20th March: Patagonia (Ushuaia and Beagle Passage)

This is near dawn, at the Ushuaia waterfront, looking over the harbour, beyond the road to the airport, across the Beagle Channel to the mountains on the other side.

Another shot from the roof of out hotel.

A panorama of Ushuaia harbour in the early morning.

I had expected that in our time in Ushuaia we would get to the National Park and perhaps a trip to the Harberton Homestead. Neither happened. We had too many last-minute tasks to make sure we were prepared for the voyage.

We did get to see a couple of interesting museums. One was the Maritime Museum, a former prison, which graphically shows the savage conditions prisoners endured here in the nineteenth century, including tiny cells, shackles and leg irons.

Another was the Museo de Maquetas Mundo Yámana, with informative displays on the indian history of the region. Essentially the indians were all wiped out by settlers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most tribes are extinct and little of their culture remains.

I had been intrigued by a theory that there were early Australoid inhabitants of the Americas thousands of years before the Amerindians turned up (related to Australian Aborigines), and that their last refuge was in Tierra del Fuego up to the early years of the twentieth century. I didn’t find any evidence of that in Ushuaia and all the photographs of nineteenth century natives looked to be Amerindians of Mongoloid ancestry. If there were Australoids there, most likely they were a minority group in one or more tribes.

Clouds over the end of the Beagle Channel.

The big day. Off to Antarctica in a Russian icebreaker.

We left Ushuaia about 4pm and proceeded up the Beagle Channel until about midnight when we entered the Drake Passage. A school of whales passed us at one point but they weren’t there for long and I didn’t see them. I did spend some time photographing albatrosses and petrels with a long telephoto from the moving ship.

A small lighthouse in the Beagle Channel.

Another small lighthouse. The building behind is not an estancia and I think it must be a Customs Port or Monitoring Post.

Moonrise at the end of the Beagle Passage.

Google Maps link.