PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE


Punta Arenas (Sandy Point in English) is located in extreme south of Chile. It was originally established by the Chilean government in 1848 as a tiny penal colony to assert sovereignty over the Strait. During the remainder of the 1800s, Punta Arenas grew in size and importance due to the increasing maritime traffic and trade traveling to the west coasts of South and North America. Although the port's importance diminished after the opening of the Panama Canal, the city reached even greater prosperity early in this century as the center of Chile's international wool trade. This period of growth also resulted from the waves of European immigrants, mainly from Croatia and Russia attracted to the gold rush and sheep farming boom in the 1880s and early 1900s.

Located on the Brunswick Peninsula, it is among the largest cities in the entire Patagonian Region. In 2012, it had a population of 127,454 and is roughly 1,418.4 km (881 miles) from the coast of Antarctica. Punta Arenas claims to be the southernmost city in the world, although as we know, Ushuaia, Argentina makes the same claim. Due to its low latitude, it has a subpolar oceanic climate bordering on a tundra climate. The seasonal temperature is greatly moderated by its proximity to the ocean, with average lows in July near −1 °C (30 °F) and highs in January of 14 °C (57 °F). The city is also known for its strong winds (up to 130 km/hour), which tend to be strongest during the summer, to the point that city officials have had to put up ropes between buildings downtown to assist pedestrians with managing the strong down drafts created in the area.
Since 1986, Punta Arenas has been the first significantly populated city in the world to be affected directly by the thinning in the ozone layer and its residents are considered to be exposed to potentially damaging levels of ultraviolet radiation.

It was about 10C/50F and a little cloudy when we arrived. The skies cleared for most of our tour,
which included some of the highlights the city has to offer, but turned to rain just at the tour was ending.




The ship once again anchored off shore, with the lowering of the anchor being our wake up call. After breakfast, we boarded the tender to the dock for our tour. This is the entrance to the "immigration" centre of sorts that we had to pass through before boarding the bus. No one even asked to see our papers, choosing instead to just waive us through.

 

The port is actually located just outside the city, and the first leg of our tour was spent getting us there. I had to look up what 'villarroel' meant and discovered that it is a Spanish surname, no doubt that of the person living on the other side of the fence. Not a pretty property, but the mountains in the background are nice.


Now this looks like a much nicer
place to live - even the skies have cleared over it.

 

You can always tell when you are getting closer to a city from the factories and other industries that form the outskirts.


And here we have another cross (no city in South America is complete without one). This one is called "The Cross of the Seas".


Almost there - I can see the suburbs in the distance!


Costanera del Estrecho
As we neared our first destination, we passed one of many monuments in the city. This one is
a new monument paying tribute to the region's maritime history and is located on the waterfront of the Strait of Magellan.


Nao Victoria Museum
Our first stop is the Nao Victoria Museum, where
visitors can explore replicas of four historical ships, each recreated with historical accuracy, and complete with hardware, sailing rig and life size mannequins depicting clothing and weapons of the age. This ship is the Nao Victoria, on which Magellan tried to find the waterway to the East Indies. The expedition began on August 10, 1519 with five ships but Victoria was the only ship to complete the voyage, returning on September 6, 1522. Magellan did not complete the entire voyage, as he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines in 1521.
The
Victoria was an 85 ton ship with a crew of 42. Of the 265 men aboard the five ships starting the voyage, only 18 returned alive on Victoria, some having deserted and many dying of malnutrition.


  In 2006, to celebrate the Bicentennial of Chile, an entrepreneur from Punta Arenas founded a project to build a replica of ship. The search for the original plans took longer than expected and the project was delayed by almost three years, from 2006 to 2009. The replica was finally completed by 2011.


Only Izak and I boarded the ship, Dina preferring to wait for us "on shore" if you will. As we toured the interior I had to wonder how a crew of 42 could even fit on such a small ship. You'll know what I mean as you look at the following pictures.

This was taken facing the ship's aft (rear for those not familiar with nautical terms), taken from the main deck. The captain's quarters are in the area behind where the gentleman is standing on the upper deck. You can see that it wasn't very wide and there wasn't much room to get around.

    
At the fore of the ship ("front" if you will) and below the observation deck, was the kitchen/dining/social and partial storage area all rolled into one. As mentioned earlier, the ship had numerous life size
mannequins which gave you a idea of how they lived. This is one of an indigenous Chilean, a Selk'nam Patagonian Indian and his llama. Magellan described the Indians of Tierra del Fuego as "giants with large feet".

 
Meals were cooked below deck, on a metal fire pit. You can see one of the cannons positioned at a porthole beside the mannequin.


A couple of "crew members", in authentic style dress, relaxing around what probably severed as a 'dinner table'. The map on the wall depicts what the area was believed to look like at that time.



If you couldn't get a seat at the table, there was always a "ship's rib" you could lean against and use your trunk, which held all your worldly goods, as a table.
You can see how much narrower it was at the front of the ship as opposed to the aft, but you had to watch where you walked, as the floor suddenly ended.


This area would also have been where supplies were stored, such as the bottles of wine, and ceramic pots
depicted here, as well as kegs of water like the one hanging behind the mannequin.


At the aft was the lower deck, accessible only by ladder, where the crew would sleep. The sleeping quarters consisted of a series of hammocks, like the one shown here - nothing like getting rocked to sleep at night. Each hammock would have been shared by at least 2 crew members on a rotatating basis as while one was sleeping,
the other would be working or eating. There was very little headroom, as demonstrated by the mannequin barely sitting up against the wall.

  
And this is what would happen to bad boys that didn't obey orders - the original brig.



It would not be a very comfortable position to be in I imagine, as you couldn't stand or even lay down when you wanted to sleep. We won't even discuss what you'd do if you had to go to the bathroom!.



We emerged from the sleeping quarters to the aft deck, above the main deck were we first entered the ship. That's the Strait of Magellan behind Izak.


  
There we found the captain's quarters, and above that another observation deck.

 

The aft observation deck is where you find the mast with the crow's nest. In this case you also find the mannequin of one very seasick sailor. After having gone around the Cape, I can understand why.



This is the view from the observation deck, looking toward the fore of the ship, where the captain would have overseen his "kingdom" of sorts.



Afterward, we went into the quarters where the captain would sleep and work. He didn't have to sleep in a hammock, as he had a real bed to sleep in, although somehow I don't think Magellan had a wide screen TV sitting on a barrel to watch while laying in bed (actually, that's an interactive display used to show educational videos to the public).



At the other end of the room was the captain's work area, where the navigational maps and logs were kept.



And there's Dina, waiting patiently for us to finish.



HMS Beagle
The HMS Beagle was a 10-gun brig sloop of the Royal Navy, launched in 1820. In 1826, she was adapted as a survey barque and took part in three survey expeditions. On the second voyage a young naturalist named Charles Darwin was on board; the pivotal role this round the world voyage played in forming his scientific theories made Beagle one of the most famous ships in history.
Later Darwin would attribute his first real training in natural history to this voyage.


The Beagle was a somewhat larger ship and actually came with better accommodations, at least for the officers - like a separate room for the toilet. Hopefully there was a bucket under the 'seat' when it was used.



The crew still slept on hammocks on the lower deck, albeit in the fore area where there was headroom at least, while the officers and guests (like Darwin) had berths and storage areas for their belongings.



This would have been the officers'  mess or dining hall. Sure beats sitting on your possession trunk balancing your plate on your lap.



On the upper deck, outside of the Captain's area, is the entrance to the first lower deck where the officers ate and slept. The lowest deck was used strictly for cargo, unlike the Victoria where it was the crew's quarters.



The cannons on the Beagle are on the upper deck rather that below deck. At least that way you could see what you were shooting at.



This gadget was used to raise and lower the ship's sails and control the rigging. In front is the entrance to the crew quarters.

   
As you can see from this shot of the upper deck, the ship is wider than the Victoria, and while it couldn't be considered spacious, it certainly would have been a little more comfortable ship to travel on.


Ancud
The third ship is the schooner Ancud, sent by Chile in 1843 to claim sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan. She carried 23 crew members and supplies for an estimated seven months journey, Many of the crew members were expected to settle a colony in the Strait of Magellan.
Before leaving the area to scout eastward, they left a sign engraved with the words "Republic of Chile" and "Viva Chile!"


The Ancud's other claim to fame was when, after uncovering a smuggling plot by the American seal hunting ship the Enterprise, they seized the brig and ordered her captain to leave Chilean waters, but not without a warning that if found again in Chilean territory without a formal permission of local authorities they will proceed to confiscate the boat permanently. Needless to say, the American ship retreated. I wonder what Trump would have to say about that.
We didn't board her to look around, although some people did.



James Caird
Near the Ancud, is the small, unobtrusive sailing ship, the James Caird, which was one of the lifeboats on Shackleton's ship the Endurance. When pack ice  began to sink the Endurance,
Shackleton and his companions were left adrift on a precarious ice floe. When the ice began to break up, they manned the three lifeboats and sailed their way to Elephant Island in the Strait. Knowing there was no chance of rescue otherwise, Shackleton and five companions sailed the James Caird, across hazardous seas, for 16 days to South Georgia Island, where they reached a whaling station and were able to organize a rescue of the remaining crew.
       
She may be small but she be mighty.


On our way to our next stop, we passed some more lovely homes.



One thing I couldn't help but notice was that everywhere we went in South America, there were these little road side shrines. I asked the bus driver what they were for, and he confirmed my suspicions. They mark the places where people have died in accidents. In Canada, people put bouquets of flowers, in South America they put permanent little shrines.



I don't know what this statue is and couldn't find anything about it on the web, but that won't stop me from hazarding a guess. To me it looks like a tribute to family. The bronze figures are of a man and a woman with a small child on the shoulders of the man. Above them, on what look to be pedestals, are images of faces of other people. Ergo a family and the ancestors. How's that for winging it!


  
Monumento al Ovejero (Sheepdog (or Shepherd) Monument)
One of the best loved and iconic monuments of the city is The Sheepdog, or Shepherd, Monument as the sheep farming is one of the main economic activities of the region. A bronze sculpture and contains twelve figures in natural size: the shepherd with his dog and his horse, and the herd of the sheep.
The monument is a tribute to the men (and sheepdogs) of the field of Region of Magellan who struggle constantly against the wind and cold weather to watch the flocks.



As we traveled to our next destination, we drove along the main boulevard of the city. The boulevard area between the opposing laneways was put to good use the entire way. Sometimes it was filled with trees and walking trails, like this one, other times it was a children's playground, or a basketball court.


Statue of  Manuel Bulnes

Manuel Bulnes Prieto (Dec 25, 1799 – Oct 18, 1866) was a Chilean military and political figure. He was twice President of Chile, from 1841 to 1846 and from 1846 to 1851. His presidencies were characterized by educational and cultural expansion, supported by the encouragement of foreign intellectuals to come to Chile. He also presided over a general amnesty in order to reconcile the groups who had opposed one another in the Civil War of 1829. It was also during the presidency of Bulnes that the former colonial power, Spain, acknowledged the independence of Chile. The statue stood across the street from our destination, Maggiorino Borgatello Museum.


Maggiorino Borgatello Museum

The museum was founded by the Salesian missionaries and provided a comprehensive overview of the regional flora and fauna, the habitat of the indigenous people and regional history. The museum is home to the original grave marker of Commander Pringle Stokes of the HMS Beagle. Stokes was the ship's first commander and the inscription reads: "Who died of the effects of the anxieties and hardships incurred while surveying the western shores of Tierra del Fuego". Stokes fell into a deep depression during the first voyage of the Beagle and shot himself on Aug 2, 1828, dying from his injuries eight days later, less than one year after taking command. His remains lie the Cementario Ingles which are now marked by a replica of this cross.


We didn't take many pictures inside, but I couldn't resist this one. This very ugly bird is a male Turkey Vulture (or buzzard if you prefer)
. The turkey vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion, finding its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gases produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. We saw them flying overhead on the Falklands. At first, I thought they were hawks, as they appear to pull their heads in when they fly, but when I asked the Park Ranger, he told me what they really were.


Conservatory of Music
After a brief intro to the areas of the museum, we were free to wander on our own. As none of us were particularly interested in the more religious related aspects of the museum, Izak accompanied Dina to the gift shop, while I went outside to take pictures. Across the street was the Conservatory of Music, part of the local university.



Santuario María Auxiliadora
The Santuario María Auxiliadora is a grand parish church a series of religious icons, paintings and stained glass windows. The church dates to 1911 and honors the Virgin Mary for her help in protecting the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego’s Dawson Island. 



The impressive entrance to the church
.


On our way to our next destination, I spotted this road sign indicating that we were moving from the 'burbs' into the main area . . .


. . . and a street peddler looking for customers, a gardener by trade I would guess by the type of tools he has in his cart.


Cerro la Cruz
Our next stop was Cerro la Cruz, a local lookout point, which
provides wonderful views of the city's orderly streets, colorful tin roofs, and the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego islands beyond.


Initially, there were only red roofs to be found in the city, but as time went on other colours gained popularity. Now there are red, green, blue and the occasional brown
or black roof seen from the hill.


Yes, that's our ship in the Strait.



And not far behind us is a ship from the Chilean navy. That's one thing I noticed at several ports we anchored at, there always seemed to be a destroyer or other  navy ship anchored close by. Hmmm, what do they know that we don't?.



If you look closely along the inside bottom rail, you see it's quickly filling up with locks, not to mention the occasional lock on the upper railings. They were put there of course by young lovers to 'seal' their love. I've actually seen pictures of this spot were there were so many locks, you couldn't see any of the railings. Obviously they cut them off periodically for safety reasons.



On the road again. As I mentioned before, the there always seemed to be something on the boulevards of the major roads, this is an example.



Plaza de Armas
The entrance to our next and final stop, the Plaza de Armas or the main square.
The monument was actually an elaborate flag pole.


There are a lot of trees like this in the square, some with rather gnarly, twisted trunks. I'd never seen anything quite like them. To me they looked like a cross between an evergreen and a deciduous tree, so I did a little research. As far as I can tell it's a
Nothofagus dombeyi (Dombey's beech) and yes, it's coniferous (or evergreen).


Monumento a Hernando de Magallanes (Monument of Ferdinand Magellan)
At the top of the monument is a statue of Ferdinand of Magellan standing on the bow of the ship looking toward the strait. At the base are two statues representing the indigenous Ona and Tehuelches, and a mermaid with the Spanish and Chilean coat of arms. There is also an earth globe and the diary representing the first voyage around the world.
That's Izak and our tour guide in front. Izak's showing him how to use the camera after he offered to take a picture of us.



Izak, Dina and myself posing at the base of the statue. It is said that if you touch the foot of the native statue you will get lucky, and also that if a visitor kisses the toe, it will bring them back to Punta Arenas. Both Izak and I had our hand on the foot, but we weren't about to kiss it. The foot is actually quite shiny from all the people (mostly tourists I suspect) that do touch it.


It is a rather an impressive statue.



A light shower of rain started to come down while we were in the square, but it didn't seem to deter people from walking through it. As for us, we stood under a tree.



Unlike most cities central squares, this one is full of trees and walkways.



And of course park benches, which, when not wet, are usually occupied.



Near where the buses were waiting was a group of school kids. The boy at the far left and one other were practicing juggling (you can see the green pins lying on the ground at his feet), while the others mingled, often breaking into spontaneous dance. Our tour guide mentioned that it was nice to see them out, and not sitting around with there noses in their cell phones or playing computer games. I couldn't agree more.



And of course, there were more stray dogs.



Heading back to the ship, it started to rain again.




Spotted this as we entered the port area. Don't ask me who it is, I tried but couldn't find anything on it. But it looks impresive!

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