fire land

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fire land
Tierra del Fuego and the Strait of Magellan
Tierra del Fuego and the Strait of Magellan
Waters Drake Street
Geographical location 54 ° 6 ′  S , 68 ° 36 ′  W Coordinates: 54 ° 6 ′  S , 68 ° 36 ′  W
Tierra del Fuego (South America)
fire land
Main island Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego
Total land area 73,746 km²
resident 137,000
Magellanica on Janssonius' map (1657)

Tierra del Fuego ( Spanish: Tierra del Fuego "Land of Fire"), formerly Magellanica after Ferdinand Magellan , is a group of islands at the southern tip of South America . It is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan . The archipelago has a land area of ​​73,746 km², 47,000 km² of which are on the main island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego . Tierra del Fuego was divided into an eastern part for Argentina (today the province of Tierra del Fuego ) and a western part for Chile (today the region Magallanes) divided up. About 127,000 people live in the Argentine part and about 8,000 in the Chilean part.

While exploring the Strait of Magellan in 1520, Magellan and his men did not find any settlements in the north, but in the south of the strait, as Magellan's chronicler Antonio Pigafetta reports, they saw many fires at night from the ship. The captain general Magellan called the country accordingly "Tierra del Fuego".


Glacier in the Beagle Channel

The mountains Cordillera Darwin with almost 2500 meters high mountains form the last great mountain range of the Andes in South America. There is often a meteorological low south of the tip of South America . This low pressure area results in western winds for Tierra del Fuego, which, however, are strongly deflected and weakened in the lower layers of the air by the mountains. The maritime-balanced climate is relatively cold and humid all year round. The weather can be very unstable during the day and there are often strong winds that often grow into violent storms.


Climate diagram
J F. M. A. M. J J A. S. O N D.
Temperature in ° Cprecipitation in mm
Source: WMO
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Ushuaia
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 15.0 14.1 12.4 9.8 6.3 4.6 4.5 6.1 8.8 11.1 12.9 13.4 O 9.9
Min. Temperature (° C) 5.7 5.2 3.5 2.1 0.1 −1.3 −1.4 −1.0 0.5 2.3 3.9 4.9 O 2
Precipitation ( mm ) 30.7 33.2 47.8 49.7 54.5 54.7 46.2 60.7 39.5 34.6 35.4 41.0 Σ 528
Rainy days ( d ) 13 13 14th 12th 11 12th 12th 11 13 12th 12th 11 Σ 146
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Source: WMO

Tierra del Fuego lies in the cool temperate zone with a maritime climate in the southern hemisphere. The local climate is determined by great differences. In the west, rainfall of up to 6000 mm / year is measured, in the east, however, only about 250 mm / year. The fluctuation range of the precipitation therefore enables both temperate coastal rainforests and semi-deserts .

The temperature shows only slight seasonal fluctuations and is 5.6 ° C in Ushuaia , which is only slightly warmer than in Moscow .

Places on Tierra del Fuego

The most important places on the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego are, in the Argentine part, Río Grande (approx. 67,000 inhabitants) and Ushuaia (approx. 57,000 inhabitants), in the Chilean part Porvenir (approx. 5400 inhabitants). Puerto Williams , on the island of Navarino , has a population of around 2300 and is the southernmost city in the world.


Beaver dam in the Tierra del Fuego National Park near Ushuaia
The coastal path leads through a forest with southern lenga beeches ( Nothofagus pumilio ).
Vegetation on an island in the Beagle Channel

In terms of plant geography, Tierra del Fuego (together with New Zealand , the Kerguelen and the Falkland Islands, among others ) belongs to the Antarctic flora . This means that these areas are linked by a common evolution of living beings. In addition, the area stretches from the vegetation zones “shrub and dry steppe” over the “ deciduous deciduous forest ” and the “temperate rainforest” to a sub-Antarctic zone, which is assigned to the “ tundra ” (see below).

In the warmest months, the monthly mean is 6 to 10 ° C with a vegetation period of two to four months. In the west, violent storms prevent the forest from spreading beyond deeper hollows. Despite mild temperatures and high rainfall lying timber line there between 200 and 400 m in height, the timber line at 500-600 m. The biodiversity is quite low. A distinction is made between the following types of vegetation :

In the northwest, mainly evergreen forests can be found, while in the center of the island mainly summer green forests predominate. Both are dominated by the southern beech, Nothofagus ( beech family, Fagaceae). In the evergreen part it is the guindo ( Nothofagus betuloides ), in the deciduous part it is lenga ( Nothofagus pumilio ) and Ňire ( Nothofagus antarctica ). The generally sparse forest reaches a crown height of about 20 meters in the north, but only 6 meters south of the Beagle Channel. There is a rich undergrowth of shrubs and herbs, for example with the currant Ribes magellanicum ( gooseberry family , Grossulariaceae) and the Fuchsia magellanica ( evening primrose family , Onagraceae), the trunk form of our fuchsia . The crown layer is populated by climbing plants and epiphytes , such as the climbing Mutisia ( daisy family , Asteraceae) or ferns of the genus Hymenophyllum ( skin fern plants , Hymenophyllaceae). The appearance of the forest is therefore more like a subtropical laurel forest than the temperate forests in Europe and North America.

The area in the immediate vicinity of the coast remains forest-free due to the strong storms, this vegetation community is known as Magellan Moor or Magellan Tundra . The vegetation has a tundra-like character, although the milder climate and the lack of permafrost soil differ significantly from the typical tundra climate. The assignment of vegetation is inconsistent in the literature.

The eastern part of the island is also without trees, as it is too dry there. Here, grasses such as Festuca gracillima or Alopecurus magellanicus dominate , whose close relatives can also be found in Europe. Above the tree line to find krummholz bushes from growing shrub-like Nothofagus above the tree line only, alpine heaths of dwarf shrubs , grasses and cushion plants .

Thanks to the humid climate, bogs and tundra are common in the west of Tierra del Fuego and can be divided into three groups. The moors of the deciduous forest zone , which largely resemble Central European raised moors . They are particularly widespread in the west of the island and often fill entire valley floors. Here the peat moss Sphagnum magellanicum (Sphagnaceae) dominates, which is also widespread in Europe. In addition, the insect-catching sundew Drosera uniflora (Droseraceae), peat myrtle ( Pernettya , heather family, Ericaceae), sedges and rushes such as Marsippospermum grandiflorum ( rush family , Juncaceae) grow . Some heather plants are amazingly reminiscent of Central European blueberries. Nothofagus antarctica also grows in bogs, but only reaches heights of 20–100 cm. The moors of the evergreen forest zone are home to peat mosses, but also deciduous mosses . Sometimes species of the treeless Magellanic Bog Tundra can also be found here. These moors on the west coast are dominated by cushion plants and deciduous mosses such as Calliergon (brown moss, Drepanocladaceae). The peat moss, which is so typical in moors, is missing. This type of vegetation has no counterpart in Europe.

Wood and peat are extracted from forests and moors . However, because they grow back slowly, their use poses a significant environmental and resource problem with sometimes devastating consequences. The Canadian beaver , imported by the Argentine government in 1946, poses a threat to the forests and ecosystems of Tierra del Fuego due to its immense distribution To protect biodiversity, the Tierra del Fuego National Park was established near Ushuaia .


Mammals found on Tierra del Fuego include guanacos , Andean jackals , maned seals , coastal otters , southern river otters , mouse-eared rats ( Myotis chiloensis ), crested rats and Canadian beavers , which were introduced for furry use in 1946. In birds noteworthy are Darwin rheas (settled in 1936 by humans), Andean condors , Chilean Flamingo , black-browed albatrosses , giant petrels , Magellanic geese , Antarctic cormorants , Falklandkarakaras , Schopfkarakaras , Brown skuas , kelp gulls , king penguins , Magellanic penguins , short-eared owls , emerald parakeets , Ringed Kingfisher and Chile hummingbirds ( Sephanoides sephaniodes ).

Since there are neither bears nor wolves on Tierra del Fuego, there are no predators that regulate the beaver population like in North America. Since 1946 the 50 resident beavers have been able to multiply to over 200,000 specimens in 2011, and meanwhile they also colonize the South American mainland. The animals have become a serious threat to the trees in Tierra del Fuego. In contrast to many North American trees, South American trees, such as the widespread beeches on Tierra del Fuego, when they have been felled by beavers, often do not die out again, but rather die. In North America, the trees were able to develop together with the beavers and often have the ability to sprout out of the stump on their own .

History of Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego before the arrival of the Europeans (9800 BC – 1520 AD), Paleo-Indians

Indians before 1900

Between 9800 BC BC and 8280 BC For the first time BC, groups of hunters from the American mainland settled on Tierra del Fuego. It is believed that the arrival of these Paleo-Indians occurred in the course of the retreat of the glaciation in the Pleistocene over still existing land bridges, before the Strait of Magellan was finally flooded with water. Archaeological traces of these Indian groups can be found on both sides of the Strait of Magellan: on the American mainland in the Cueva del Milodón near Puerto Natales (in southern Chile) or in Pali Aike (in the eastern area of ​​the Strait of Magellan) and on Tierra del Fuego in Tres Arroyos and Alero Marazzi, for example 20 kilometers southwest of San Sebastian . Maritime sites can be found on the Beagle Channel ( Tunel and Lancha Packeweia ) and in the south of Isla Navarino ( Seno Grandi ). The oldest skeleton was discovered in 2004 in the Argentine part of the north coast of Tierra del Fuego.

In this first phase of settlement, special climatic conditions prevailed, which gave rise to fauna that disappeared 3000 years after the first appearance of the Paleo-Indians: American wild horses , giant sloths ( Mylodon ) and other grass-eaters formed the basis of the diet.

Tierra del Fuego on the verge of European discoveries (16th - 19th centuries)

Indigenous peoples in the 17th century

At the time of the arrival of the first Europeans in Tierra del Fuego, four groups of indigenous peoples can be distinguished: the land nomads of the Selk'nam (Onas) and the Haush (or: Manek'enk), who settled inland or in the southeast of the main island, and the Sea nomads of the Alakaluf and Yámana (Yaghan) who lived on the western and southern coastline. The total number of the individual population groups can be estimated at a total of 12,000 for the 17th century due to their way of life as hunters and gatherers.

Discovery of the Strait of Magellan

The first reports about Tierra del Fuego come from the expedition Ferdinand Magellans , who in October 1520 was the first European to discover the Strait of Magellan , which was named after him, and who sailed through it with three ships on the way to the Spice Islands ( Moluccas ). The glow of the bonfires of the indigenous peoples he observed during the passage that lasted more than 20 days gave the group of islands its name. Magellan himself called by sea Estreito de Todos os Santos ( dt. Allerheiligenstraße ). However, there is no solid evidence that Magellan actually set foot on Tierra del Fuego.

Spanish claim to rule

Subsequently, the Strait of Magellan gained in importance, especially as a transport route to Asia and to the gold and silver deposits in Peru. With the award of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego as Nueva Extremadura to Jerónimo de Alderete in 1555, Spain's claim to power was documented for the first time . His successor García Hurtado de Mendoza commissioned Juan Fernández Ladrillero 1557–1559 with the exploration and land acquisition of the areas on both sides of the sea road. Ladrillero was the first European to begin systematically exploring Tierra del Fuego. When Francis Drake sailed the Strait of Magellan in just 16 days in the course of his circumnavigation (1577–1580), the Spanish crown quickly realized the importance of securing this sea route against Dutch, English and French privateers. Attempts by the Viceroy of Perú to build fortifications along the Strait of Magellan (from around 1581 by Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa ) initially failed.

First voyages of discovery

In 1615 Dutch privateers under Willem Cornelisz Schouten sailed around Tierra del Fuego and discovered the States Island and the passage around Cape Horn . Until then, the Strait of Magellan was the only known passage around the American continent. This discovery was confirmed a little later by a Spanish expedition led by Bartolomé García de Nodal and his brother Gonzalo, who successfully circumnavigated Tierra del Fuego (1618–1619) and who brought valuable maps with them from their trip. The following expeditions acquired more and more detailed knowledge of the region: for example that of the Englishman John Narborough in 1669/1670 and the French De Gennes and De Beachesne towards the end of the century.

The expeditions of John Byron , who explored the Falkland Islands from 1764 to 1766 and circumnavigated Tierra del Fuego, contributed significantly to the scientific exploration of Tierra del Fuego. He gave Punta Arenas its original name: Sandy Point. The French circumnavigator (1766–1769) Louis Antoine de Bougainville called the people of Tierra del Fuego pécherais , in German “Pescherähs”, after the word they called to him. Even James Cook headed for his circumnavigation at New Year 1769 Cape Horn and crossed first the Antarctic Circle. In his three trips in total, he was supposed to finally prove that a so-called southern land ( Terra Australis ), which was connected to the American mainland, did not exist.

Parker King and FitzRoy (1826-1836) expeditions

The first more intensive investigations in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia , which also included cartographic and hydrographic surveys in particular of the coastline of Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, were the two English expeditions under Philip Parker King (1826-1830) and Robert FitzRoy (1832-1836) For example, the Beagle Channel was discovered for three years during the Parker Kings expedition. The then still young Charles Darwin , who accompanied the researcher FitzRoy, found the following words for the indigenous peoples of the region (see his travelogue Diary of a Naturalist Around the World , published in 1839 ):

But I saw nothing that astonished me more than the first sight of a savage. It was a naked Tierra del Fuego, its long hair waved about, its face was smeared with earth. There is an expression on their faces that, I believe, must appear wildly inexplicably to those who have not seen it. Standing on a rock he uttered sounds and made gestures against which the sounds of the domesticated animals are far more intelligible.

In this context, the events surrounding the kidnapping of four people from the Yámana tribe to England, which went down in literature as the story of Jemmy Button , are of cultural and historical interest .

Colonization (1848–1906)

Monument to the Yámana in Ushuaia

The Spanish efforts to integrate Tierra del Fuego into its dominion were aimed solely at securing the strategically important Strait of Magellan (not very successfully), but not at a specific conquest of land. It was not until the second half of the 19th century (around 1840) that Spain tried to settle Tierra del Fuego systematically. The main reason for this was the lack of natural harbors that could have made it easy to land. On the north bank of the Strait of Magellan, only two places were of importance for seafarers: San Gregorio for the trade with the Indians of Patagonia and Puerto del Hambre for the intake of water and wood. There were no such bases on Tierra del Fuego itself.

Efforts of Chile for Tierra del Fuego

The young state of Chile, which had finally proclaimed its independence from Spain in 1818 , soon aimed to secure its claims to rule in this area over the long term. When it became known that France, under King Louis Philip , was planning an expedition to southern Patagonia to make territorial claims, Chile took action in 1843. The initiative went back to the efforts of the founder of the Chilean Republic, Bernardo O'Higgins , who in the 1830s pursued a concept for the sustainable integration of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego under the catchphrase of New Chile. This concept aimed to:

  1. the military protection of the Strait of Magellan and the adjacent areas;
  2. the colonization of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia by military, economic and population policy means and
  3. the incorporation of the territory of Antarctica.

On this basis, the Bulnes government then took concrete steps that should lead to a sustainable colonization of New Chile.

Chilean expedition of 1843

The highest administrative officer of Chiloé , Domingo Espiñeira , was entrusted with the organizational responsibility for the company . After four months, the Chilean schooner Ancud landed on September 21, 1843 off the Brunswick peninsula in southern Patagonia. On that day, the captain of the 23-man crew, John Williams Wilson , officially took possession of the region around the Strait of Magellan for the Republic of Chile. A month later, after an unsuccessful search for a suitable place for a fortification, the expedition returned to the original landing point, Punta Santa Ana , and founded Fuerte Bulnes on October 30, 1843 .

Establishment of Punta Arenas in 1848

Due to the exposed location, this fort only existed for a short time. As early as 1848, the place Punta Arenas was created 50 kilometers further north , which was to play a central role in the further development of the region. The city was formally founded on December 18, 1848 and designated the seat of the governor of Magallanes. (The term magallanes (Land Magellans) denotes the areas on both sides of the Strait of Magellan, i.e. essentially today's 12th region of Chile, as well as the south of today's Argentine provinces of Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego ).

However, three years later the development of the city was endangered by a mutiny by part of the army, so that Punta Arenas had to be rebuilt in 1852. In the first decades the settlement consisted of barely more than 200 people who had little economic prospects. The status of Punta Arenas as a penal colony made its development even more difficult.

It was not until Oscar Viel was appointed governor of Magallanes in 1867 and numerous privileges were granted to the city (duty-free status, incentives for the settlement of immigrants), Punta Arenas began to develop rapidly. Of particular importance in this context was the Pacific Steam Navigation Company , which from 1868 on the Liverpool – Valparaíso line also moored in Punta Arenas. For the further development of the city, which now became the center for the colonization of the region on both sides of the Strait of Magellan, other factors were responsible: (1) the discovery of coal deposits and gold-bearing river sands, (2) the establishment of a sawmill for wood processing in the Region and (3) the issue of land for agricultural use to immigrants now continuously pouring into southern Patagonia. In 1871 the population of Punta Arenas had grown to 800 people.

The beginning of regional development 1870–1881

The colonization of the region went slowly beyond the narrower area of ​​Punta Arenas. The Brunswick Peninsula was settled along the coast and the first estancias were established, which in their initial phase were mainly dedicated to cattle breeding. Fur and feather dealers expanded north and along the Atlantic coast to Santa Cruz and beyond. Seal hunters, on the other hand, soon hunted the skins in the canals of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. The first groups of European emigrants landed in Punta Arenas around 1870. The governor of Magallanes supported immigration on a sustained basis, also in view of the increasing conflicts with Argentina. The first British, French, Germans and Swiss came to this region around 1874, including people like the Spaniard José Menendez, the native Russian Elias Braun and the Portuguese José Nogueira, who were to have a lasting impact on the region's economy.

Simultaneously with the arrival of these immigrants, the first explorations of the areas north of Punta Arenas were carried out, such as that of the Chilean military Juan Tomas Rogers in 1877/1879. Ramón Serrano also carried out a research expedition to Tierra del Fuego. The news of the grasslands, which appeared to be very suitable for sheep breeding, led under Governor Diego Dublé Almeyda to the purchase of 300 sheep, which were specially brought from the Falkland Islands to Punta Arenas. The English trader Henry Reynard bought the animals and carried out the first breeding experiments on Isabel Island in 1877. Other colonists carried out similar projects (albeit with varying degrees of success): Cruz Daniel Ramírez on Isla Magdalena and Marius Andrieu near San Gregorio . Finally, between 1878 and 1883, sheep were raised in the north of the Brunswick Peninsula, on the coasts of Skyring and on the north coast of the Strait of Magellan.

However, violent clashes broke out again in 1877 when parts of the military who had been assigned to guard the prisoners rose. Governor Almeyda was only able to suppress this rebellion with difficulty. The border treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina , which laid down today's borders, was of inestimable importance for the colonization of the region, and in particular for the rapid development of sheep farming . However, border conflicts (also around Tierra del Fuego) should not be resolved until the second half of the 20th century.

Sheep farming and trade as engines of development (1881–1906)

Monument on the main square in Porvenir (Tierra del Fuego)
Sheep on Magallanes
material resident Sheep Merchant ships
1867 200 - 27
1874 800 - -
1877 - 300 -
1885 2,000 40,000 -
1889 - 300,000 -
1906 - 1,800,000 901
1907 17,330 -
Development of the population and number of sheep on Magallanes

For the further development of Tierra del Fuego, the increasing use of the extensive grassy areas in the north-west of the country was of great importance. After the first successful pilot projects north of the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego was also opened up for cattle breeding. In 1889 and 1890, respectively, the government granted large areas of land as concessions to already successful breeders such as José Noguueira and Mauricio Braun. With the establishment of the Sociedad Explotadora de Tierra del Fuego in 1893, the process of monopolizing this branch of the economy was further accelerated, with all its catastrophic consequences for the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego, a phenomenon that was by no means restricted to Tierra del Fuego. In the last few years of the 19th century, concessions were granted to ranchers across Patagonia. In addition to the economic boom and wealth of the region at the beginning of the 20th century, the monopoly of the land was also the basis for economic structural problems and social unrest.

Hand in hand with the up-and-coming sheep breeding also went the need to develop the region through an efficient transport network. Due to the geological nature of the country, the expansion of the ship connections was therefore of great importance. Not only the agricultural raw materials such as wool and meat required a continuous connection to large ports such as Valparaíso or Buenos Aires , also the import of agricultural equipment and other goods as well as the necessary settlement of settlers from Europe and Chile / Argentina. Within a short time, Punta Arenas became an important maritime port. While in 1867 27 ships anchored in the bay of Punta Arenas, in 1906 there were already 901 merchant ships with a total load of 1,100,000 GRT . The city was already approaching the capacity of the main Chilean port of Valparaíso. With the establishment of further shipping lines by José Menendez and Braun & Blanchard, the south coast of the American continent was soon supplied with an efficient local transport network.

Gold rush on Tierra del Fuego (1880–1910)

Tierra del Fuego did not move into the center of interest just because of the excellent sheep breeding opportunities. As early as 1879, the lieutenant in the Chilean Navy, Ramón Serrano Montaner, found gold on the northwest coast during his expedition to Tierra del Fuego. Over 100 claims have been staked in the Sierra Boquerón area within two years. Soon afterwards, financially strong investors were exploiting the land and granting concessions. The gold was sold through intermediaries to trading houses in Punta Arenas, which in turn supplied the markets of Santiago de Chile , Montevideo and Europe. But as early as 1890 the gold discoveries fell sharply. Even so, more than 200 men were still working in 1898, some of them well into the 20th century. In 1902 the first attempts at mechanization (shovel excavators, pumps) and washing facilities were set up. Between 1906 and 1907, 300 to 400 workers were employed at twelve washing facilities in the west and north-west of the country. Despite the significantly increased productivity, the annual yield never exceeded 500 kilograms. Eventually all related activities ceased around 1910.

Gold was also found at Cabo Virgenes on the east coast of Tierra del Fuego in 1884. The Romanian engineer Julio Popper , arriving from Buenos Aires, led an initial prospecting in 1886, discovered further deposits north of today's Rio Grande (Argentina) and also acquired the prospecting rights in El Páramo .

The most productive deposits on Tierra del Fuego were in the south of Tierra del Fuego on the islands of Navarino, Picton, Lennox and Nueva: they were opened up from 1888. Just two years later, around 300 men were working on these islands, over 500 in 1891 and over 1000 in 1893. The search was extended to the islands of Wollaston and Barnevelt. Despite promising beginnings, the supplies were soon exhausted here too, on the rough south coast of Tierra del Fuego. Although the first gold mining companies were founded between 1905 and 1907, mining had to be stopped as early as 1910 due to poor profitability.

The existing state power vacuum on Tierra del Fuego, which was at the beginning of its settlement by immigrants from Europe, also promoted semi-legal actions by various adventurers in this context, such as that of the above-mentioned Julio Popper, who worked with a troop of armed adventurers to exploit gold at Paramo and even had his own coins minted and his own postage stamps, which were only used for four or five months. The letters were brought to the “Sandy Point” and forwarded there by regular mail. Today only nine recognized genuine letters are registered with this brand.



The founding of the town of Porvenir in the Chilean part of Tierra del Fuego in 1894, which was mainly settled by Croatian immigrants, is closely related to the gold finds . The significant increase in population on the entire Magellanes was fed by two sources: settlers from the Chilean island of Chiloe and European immigrants. In 1885 there were around 30 percent Croatians among the European immigrants , but also English , Scots , Spaniards , Italians , Germans and French .

The main reasons given for the emigration of Croats in the second half of the 19th century are economic. Bad harvests, famines, the decline of the fishing industry or even the flight from military service were reasons that mainly prompted young farmers from the coastal areas of Dalmatia to emigrate. Some of them ended up in southern Patagonia, where the influence of the Croatian language and culture can still be felt today.

Genocide against the Indian population of Tierra del Fuego

In the course of the permanent settlement of the region around Punta Arenas and the beginning trade in animal skins, more and more white hunters explored the canals and bays of Tierra del Fuego in search of coveted skins. Diseases brought in by European immigrants and a rigorous policy of displacement ultimately led to the fact that in 1910 the indigenous indigenous population was almost exterminated. In particular those of the later Argentine President Julio Argentino Roca led Conquista del Desierto (Desert conquest) led to many deaths among the Indian population.

Bloody conflicts with the sea nomads the Alakaluf and Yámana were the order of the day and led to an increasing displacement of the Indian population within a few decades. The extermination of the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego also affected the land nomads of the Selk'nam and Haush , especially in connection with gold discoveries and the onset of sheep farming. For example, many sheep farmers offered a premium of one pound sterling head price for every Indian shot down. The London Anthropological Museum paid up to eight pounds sterling for the head of a Tierra del Fuego. This led to real killer squads that hunted the indigenous peoples. A description of the indigenous peoples by Charles Darwin was not without influence on this development and its justification . Darwin described the Tierra del Fuego as "the most despicable and wretched creatures I have ever met. "Next:" One can hardly bring oneself to the belief that they are our fellow creatures and inhabitants of the same world. "

The German clergyman Martin Gusinde SVD , who explored the culture of the Tierra del Fuego Indians on trips from 1918 onwards, made great contributions to the research of the dying Indian cultures. His descriptions of the cultural wealth of the Tierra del Fuego Indians refuted the common clichés in Chile and Argentina of the supposedly "uncivilized savages" in Tierra del Fuego.


The proselytization of the country went hand in hand with the colonization of the country and the extermination of the native Indian population. Two orders stood out particularly in Tierra del Fuego: (1) the Salesians of Don Bosco under the Italian priest Jose Fagnano, who missioned Tierra del Fuego from Punta Arenas and a mission north of Rio Grande (Argentina) from 1887 and (2) the Anglican South American Missionary Society with its headquarters in the Falkland Islands , which mainly operated along the Beagle Channel. In particular, the work of Reverend Thomas Bridges should be mentioned in this context. However, the original intention of these two church missions to Christianize the indigenous population and (subsequently) to protect it from attacks by the white settlers soon became obsolete due to the rapid extermination of the indigenous population. The related activities of the Anglican Mission were discontinued in 1916.

Economic heyday (1906–1920)

It is undeniable that the rapid expansion of sheep farming contributed a great deal to the development of the region. While the gold discoveries on Tierra del Fuego initially led to a considerable influx of immigrants, the gold reserves soon proved to be exhausted and did not contribute to the region's economic upturn. The economy of Tierra del Fuego continued to be strongly oriented towards Punta Arenas, which continued to expand its position as a development engine for the entire region (including the Argentine part of Patagonia). Today the Benetton Group owns more than a million hectares of land that is used for sheep breeding.

National parks



See also



  • Robert Krisai: The Moore of Tierra del Fuego , in: Gert Michael Steiner (Ed.): Moore from Siberia to Tierra del Fuego . Biology Center of the Upper Austrian State Museums, pp. 373–378, Linz 2005, ISBN 3-85474-146-4 .
  • Osvaldo Escobar Torres: At the Cape Horn lighthouse . Sailing off Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia , Delius Klasing Verlag, Bielefeld 2011, ISBN 978-3-7688-3324-0 .


Tierra del Fuego as a literary place

  • Francisco Coloane Cabo de Hornos 14 short stories, 1941, German Cape Horn , 1998, Unionsverlag Zurich, ISBN 3-293-00248-X
  • Francisco Coloane El último grumete de la Baquedano 1941, German The last cabin boy of the Baquedano , 2000, Unionsverlag Zurich, ISBN 3-293-20159-8
  • Francisco Coloane Tierra del Fuego 9 stories, 1956, German Tierra del Fuego , 1996, Unionsverlag Zurich, paperback 133, 1999, ISBN 3-293-20133-4
  • Gabriele Eschweiler (Ed.): Stories from the end of the world. Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in world literature , Edition 8, Zurich 2009, ISBN 978-3-85990-133-9 .

Tierra del Fuego in the fine arts

Conrad Martens The "Beagle" in Tierra del Fuego 1834, watercolor
Ingo Kühl Gletscher (Beagle Channel) 2005, oil on nettle 40 × 60 cm, painted in Punta Arenas
  • As a ship painter, Conrad Martens drew and watercolored in 1833/34 during the second voyage of the HMS Beagle in Tierra del Fuego. See Richard D. Keynes: The Beagle Record: Selections from the Original Pictorial Records and Written Accounts of the Voyage of HMS Beagle . CUP Archives, 1979, ISBN 0-521-21822-5 .
  • Rockwell Kent painted "more than twenty large pictures of Tierra del Fuego" during his stay in Tierra del Fuego in 1922/23, as he reports in his autobiography It's Me O Lord . German translation from the American Ich bin's, oh Herr , Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1984
  • Ingo Kühl : Landscapes at the End of the World - Painted by Ingo Kühl in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego / Paisajes del fin del mundo - Cuadros de Ingo Kühl pintados en la Patagonia y Tierra del Fuego , with texts by Antonio Skármeta and Ingo Kühl, Berlin 2006. ( DNB 994116454 )

travel Guide

  • Gabriele Eschweiler (Ed.): Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego for hand luggage , Unionsverlag, Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-293-20547-5 .
  • Jürgen Vogt: Argentina with Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego , Reise-Know-How-Verlag Rump, 8th, updated edition, Bielefeld 2012, ISBN 3-8317-2112-2 .

Web links

Commons : Tierra del Fuego  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Tierra del Fuego  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. (Spanish)
  2. J. Schmithüsen (Ed.): Atlas for Biogeography . Meyer's large physical world atlas, vol. 3., Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 1976. ISBN 3-411-00303-0
  3. Georg Grabherr: "Color Atlas Ecosystems of the Earth", Ulmer, Stuttgart - 1997, ISBN 3-8001-3489-6
  4. Google Earth file by Stephan Gruber, University of Zurich
  5. Juan Forero: Imported Beavers Gnaw Away At Argentina's Forests . In: npr of June 8, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  6. ^ Charles Choi: Tierra del Fuego: the beavers must die . In: nature of June 18, 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  7. 4000 year old skeleton found on Tierra del Fuego
  8. Pescherähs . In: JS Verlag , JG Gruber : Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste , 3rd Section, O – Z, Volume 18, Leipzig 1843, pp. 288–291.
  9. The numbers are taken from Mateo Martinic: Brief History of the Land of Magellan.
  10. ZDF ( Memento of the original dated December 1, 2004 in the web archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. ^ Conquista del Desierto in the English language Wikipedia
  12. Indians
  13. Hans-Otto Meissner : Around Cape Horn. Bertelsmann, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-570-07255-X , p. 62 ff.
  14. Hans-Otto Meissner: Around Cape Horn.
  15. ^ Wilhelm Saake: Professor Dr. Martin Gusinde SVD on his seventy-fifth birthday . In: Anthropos. Internationale Zeitschrift für Völker- und Sprachenkunde , ISSN  0003-5572 , Vol. 57 (1962), pp. 321–323, here p. 322.
  16. ^ Ricardo David Rabinovich: Instituciones jurídicas de una nación fuegina: los selknam. A propósito de la obra de Martin Gusinde . In: Revista de Historia del Derecho , published by the Instituto de Investigaciones de Historia del Derecho, Buenos Aires, vol. 13 (1985), p. 393-434, here p. 394 and p. 397-398.
  17. A Voyage of Sketches: The Art of Conrad Martens . Cambridge Digital Library. 2014.
  18. Rockwell Kent autobiography