The Restaurant at the End of the World
Story and Photos Jerry Farlow, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
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 the world.
`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 Species.' "
I had to explain that it just might be interesting to seek out the southernmost restaurant on earth since we were going to be there.
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 wool processing.
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 of Megellan.
(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 feet.
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 a day.
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 south. …