Renedian’s Journey to Ushuaia, a one way motorcycle trip to the end of the earth, culminates in Ushuaia. But what lies there?
This remote city evolved from a history unlike any other in the world.
13 Historical Facts about Ushuaia
- It’s the southernmost city in the world and the capital of Tierra del Fuego. Tierra del Fuego is divided between Chile and Argentina. Ushuaia, population 60,000, is in Argentina.
- Depending on how you look at it, Ushuaia is the beginning or end of the Pan-American highway, the longest road in the world. From Ushuaia, it stretches around 48,000 kilometres to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. It’s interrupted for about 150 kilometres by the Darien Gap.
- Bright and eclectic buildings stands out against the natural backdrop. San Martin Avenue, a main street resembling an open-air shopping and entertainment centre, boasts architectural motifs from around the world.
- Spanish explorers came to the area in the early sixteenth century. The HMS Beagle arrived in 1833 but the first Europeans didn’t live here until 1871. An Anglican mission was established in 1872.
- Rumours of gold claims, which turned out to be false, drew more miners in 1881.
- Founded in 1884, Ushuaia sits on the shore of the Beagle Channel against the backdrop of snow-capped Andes—an exquisite juxtaposition of sea, forest, and mountains. The channel is named after Charles Darwin’s boat, the HMS Beagle.
- Two distinct Indigenous groups lived here—the Selk’nam and the Yámanas. Both are peoples of the Southern Cone, the South American political and social areas around and below the Tropic of Capricorn, including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, southern Brazil, and Paraguay.
- Neither Indigenous group wore clothes, or at most, a loincloth, until Europeans arrived and made them cover up. Over time, their metabolic rate had evolved to one higher than most humans. They also squatted to preserve heat. They kept warm by smearing their bodies with animal fat, sheltering in rock ledges, and huddling around a fire, often built in their boats.
- The Selk’nam were mainly hunter-gatherers, hunting guanaco, a camelid resembling llama, and coruro, a rodent endemic to central Chile. They also ate foxes, birds, wild berries, and sea products. They lived in tents or conical huts.
- Ushuaia’s name originates from the Yámanas, regarded as the southernmost peoples in the world. The Yámanas occupied the Beagle Channel up to Cape Horn and lived primarily off sea lions and shellfish.
- As happened throughout the world, Europeans brought epidemics of typhus, pertussis, and measles, which almost wiped out the native population.
- Ushuaia’s distance from anywhere else made progress difficult. To fix this, the government established a prison whose workshops supported the population. Opened in 1911, it closed in 1974. Built on an island surrounded by dangerous waters, escape was impossible so walls around the courtyard were unnecessary.
- Because of the strategic location, Ushuaia became the home of the Admiral Berisso Naval base.