Posted by: Celine Cousteau | November 21, 2010

Chile- “Oceano” Part 3- Channels and Fjords

I recently finished working on the third chapter of a 12-part Chilean documentary TV series I am co-hosting. For 10 days the production team navigated the channels of southern Chile, including Magallenas and Conception, up to the incredible island of Madre de Dios and venturing into the fjords to approach glaciers.

An incredible amount of shipwrecks dot these watery passages, rusted witnesses of tricky navigation in hostile territory. For us, they make great dive sites, full of life and history. The wear and tear of the cold harsh weather makes its impact on the hulls of the wrecks and salvage operations have only taken what is considered valuable. Unfortunately, this does not include the petrol that lies within the hull and little by little it seeps into the water. Our dives here are not only meant to explore and film the channels they are also an opportunity to test new dive gear and train to dive in Antarctica in colder waters and difficult circumstances.

Another shipwreck in the channels. Now home to birds and plants despite the slow leaking petrol.

We spent time with Juan-Carlos Tonko, from the Kawéskar people whose numbers have dwindled to 21. These nomads of the sea used to live freely in this area, packing up their canoes in search of food and surviving the cold harsh climate with only sea lion skins as protection. It has been a while now since this way of life existed, now they have created and live in a village called Puerto Edén. As it turns out, my grandfather visited this village in the early 1970s when he came through on one of his journeys. I watched the documentary episode with Juan-Carlos and part way through he points to a boy sitting amidst the family my grandfather is talking to. He was just 8 years old at the time. A chill ran through me when he told me this was the first I had heard of this. My family history and this tribe’s history have crossed paths twice now. Will there be another time?

Juan-Carlos took us to a cave his nomadic ancestors used as a shelter. There, on the walls dripping with water, a few paintings gave us signs of times long gone and stories of a past maintained alive by only 4 elders who still speak the native tongue. The experience is intense as it is so real- we speak of a people as we do of a dying species. We speak of his people’s future and Juan-Carlos tells me he works hard to maintain their culture and language as much as possible, intending to inspire the next generation to value the teachings of the past.

Looking out from a cave on Madre de Dios island to our boat, The Forrest.

Our time in the area was also spent diving- training to use our new dry suits and the thick undergarment we will need in Antarctica. We are all heavily weighted to compensate for the extra layers, the freedom of movement is greatly limited, and the rubber gloves covering our hands make for awkward and sometimes useless attempts at dexterity. It is almost impossible to get ready on our own and we rely on the surface team to help us get everything on so we can pitch over the side of the Zodiak into the cold waters. We ventured close to the glaciers not just to get beautiful shots, but to learn to dive with ice all around. Are we ready for what lies ahead? More time for a few more dives would have been helpful but the days tick by and our time is limited. Next up- we haver a boat to catch from Ushuaia (Argentina) to Antarctica…

Since the writing of this c-log, two more “Oceano” episodes have been filmed. Updates coming soon.

L'Italia Glacier- getting up close. Team members dot the rocks.

One of our dive training sites- the impressive Garibaldi Glacier.















  1. Hi Celine,
    My name is Sarah, I am a 10 year old and in 5th grade, I live in Los Alamos, New Mexico I think I don’t live too far from you if you live in Santa Fe. This year I did a research paper for my wax museum on your amazing Grandfather Jacques Cousteau. He sure was an amazing person. He did alot for our environment and I thank him for that. I think it would be amazing if I could arrange for you to come and speak at my school or meet you on a one to one basics.

    • Dear Sarah- thank you for writing! I would have enjoyed speaking at your school but I no longer live in Santa Fe. It’s wonderful to hear that you know of my grandfather’s work and I certainly hope you will be a voice for the environment yourself. Your own backyard of New Mexico has so much beautiful flora and fauna to explore. A lot of it is fragile and needs to be protected. It’s young people like you who will take over from us! Good luck with everything. Céline

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