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 Tierra del Fuego provincia, southern Argentina, consisting of the eastern half of the triangular island of Tierra del Fuego (Spanish: "Land of Fire"), lying between the Strait of Magellan (north) and Beagle Channel (south) at the southern extremity of South America. Argentina also claims as part of this province a number of South Atlantic islands and a portion of the Antarctic continent representing an additional 1,000,000 square miles (2,600,000 square km). Excluding these claims, the area of the province (8,329 square miles [21,571 square km]) presents three well-defined zones. There is a central mountain region whose highest peak is Cornú (4,888 feet [1,490 m]), with a windy, narrow, structural valley running east-west that is marked by Lake Fagnano in the Argentine sector and that continues as Almirantazgo Bay in the Chilean sector; this region has abundant vegetation. Below the mountains is a plateau and terrace region north of Lake Fagnano with excellent grazing ground for sheep and cattle. Finally, there is a plains region along the northeastern coast near the city of Río Grande, with open woodland covering the nearby mountain slopes.

Tierra del Fuego archipelago, at the southern extremity of South America. In shape the main island, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan, is a triangle with its base on Beagle Channel. The total area is 28,473 sq mi (73,746 sq km), about two-thirds of which is Chilean and one-third Argentine. The boundary, agreed upon in 1881, follows the meridian 6836'38 W, from Cabo (cape) Espíritu Santo on the Atlantic, and the east-west Beagle Channel. Lennox, Picton, Nueva, and several small islands at the mouth of the channel are disputed between the two republics.

The physical features of Tierra del Fuego are varied. Most of the northern portion of the main island, consisting of glacial topography, mainly lakes and moraines, is under 600 ft (180 m) in height, and the Atlantic and Strait of Magellan coasts are low-lying. In contrast, the southern and western parts of the main island and the archipelago are a prolongation of the Andes, with peaks exceeding 7,000 ft, notably Monte Sarmiento (7,550 ft [2,300 m]) and Monte Darwin (7,999 ft [2,438 m]), and mountain glaciers. The climate of Tierra del Fuego is monotonously cool in summer and cold in winter, with great contrast in annual rainfall, from 180 in. (4,600 mm) at Bahía Félix on Isla Desolación, Chile, to 20 in. at Río Grande, Arg. In the exposed southern and western areas, vegetation is limited to mosses and stunted trees. The central part of the main island has deciduous beech forests, and the northern plains have a tussock grass cover.

The archipelago was discovered by the navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, when he sailed through the strait named after him and called the region Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). Various navigators traversed the area, but no systematic exploration was attempted until the British Admiralty undertook a thorough survey of the entire archipelago between 1826 and 1836. For 350 years after Magellan's voyage, the region was left in the undisputed occupation of its indigenous peoples, the Ona, Yahgan, and Alacaluf Indians, but after 1880 colonization by Chilean and Argentine nationals was sparked by the introduction of sheep farming and the discovery of gold. More recently, the discovery of petroleum at Manantiales in 1945 converted the northern part of Tierra del Fuego into Chile's only oil field. Pipelines have been laid to the Strait of Magellan for export of the oil to middle Chile, drilling platforms have been built in the Strait of Magellan, and a small refinery meets local needs. There is some lumbering in the forested areas of the Beagle Channel and the Strait of Magellan; fish and crayfish canning at Ushuaia, Arg., and Porvenir, Chile; and fur hunting for nutria and seal. A meat refrigeration plant is located at Río Grande, but most surplus sheep are processed on the mainland.

Roads are poor in Tierra del Fuego, and there are no railways. Air services however, link major settlements to Punta Arenas, Chile, and Río Gallegos, Arg. Sea communications are also important; a regular service links Porvenir and Punta Arenas, and naval vessels supply Ushuaia and the Isla Navarino, Chile.


The Fuegian Andes

  The Fuegian Andes begin on the mountainous Estados (Staten) Island, the easternmost point of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, reaching an elevation of 3,700 feet. They run to the west through Grande Island, where the highest ridges--including Mounts Darwin, Valdivieso, and Sorondo--are all less than 7,900 feet high. The physiography of this southernmost subdivision of the Andes system is complicated by the presence of the independent Sierra de la Costa.

The Patagonian Andes rise north of the Strait of Magellan. Numerous transverse and longitudinal depressions and breaches cut this wild and rugged portion of the Andes, sometimes completely; many ranges are occupied by ice fields, glaciers, rivers, lakes, or fjords. The crests of the mountains exceed 10,000 feet (Mount Fitzroy reaching 11,073 feet) north to latitude 46 S but average only 6,500-8,400 feet from latitude 46 41 S, except for Mount Tronador (11,453 feet). North of Lake Aluminé (Argentina) the axis of the cordillera shifts to the east up to a zone of transition between latitude 37 and 35 S, where the geographic aspect and geomorphic structure change. This zone marks the most commonly accepted northern extent of the Patagonian Andes; there is some disagreement, however, about this limit, some placing it farther south, at the Gulf of Penas, (47 S) and others considering it to be to the north, around 30 S.

The line of permanent snow becomes higher in elevation with decreasing latitude in the Southern Andes: 2,300 feet in Tierra del Fuego, 5,000 feet at Osorno Volcano (41 S), and 12,000 feet at Domuyo Volcano (3638' S). A line of active volcanoes--including Yate, Corcovado, and Macá--occurs about 40 to 46 S; the southernmost of these, Mount Hudson of Chile, erupted in 1991. Enormous ice fields are located between Mount Fitzroy (called Mount Chaltel in Chile) and Lake Buenos Aires (Lake General Carrera in Chile) at both sides of Baker Fjord; the Viedma, Upsala, and other glaciers originate from these fields. Other notable features are the more than 50 lakes found south of 39 S. Those depressions that are free of water form fertile valleys called vegas, which are easily reached by low passes. Magnificent and impenetrable forests grow on both sides of these cordilleras, especially on the western slopes; these forests cover the mountains as high as the snow line, although at the higher altitudes toward the north and in Tierra del Fuego the vegetation is lower and less dense. Both Argentina and Chile have created national parks to preserve the area's natural beauty.

Tierra del Fuego National Parkl

  El Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego creado en 1960, representa el área natural protegida más austral de la República Argentina, abarcando una franja de 6 kilómetros sobre al Canal Beagle y una superficie de 63.000 ha. Está ubicado en el ángulo SO de Tierra del Fuego, sobre el límite con Chille a 11 Km de Ushuaia y a unos 3200 Km de Buenos Aires.

  La topografía es sumamente escabrosa. Todo es una sucesión de montañas escarpadas, ríos que corren en el fondo de los valles y lagos, dando lugar a paisajes muy variados. Una serie de cordones montañosos casi paralelos orientados de NO a SE constituyen barreras casi infranqueables que dividen la superficie del parque en valles de muy difícil acceso. La vegetación arbórea está representada por seis especies: Canelo, Leñadura, Notro, Lenga, Ñire y Guindo. La variedad de flores aumenta en el verano: violetas amarillas, orquídeas blancas, verdes, amarillas; siemprevivas, margaritas blancas y amarillas, edelweyss fueguina, etc.

  Entre los arbustos los más comunes son el calafate, el michay y la parrilla. Entre los mamíferos autóctonos figuran el guanaco y el zorro colorado. También se encuentran especies introducidas como el zorro gris, el castor, el conejo y la rata almizclera. La avifauna es abundante. En los espacios abiertos se puede observar cauquenes comunes y cabecigrises, bandurrias; en los espejos de agua viven el pato vapor y el macá grande o hualá. El bosque es el hábitad de aves como el carpintero patagónico y el rayadito. Al ser el único Parque Nacional que posee costa marina ofrece la exclusividad de avistar aves tales como el albatros de cabeza negra, el ostrero, el cauquén playero o el petrel, así como también algunos mamíferos marinos.

En las rocas costeras hay mejillones y cholgas. Los peces autóctonos de agua dulce son el Puyén y la Peladilla. Existen salmónidos no autóctonos, como las truchas arco iris y marrón de importancia deportiva; en el agua salada figuran el róbalo, el abadejo, la merluza de cola y las sardinas.


Ona: South American Indians once inhabiting the island of Tierra del Fuego and now extinct. They were historically divided into two major sections: Shelknam and Haush. They spoke different dialects and had slightly different cultures. The Ona were hunters and gatherers who subsisted chiefly on guanaco, small herds of which were stalked by bowmen; on various small animals; and on shellfish, cormorants, and berries.

They were organized in patrilineal bands of 40 to 120 members, each claiming territorial rights to a well-defined hunting area. The men took their wives from other bands. The nomadic life of the Ona resembled that of the Patagonian and Pampean hunters more than that of their immediate neighbours of the Chilean archipelago except for social and religious ceremonials. The Ona celebrated male initiation rites, klóketen; secrets were revealed by the older men to the younger, and women were excluded from them. The rites were based on a myth that told how the men had overturned a previous regime dominated by women. They believed in a supreme being, who sent punishment and death for wrongdoing. Shamans, who aided hunters and cured sickness, derived their power from the spirits of deceased shamans who appeared to them in dreams.

The Ona had little aesthetic life. Their technology, like that of neighbouring peoples, was very simple.

Yámana also called YAHGAN, South American Indian people, very few in number, who were the traditional occupants of the south coast of Tierra del Fuego and the neighbouring islands south to Cape Horn. In the 19th century they numbered between 2,500 and 3,000. The Yámana language forms a distinct linguistic group made up of five mutually intelligible dialects that correspond to five regionally defined subdivisions.

Archaeologists have discovered extensive remains of Yámana camping places. Like their neighbours the Alacaluf and the Chono, the Yámana hunted and gathered shellfish, seals, whales, and birds; a few berries and several varieties of fungi rounded out their diet. Despite the cold, rainy climate they had only a single garment of animal skin, worn like a cape over the shoulders. Their canoes had distinctive raised, pointed ends and a fireplace amidships.

The Yámana had no organized tribal life or recognized leaders. The family, usually monogamous, formed the basic social, political, and economic unit. They followed no clear pattern of migration and rarely camped in one place for more than a few days.

Their aesthetic activities were simple and few. They believed in a benevolent deity who was the giver of life and who punished wrongdoers. There were lesser spirits also, who could be approached through a shaman.


  The capital of Tierra del Fuego is located on the Beagle Channel at Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. There is little agriculture on the island, but oil and gas reserves have been developed. Many textile and electronic firms have been established at Río Grande and Ushuaia, the island's two main cities. Fishing activity centres on spider crabs and mussels and other mollusks, which are canned and exported. Krill, tiny shrimplike creatures suggested as a potential source of food for humans, are extremely abundant in adjoining ocean waters but are not yet exploited. Two popular points of interest in Tierra del Fuego are the National Park Reserve and the United States scientific research vessel Hero, whose home port is Beagle Channel. Pop. (1991 prelim.) 69,323.

Things to do

  Las excursiones recomendadas son; los city tour en la ciudad de Ushuaía; Glaciar Le Martial; Parque Nacional; Lago escondido; Lago Fagnano; Río Grande; Estancia Harberton; Estancia Moat; Cabo San Pablo; Lago Yehuín.

  En la excursión a la Isla de los Lobos se navega por la Bahía de Ushuaia y el Canal Beagle, se pueden avistar numerosas especies de aves y se llega al Faro Les Eclaireus pasando por un apostadero de lobos marinos y una colonia de cormoranes (Isla de los Lobos y de los Pájaros).  

  La excursión a Bahía Lapataia sale con rumbo oeste hacia Puerto Arias en Bahía Lapataia, donde quienes visitan el Parque Nacional por vía terrestre pueden embarcar, desde allí se navega hacia el este pasando por las islas anteriores hasta el faro Les Eclaireus.  

  La excursión a la pingüinera y la Estancia Harberton se realiza el este pasando frente a las islas, el faro y continúa hacia Almanza, pasando frente a la Isla Martillo (pingüinera) y llega a la Estancia Harberton donde se realiza una caminata guiada. 

   La excursión al tren del fin del mundo se parte desde Ushuaia por vía terrestre, se encamina por la ruta que conduce al parque nacional a escasos 7 km se encuentra el Valle del Río Pipo donde está el camping municpal en cuyo lugar está la Estación del Fin del Mundo. Desde allí parte diariamente el Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino con un recorrido de 4.5 km. Tiene una parada intermedia en Cascada Macarena y en su último tramo ingresa al Parque Nacional por la zona de Cañadón Toro.

Material recopilado de: "La ciudad en el fin del mundo, Ushuaia". Dirección Municipal de Turismo. Municipalidad de Ushuaia.

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