Peninsula Valdéz is at 42 degrees (Buenos Aires is at 34 degrees) so the days are longer – it’s not dark until about 9). For those of you who know the Point Reyes Peninsula, where I’ve done geologic research, there are some surprising similarities. A narrow strip of land extends seaward and ends at coastal cliffs that are uplifted marine terraces (surprising because this coast is not at a plate boundary like the marine terraces I’ve studied at Point Reyes in California – but more about that in a future post). The coastal cliffs are made of a sedimentary formation that looks like the Purisima Formation on the south cliffs of Point Reyes – a similar age (about 10 million years old) and a similar environment (fine sand and mud with lots of marine fossils deposited on the continental shelf). The image below, of cliffs behind Puerto Pirámides where we are staying on the south coast of Peninsula Valdéz, sure looks a lot like the cliffs near Drakes Beach on the south coast of Point Reyes Peninsula.
But I have promised stuff about critters! This peninsula isn’t called “Reserva Faunística” (animal reserve) for nothing. It’s also been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. During one day we saw an amazing variety of interesting and unusual critters. First off was a large group of Southern Sea Lions (lobos marinos) that were toward the end of their birthing season. You can see many babies in the photo below. You will also notice that the males are larger than the sea lions we have in California.
Next, it was a colony of Magellanic Penguins, whose young had hatched a month or more ago. These youngsters, like the one in photo below, were in the process of loosing their fuzzy coats and were starting to acquire a more adult look. Their nests are burrows in the soil, where they come to rest and warm up after going to the ocean to feed. Other marine critters viewed were orcas and dolphins, and some far-away, inert elephant seals. On land we saw guanacos (related to llamas), Ńandu (related to ostriches), foxes, an armadillo, giant rabbits, and various birds. Another similarity with Point Reyes is the cultural history of ranching. On Point Reyes, cows continue to graze on historically-designated ranches; on Peninsula Valdes, sheep continue to graze on historic ranches called estancias. Somehow, it’s comforting to see familiar faces, be they sediments or sea lions, when traveling in distant lands!