Departing the cruise ship in Ushuaia (pronounced u-shwhy-ah), we ventured out from the city which holds the distinction of being the southernmost city in the world, to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Created to protect the southern portion of sub-Antarctic forests, the park provides opportunities to enjoy the Andes, as well as the regions rivers and lakes, with camping, hiking, climbing and kayaking. With only a few hours to explore, we caught only the highlights of this extensive and popular park. The world's southernmost post office in the world is located here. Unfortunately, we didn't come prepared to mail postcards postmarked from the 'End of the World'. Our planned catamaran cruise out into the Beagle Channel was cancelled due to high winds and rough seas, even though all appeared calm within the protection of Lapataia Bay.
Originally settled by the Yaghan, the estimated population of 10,000 indigenous people was mostly wiped out within 10 years of the arrival of European settlers. Their deaths were due primarily to a lack of immunity to typhus, pertussis and measles, introduced by the new arrivals. The city was founded as a penal colony, and prisoners became forced colonists. Prisoners were responsible for most of the building in the city, utilizing wood from the surrounding forests. They constructed a railway system out to the forest for harvesting the lumber, which now runs as a tourist attraction, the "Train to the End of the World". The prison was closed in 1948, the building now houses a maritime, art and history museum.
Tourism is now a major industry, as visitors come to explore the unique landscape of this remote destination. The area is also a stopping point for ships en route to Antarctica. Settlers are incentivized to stay in the area by higher wages (roughly double the wages in Buenos Aries) and a tax free society. With average summer day temperatures around 45-50, and frequent high winds, it's easy to understand why settlers are not rushing to the area.
By the time we arrived back to the ship, winds had increased to 50-60 mph, foreseeing a rough cruise around Cape Horn.
Looking out to the Andes