The Comau Fjord
The Comau fjord is part of a 68 kilometer longitudinal structural fault that runs from north to south. The mountains surrounding the fjord rise up to an altitude of 2.000 m while the maximum water depth is 500 m. This characterizes the landscape by steep slopes both above and below the waterline. The coast is very structured and almost all types of substrate are represented: mud flats, sand beaches, pebble beaches, bolder beaches, and rocky coast in all inclinations. The final coast type makes up the majority of the shore.
The fjord has large freshwater input with an average annual rainfall surpassing 6 m. We enjoy a temperate climate with an average yearly temperature of approximately 10.5° C (50.9° F). The strong solar radiation on clear days
reminds us that the latitude is only 42ºS. A thick temperate rainforest
of evergreen leaf-trees mixed with conifers
is sustained along the walls of the fjord.
The fjord water is characterized by the presence of a superficial Low Salinity Layer that can extend more than 8 m in depth and reach salinities below 10 ‰. In combination with maximum tidal amplitude of 7.5 m, the first 15 m are under more or less frequent influence of low salinity water. Therefore the benthic communities in the first 15 m are in general poorer in species diversity and very distinct from those below. Strong zonation patterns are strongly exemplified through clear horizontal bands. Salinity below 18 m is very constant 32 ‰.
The 34,000 hectare property of the foundation “San Ignacio de Huinay” is surrounded by the privately owned park Pumalín. From the station there is access to all altitudinal vegetation sequences. This begins with diverse extra-tropical rainforest dominated by evergreen trees, subject to natural perturbation, passing through high Andean Alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides) communities, followed by Andean cushions to pure rock and permanent snow fields at the top of the high peaks.