The Fish Market at Puerto Montt:

Puerto Montt is the southernmost city on the Chilean road system and, at 100,000 plus inhabitants, our biggest town yet. The biggest, but it does not seem particularly large.

At the fish market we are amazed at the creatures for sale. Where else in the world are the stalls dominated by shellfish and algae? That's easy, wherever there's a giant kelp forest. Clear, cold water, 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is where the kelp thrives.

In the late morning a diver alternately drifts, then soars through the "redwoods of the sea," between kelp plants that can be over 100 feet tall. There is no tank of air on his back, he fills his lungs from a yellow hose that snakes through the water to a compressor in his boat, a thin umbilicus to his native world.

At 50 feet of depth the sun's light is a golden mist, much like dawn deep within a moss-shrouded, primeval forest. Brown pennants, three-foot long fronds, gently sway back, forth, up, and down, to the rhythm of the rolling swell. There's a pinnacle ahead, thirty-five feet tall and clean of kelp. Soft current flows about the rock carrying with it clouds of tiny plankton. Over the stony walls there is a plush carpet of reds and oranges, lavenders and whites, blues and pinks, each color and hue a different type of animal waving claw, tentacle or feathery foot, all of them plucking, grabbing, or simply sucking their meals from the passing stream.

To his left, the diver notices a patch of delicate clubfoot anemones, their trunks pale lavender, their tentacles white; they surround and almost conceal a large object. In their midst a feathery brush appears and slowly swipes at the sea, one, two, three, then abruptly retracts into the maw of a hidden giant acorn barnacle. With a pry-bar, the crustacean is broken from the rock and added to a bag, a good one, this creature, almost eight inches long and four inches wide.

By late afternoon the bag of barnacles joins the mussels, clams, urchins, crabs, kelp, conger eels, and king mackerel at the market, all categorically and aesthetically arranged just in time for us to pass by and take this picture.