Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego


Tierra del Fuego is the big island located at the very southernmost tip of South America. The Beagle Channel provides a safe southern route lengthwise from east to west, allowing ships to bypass the treacherous Cape Horn further to the south. This narrow channel through the mountains is named after Captain Robert Fitzroy's ship the "Beagle", used during a British surveying voyage of 1834. On board was Charles Darwin the ship's naturalist and recorder of the expedition. His account is now a classic book and collector's item, the "Voyage of the Beagle" , which was a precursor of Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

The Beagle Channel has spectacular mountain scenery with many glacier-filled fiords joining up with the channel. The best way to see everything is to take the weekly cruise ship "Terra Australis" (ca 120 passengers) from the Chilean port of Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan. The cruise goes easterly along the Beagle Channel to as far as Puerto Williams, which is a Chilean naval base on island of Navarino. Next port of call is to the northern shore and the Argentine port of Ushuaia, which is an important tourist and industrial town on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego. At Ushuaia the cruise ship drops off and takes on passengers and goes westward back along the channel to Punta Arenas, taking 6 days in all. When I did the cruise I left the ship at Ushuaia to explore that part of Tierra del Fuego for 10 days, then returned overland by bus to Punta Arenas



Docking at Ushuaia early in the morning. Snow still on the hills early November.



Old Chilean gun emplacement near Puerto Williams, one time guarding the Beagle Channel from intruders.

Allano views the Beagle Channel from the top of Cerro Bandera at Puerto Williams.

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