The Monkey made Ushuaia the base for his 2004 exploration of Tierra del Fuego. Far in Argentina’s south, Ushuaia is considered the southernmost city on the planet.
Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) is largest island in the archipelago at the far southern tip of Argentina and Chile, cut off from the mainland by the Straits of Magellan (both countries possess some of the island). Home to several indigenous groups that lived off the abundant fisheries and sea mammal populations, the first European settlers arrived in the region only in the late 19th Century in the form of Anglican missionaries that sought to convert the native population to Christianity. As independent Argentina’s borders crept southward, much of Tierra del Fuego was incorporated into the new republic (although there was considerable conflict with Chile over the precise boundaries until quite recently). This led to the annihilation of most of the indigenous inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego.
Here, the Monkey looks over the protected harbor of Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city. Started as little more than a mission and harbor in the late 19th Century, Ushuaia grew significantly as logging, fishing, and wool operations took root in the decades that followed. Industrialization came in the mid 20th Century, as Ushuaia was given a special export zone status to help boost the remote city’s economy. Tourism has also become big business in Ushuaia, and the city is many people’s gateway to the natural wonderland of Tierra del Fuego.
Ushuaia is the capital of Argentina’s wordily-named Province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica, and the South Atlantic Islands. The map at left shows the various parts of the province, including the section of Antarctica loosely administered by Argentina and the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, claimed by Argentina but possessed by Britain.
In this photo, the Monkey climbs on a sign indicating the (metric) distance from Ushuaia to the national capital.
The Monkey plays fence-sitter near Ushuaia’s port. The city’s naturally protected harbor is often a last stop for Antarctica-bound ships, and the Monkey saw a Russian ice-breaker at the docks that was preparing to head south to the frozen continent.
The Monkey poses by the Casa Beban, a local cultural center with the steep roofs that help Fuegian buildings displace snow. Interestingly, Casa Beban was prefabricated in another place accustomed to heavy snow—Sweden—and reassembled in Ushuaia in 1913.
It didn’t take the Argentine authorities very long to recognize that Tierra del Fuego’s remote location and desolate terrain made it an outstanding spot to which to banish unwanted elements of society. In the late 19th Century, the Argentine government opened a penal colony in Ushuaia, using convict labor to develop the region and thus shore up Argentine claims on Tierra del Fuego. The prison was part gulag, part Alcatraz, holding both violent criminals and political prisoners (including the famous Russian-Argentine anarchist Simón Radowitzky, who killed the Buenos Aires police chief in 1909 after the violent repression of a popular demonstration in the capital). The prison, with its five wings emanating from a central hub, was closed by Perón in 1947, and today it is a museum. The Monkey is sitting between two of the prison’s wings; the locomotive once transported the timber felled by the convicts’ labor.
The Monkey makes a break for it inside one of the Ushuaia prison’s wards. Some of its wings are quite eerie, as they lack lighting and have not been cleaned up much since the days when the prison was in use.
El Mono took a walk on a bright, sunny morning. Spotting some geese in a pasture (barely visible here), he decided to pose for a photo with the idyllic backdrop of Ushuaia. The snow-capped peak in the distance is the Cerro Martial, which the Monkey daringly scaled in his quest to reach its glacial heights. See more on that in this post.
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