subject of the next post.