In In Patagonia I suggested that the albatross which hung from the neck of the Ancient Mariner was not the great wandering albatross but a smaller black species: either the sooty albatross or the black-browed. The sooty is the likelier of the two. It is a streamlined bird that keeps to open sea. I think I saw one off the south-east coast of Tierra del Fuego. The black-browed is everywhere, in the Magellan Straits and the Beagle Channel, and resembles a large greater black-backed gull.

On the south side of the Beagle Channel is the Chilean island of Navarino, with its naval base at Puerto Williams. I hoped to walk around the coast and get a glimpse of Hermit Island, which is the breeding colony of the black-browed Albatross. The wind and the rain drove me back.

East of the naval base there is a row of shacks in which live the last of the Fuegian Indians – the Indians Darwin mistook for the ‘missing link’. He compared their language to the ‘grunts of animals’ being unaware that a young Fuegian spoke as many words as Shakespeare ever wrote.


Tibetan Dinner
Inside Intelligence