PERHAPS IT WAS PLANE geometry that first got me interested in
Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia. I was always dreaming about places at
the other end of the world in that class.
Ushuaia, (You-swhy'-ya), Argentina, lies near the southern end
of the group of islands collectively called Tierra del Fuego and
might rightfully be called the town at the end of the world. Lying
at 54 degrees south latitude, it is the southernmost town on earth.
It lies on the Beagle Channel, named for the H.M.S. Beagle that
sailed these waters in the 1830s during its voyage around the
world. The Beagle was made famous by a young man aboard her, and
according to his uncle was "fond of natural history." The young man
was Charles Darwin. Darwin accompanied the Beagle as the ship's
naturalist to collect, observe and note anything worthy. It was
during these voyages that he observed the panorama of South
American life, both living and extinct, setting him on the road to
"The Origin of the Species."
Like Darwin, I was making a scientific voyage to Tierra del
Feugo and Ushuaia. Unlike Darwin, however, my journey was of a more
contemporary nature. I was looking for the restaurant at the end of
`You're looking for what?" my wife asked.
"You heard correct," I said, "the restaurant at the end of the
world. Haven't you ever read Douglas Adam's book, `The Restaurant
at the End of the Universe?' Don't you even know Harry Dent is?"
"I'm sorry," she confessed. "I've been spending all my time
reading Darwin's `The Voyage of the Beagle' and `The Origin of the
I had to explain that it just might be interesting to seek out
the southernmost restaurant on earth since we were going to be
Ushuaia, located at the southern end of the Andes chain, was
founded as an Anglican mission by a group of English settlers in
1871. Their settlement grew to Ushuaia, now a city of 25,000 and
the capital of Tierra del Fuego. The inhabitants, many of them
English-speaking descendants of the original settlers, earn their
living from raising sheep, lumbering, fishing and trapping. Huge
sheep ranches nearby fed an active industry in meat packing and
And believe it or not, Ushuaia is actually becoming a tourist
mecca of sorts. Several cruise ships now travel around the southern
tip of South America passing through the Strait of Megellan, The
Beagle Channel and Cape Horn. Most of these ships stop at Ushuaia
or at the Chilean town of Puerto Arenas farther north on the Strait
(The Chileans say that Puerto Arenas is the southernmost city
in the world since Ushuaia is only a town and not a city).
My wile (wife) and I were visiting Ushuaia aboard the cruise
ship, the Seabourn Pride, a bit more cushy than the great sailing
vessels that plied these waters in the past, such as the English
Beagle in the 1830s, Sir Alfred Drake's Golden Hind in 1578, and
the first, Magellan's Trinidad in 1519.
According to Darwin's log, his cabin in the Beagle consisted of
a corner of the chart table in the poop cabin. His bed was a
hammock over the chart table. When he slept it was necessary for
him to remove the top drawer of a cabinet so he had room for his
Our cabin aboard the Seabourn Pride had somewhat better
accommodations: a color television with worldwide satellite
reception, a well-equipped bar, a huge picture window, a double
bed, a walk-in closet, a large marble bathtub and service 24 hours
Our cruise left from Rio de Janerio, and eight days later we
entered the Strait of Magellan. After proceeding westward through
the Strait, we zigzagged south through a myriad of small islands
until we reached the Beagle Channel, from there heading eastward
until reaching Ushuaia.
Most cruise ships that travel to Tierra del Fuego make at least
one pass through the Strait of Magellan that separates the
Patagonian mainland to the north from Tierra del Fuego to the