Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, is considered the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia means bay that penetrates to the west. “Aia” means bay.
I was off the ship a little before eight a.m. to meet up with the rest of our group for the penguin tour. We were afraid it would involve too much walking for Larry, so he opted out of this one. We made our way to the tour office and then to the catamaran that took us to the island on which the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse warns ships, while cormorants and South American fur seals lounged around seemingly oblivious to tourists. After the photo opportunity, we continued to Harberton, about forty nautical miles away.
We booked this tour through, Mary Anne, whom we “met” on the Cruise Critic page. About twenty of the passengers were from our ship. Other tourists were on board as well. I greatly enjoyed chatting with Sabine and Pascal, from Switzerland. They had just spent four days hiking fifty kilometers and camping out. It turned out that Sabine has friends in Bend, Oregon that she plans to visit in the fall. I hope it will work out to meet up midway between our town and there!
Harberton was built in eighteen-eighty-six by Thomas Bridges, who named it for his wife’s birthplace in England. It’s the oldest estancia (farm) in the Argentine sector of Tierra del Fuego (TF). Mr. Bridges was an orphan found on a bridge somewhere in England and later adopted by an Anglican missionary, the Rev. G.P. Despard. In 1856, at the age of 13, he was taken with his adoptive family to Keppel (Vigía) Island in the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, where an agricultural mission station was being established. There he learned Yaghan, the language of the Yámana canoe people from TF, who were taken there for training. By his first trip to Tierra del Fuego, in 1863, he was able to speak with the Fuegians and explain what the mission wanted to do. He established the permanent Anglican Mission at Ushuaia in 1870, with his wife, Mary Ann Varder, and their small daughter Mary, in 1871. The history is fascinating and more can be read on their website: www.estanciaharberton.com.
Upon arrival at Harberton, half of the passengers transferred to a small zodiac for a ten minute ride to Penguin Island. There we were able to walk amongst the Emperor, Magellanic, and Gentoo penguins for an hour before returning to the zodiac and back to Harberton for lunch.
The walk up the hill to the restaurant took us past a lush garden and blooming lupines. Following lunch we went to the Acatushún Museum, Museo Acatushún de Aves y Mamíferos Marinos Australes. This is a working museum/laboratory for the study of the basic biology of the marine mammals (mainly dolphins) and birds of the southern tip of South America. The result of over 34 years of scientific research by its founder, Natalie Goodall, the wife of Harberton’s manager, the collection contains the skeletons of over twenty-seven hundred marine mammals and twenty-three hundred birds.
Our tour was led by Alexandre, a university-level vet student who was interning for a month. Interns collect and study animals found dead and stranded on the beaches. They perform necropsies, obtain samples, clean skeletons for the collection and explain their work to visitors. Their work includes researching genetics and testing for pollution in the animals.
Our return to Ushuaia was by bus. We passed through sub-Antarctic forest area and stopped for photos with the Árbol Bandera (Flag Tree) which is shaped by the prevailing wind. We saw Cerro Castro, a huge ski resort, and a nearby breeding facility for huskies that go to the Antarctic. Part of the movie, The Revenant, was filmed in the area we drove through.
At 10:38 p.m. there was still a little light in the sky, which makes Larry a happy cruiser.
Tonight’s quote, “When you are at sea you know you must reach harbor, to restock and hope, rest in a warm caress. You need ports and often can’t wait to get to the next. Then when you are in port, you can’t wait to get back to the sea again. . . You need mother earth, but you love the sea.” ~~ Steven Callahan b. 1952