Tierra Del Fuego

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire, is a forbidding territory just north of Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. Named in 1520 by Magellan, the first European to look on its shores, this land is all cold wind and ice. As his ship sailed along the coastline, Magellan was struck by the thousands of fires the Indians had built for warmth and cooking, and he aptly named it the Land of Fire.

Today, this archipelago consists of a large island, several smaller islands, and innumerable tiny islands. Chile owns about two-thirds of the land, and Argentina claims about one-third. Although relatively unexplored, it is one of the world's best areas for sea kayaking, birding, and sightseeing. Along its southwestern coast, the remote Charles Darwin Range offers innumerable fjords, glaciers, and channels perfect for exploration from the sea.

The Glories of Tierra del Fuego

A part of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego claims several magnificent glaciers that are formed by the peaks of the Charles Darwin Range, which rise from the water's edge to over 8,000 feet. Isolated and spectacular, this land hosts only king crab fishermen and the occasional yacht on Southern Ocean cruises. The Beagle Channel, named for Darwin's ship, is a stunning passage with breathtaking fjords that invite exploration by kayakers.

Here you may see the world's largest birds, the condor and the albatross, whose sweeping flights are awe-inspiring. Other birds are abundant: giant petrels, Imperial cormorants, terns, wild ducks and geese, redheaded woodpeckers, kingfishers, and Chilean green parrots, to name a few. Tierra del Fuego may be regularly swept by the "Williwaws," a fierce westerly wind, but its wintry grandeur is unforgettable.

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