BEAGLE CHANNEL NAVIGATION TO MARTILLO ISLAND PENGUIN COLONY AND HARBERTON RANCH IN USHUAIA

One of the must-see during your visit to the end of the world, is the Beagle Channel. It´s a mythical place, rich of history of the ancient aborigins, beginnings of the actual civilization, and very beautiful lansdcapes. One of the most complete excursions is the full day boat navigation to enjoy Bird´s Island, Sea Lion´s Island, Les Eclaireirs Lighthouse, Martillo Island Penguin Colony and finally Harberton Ranch.

 

THE EXCURSION TO BEAGLE CHANNEL, PENGUIN COLONY AND HARBERTON RANCH

It´s a combined ativity, starting with a boat navigation and return from Harberton Ranch is in a vehicle by land. We sail from the local tourist dock and go along the wide Ushuaia Bay until we reach the Beagle Channel through Paso Chico. You have a chance to take great photos of Ushuaia city and Olivia Mount from the channel now. We continue sailing around the Isla de los Pájaros where we will spot different species of birds such as Skuas, the black-browed albatross, steam ducks, cauquenes, kelp seagulls and gray seagulls. We continue to sail around the Isla de Los Lobos, where we can see a colony of sea lions and fur sea lions. Both islands belong to the Bridges archipelago with some rich history too.

After that, we continue to the famous Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse see some birds, and learn a about the history of the sinking of the SS Cervantes in 1930. This is another typical photography of the end of the world, with the red and white lighthouse.  We will then continue sailing to the east, enjoying the unique sceneries of the channel and the surrounding mountains. These coats are plenty of histories about aborigins in the area, that lived there until the arrival of the europeans.  There we will see Puerto Almanza on the Argentinean coast, and Puerto Williams Navy Base on the Chilean coast. The chilean town could be in a future the southernmost city in the world, but it´s just a small village now. Once in Martillo Island we will spot a colony of Magellan Penguins and some Papua penguins.

 

MARTILLO ISLAND PENGUIN COLONY

The island  is a colony of 3000 pairs of Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus), 16 pairs of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua)– the only rookery in continental Argentina- and 155 pairs of rock cormorants (Phalacrocorax magellanicus) nest on the cliffs to the south.  This penguin colony, the only one reachable from Ushuaia, is growing gradually each year. Yécapasela, the original name of the island, is a great habitat for these penguins, as there are very few predators in the area, abundant food and the ground and vegetation provide adequate shelter for nests and chicks.

Penguins start to arrive on the island early in October to start their annual breeding season, raise their chicks and molt their feathers. Around late March and first days of April, penguins leave to begin their usual migration northward, and will feed at sea for more than 6 months, until the winter is over and spring calls them again to breed on land.

 

HARBERTON RANCH

After visiting the island, where you surely took great photos, you will continue sailing  to Harberton ranch where we will leave the boat and make a tour of the farmhouse and the first natural reserve of Tierra del Fuego, the shearing shed, the woodwork shed, the boat house, and lastly, the main house garden. We will visit the Acatushún Museum of Southern Birds and Sea Mammals, and then you can have some refreshments in Manacatush Tea House, or enjoy lunch in the restaurant with an awesome view of the channel and the lansdcape surrounding the area.

Harberton is the oldest estancia  in the Argentine sector of Tierra del Fuego.  Its founder, Thomas 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 Islas Malvinas, where an agricultural mission station was being established.  There he learned Yahgan, 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 founded the Anglican Mission at Ushuaia in 1870, establishing there permanently with his wife, Mary Ann Varder, and their small daughter Mary, in 1871.

In 1884, he received the first Argentine expedition to Tierra del Fuego, which set up the subprefecture at Ushuaia. Two years later, after thirty years with the Keppel and Ushuaia missions, Bridges received Argentine citizenship and a donation of land from the Argentine National Congress under Julio A. Roca in acknowledgement for his work with the natives and with shipwrecked sailors of the Cape Horn area.  The estancia he founded, at first called Downeast, is located 40 nautical miles (60 km) east of Ushuaia.  It was named Harberton after his wife’s birthplace in Devon, England and was the first productive enterprise in Tierra del Fuego (earlier enterprises, such as sealing, whaling and gold digging, were all exploitive).

Harberton now belongs to the grandchildren of Thomas Bridges’ sons Will and Lucas.  Its manager, Thomas D. Goodall, is a fourth generation great-grandson of the founder, and lives at the estancia in the original 1887 house with his family, members of the fifth and sixth generations.

 

Harberton has been open to the public since the early 1980s.  The best way of getting to know the farm is taking the hour-long guided homestead tour.

The tour includes excellent views of the bay, mountains and islands to the southeast, then a stroll through The Park, TF’s oldest Nature Reserve (fenced in the 1890s) to view the five kinds of native trees, other local flora, replicas of two types of native wigwam and learn family history.  Coming down the hill, you enter some of the old buildings: the shearing shed, carpenter shop and boat house, walking step by step through history to end in the family garden with its 1894 terraces.

After some free time in Harberton Ranch, we will return by land, along J Route plenty of great views of mountains, rivers, valleys and peat bogs, beaver dams and flag trees. We will arrive to Ushuaia in the afternoon.

 

BOOK THE BEAGLE CHANNEL NAVIGATION, WITH MARTILLO ISLAND PENGUIN RESERVE AND HARBERTON RANCH HERE

 

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