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February 12, 2013

USHUAIA: A TRIP TO THE END OF THE WORLD

According to ancient human fossils found in Tierra del Fuego dating back 8,500 to 11,500 years ago, humans lived in this remote region long before it became known as the “Land of Fire.” The name “Tierra del Fuego” was coined by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1520 when his ships arrived at this southernmost tip of South America. It is thought that, in the mists of dawn, the dispersed fires and columns of smoke from the native populations seemed to float on the water, thus giving this archipelago its name.

Beagle channel (2)

Regatta recently called on Ushuaia, the capital city of the Tierra del Fuego province. Ushuaia is the southernmost urban center in the world and the closest city to the South Pole. In December and January, the region enjoys 17 hours of daylight. Despite its isolation and harsh conditions during the colder months of the year, or perhaps because of these things, there is a lot to see and do in and around Ushuaia. During Regatta’s recent visit, guests took an unforgettable trip on the Southern Fuegian Railway, also known as the End of the World Train, through Tierra del Fuego National Park to Lapataia Bay.

End of the World Train (14) End of the World Train (15)

End of the World Train (2) End of the World Train (9)

Completely cut off from the rest of South America, Tierra del Fuego was developed in the 19th century as a penal colony where Argentina sent its worst criminal offenders because escape was virtually impossible. The prisoners were expected to take care of themselves, and a railway was built to transport wood from the forests for heating and building.

End of the World Train (4)

Now a tourist attraction through this remote national forest, the unique train transports guests across rivers and peat bogs, the beautiful formations of peat moss for which this region is known. There was a brief stop at the Macarena Waterfall Station, where guests saw the lovely falls and also heard about Tierra del Fuego’s indigenous people, the Yamana.

End of the World Train (6) End of the World Train (11)

End of the World Train (10)

Arriving at Lapataia Bay, the group was met by a catamaran and treated to a cruise through Beagle Channel. These waters are among the best in the world for trout fishing, but on this day the cormorants, sea lions and seals were the stars of the show.

Beagle channel (14) Beagle channel (17) Beagle channel (15)

The cruise visited Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, which is also known as the Lighthouse at the End of the World. Put into service in 1920, it guards the entrance to Ushuaia and is now controlled remotely.

Beagle channel (4)

Quite comfortable with tourists, the seals and sea lions on Seal Island and Isla de los Lobos went about their business of napping and playing, unaffected by the arrival of spectators.

Beagle channel (18)

Beagle channel (19)

Island of the Birds is home to cormorants and other sea birds and a few seals and sea lions as well.

Beagle channel (8)

Beagle channel (7)

Beagle channel (9)

There are numerous other thrilling adventures to be had at the end of the world for those looking to explore the majestic wilderness of South America. Marina will stop in Ushuaia on South American Holiday, which departs on December 8, 2013, as will Regatta on the February 3, 2014 sailing, Mystical Andes & Majestic Fjords.

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