Our stop in Puerto Madryn was interesting but the trip down the coast to where the penguin rookeries were was BORING! There is nothing but desert! But lets first deal with the port city of Puerto Madryn.
Puerto Madryn is the gateway to the Península Valdés, a wildlife sanctuary for birds and marine species, including rheas, oystercatchers, flamingos, egrets, whales, sea elephants, sea lions, Magellan penguins, cormorants, petrels and many other species of wildlife.
In addition, Puerto Madryn has an interesting history. Long after Spanish explorers landed, this area was also settled by Welsh colonists who left Great Britain seeking autonomy for their culture and language. The original settlers came ashore in July 1865 and named their first settlement Port Madryn in honor of Baron Madryn of Wales. Over time, the colonists spread and founded other towns, maintaining their language, customs and architectural styles.
While other cities in the province retain much of their Welsh heritage, in Puerto Madryn, only the street names remain.
Another characteristic of the region is the contrast between the green of the Patagonia plateau, with its tones of brownish green and gray, and the green-blue of the sea seen at the base of the giant cliffs that show the last of the steps of the valley. From there on, beaches of soft sand and gravel slopes get gently into the sea.
In the summer months it's very hot during the day, temperatures rising up to 40 centigrade, but it always gets cool at night, so do not forget to bring a jacket, sweatshirt or sweater for these circumstances. Also remember that the closer we get to the polar circle of Antarctica, the less protected we are by the ozone layer, therefore the harming effects of the sun can be sensed clearly. So it's always better to bring with you, along with your swimsuit, your sunglasses and solar protection.
winter, temperatures are low, though there's no
snow since we are by the ocean
(the great climate controller). There is much
wind, so you have to bring not only warm clothes
according to the season but also a good jacket,
appropriate shoes and a cap. We were fortunate
enough to visit Península Valdés,
and the penguin rookeries. It was great to
walk among all these birds and see how they nest
(they burrow into the dirt then line their nest
with feathers, ect. They give birth to
either one chick or two and survival depends
much on the weather conditions and sea
The first time I ever saw Cape Horn was from the back of a C-130 aircraft with the ramp and door open with me peering down at 100 foot waves. That’s right, 100 FOOT WAVES. They looked like they were going to wash into the aircraft. I guess I should explain what I was doing there, tied down, looking at such a fearsome sight in such perilous conditions. I was in the U.S. Air Force at the time and we were enroute to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. A ship was in distress off the coast of Cape Horn and we were asked to assist in the search and rescue operation. The waves were reported by the Argentine Navy at 100 feet in height and wind speeds of 100 miles per hour. We dropped down to 1000 feet, then to 500 feet and circled for about an hour but saw nothing save a U.S. Navy Destroyer bobbing around like a cork. Now you saw it, now you don’t. It was AWSOME!!!
Years later, this trip became available and I seized upon it. Vowing to ride out whatever weather the fearsome Cape Horn could offer, even if they had to chain me to the deck! When we arrived at the Horn, the water was as flat as your kitchen table and the weather was partly cloudy and the wind at 15 knots. We didn’t sail around Cape Horn once…We did it three times and I got some great photos. I even went through the "rounding the Horn" ceremony...
That was the COLDEST water I have EVER had poured over my head!!!
Here is a little history about Cape Horn.
The Cape Horn route around South America is one of the most dangerous nautical passages in the world. Both sailors and passengers fear it because of the many sailing mishaps that have occurred there.
Cape Horn was discovered because of commercial restrictions imposed by the Dutch East India Company early in the 17th Century. The East India Company’s charter forbade any other Dutch trading company from traveling to the East Indies using either the Straits of Magellan or the Cape of Good Hope.
A wealthy Dutch merchant, Isaac Le Maire, was convinced that there was another route around South America located south of the Straits of Magellan. The land south of the Straits of Magellan was Tierra Del Fuego. Most sailors at that time believed that that Tierra Del Fuego was another continent but Le Maire was convinced that it was just a large island and could therefore be rounded to the south. Also Sir Francis Drake, years earlier, reported sailing in open ocean far south of the Straits of Magellan. If an alternate route to the Straits of Magellan could be found then Le Maire could legally travel to the East Indies to establish trade without violating the East India Company charter.
Le Maire therefore obtained the services of an experienced navigator, Willem Schouten. He also formed a trading company known as the Goldseekers consisting of city leaders of the Dutch town of Hoorn. Money was raised for two ships, the Eendracht and the Hoorn, to find the new route.
In May 1615, the two ships began their expedition, sailing from England. Unfortunately, while the ships were outfitting in Patagonia, the Hoorn accidentally caught fire and was completely burned. The Eendracht continued on alone and in January 1616 it passed through a route south of the Straits of Magellan. This new route is now called Strait Of Le Maire. As the Eendracht passed through this strait, a high point on an island to the south was noted and named Cape Hoorn in honor of the town that raised funds for the expedition as well as for their recently lost ship. The English later changed this name to Cape Horn.
Ushuaia - The southernmost city in the world
Ushuaia qualifies as a city, defined as a "center of population, commerce, and culture; a town of significant size and importance". Ushuaia has a fully functional hospital, an international airport, and primary and secondary schools, as well as institutions of higher learning. Its 64,000 residents enjoy an organized public transportation system and a functioning municipality, and its industrial sector, led by the Renacer Grundig electronics plant, is among the largest in Patagonia. Ushuaia also serves as the provincial capital of Tierra del Fuego.
Malvinas Argentinas street, boasts the historical Beban House and the reconstruction of the old town, a relic that recreates Ushuaia during the days of the pioneers.
On the opposite extreme of the city, along the main street (San Martin) up to its crossing with Yaganes St. you will reach the legendary Jail of the end of the world, now transformed into a museum (Museo del Presidio). A must visit, where there are even wax statues of the most famous criminals that were sent to that place.
This historical prison was shut down in 1947. Nowadays most of it still stands conserving its original state, with the cells used by the convicted, their stone walls and the bars and grids.
This jail is the symbol of Ushuaia's colonization. It began to be built in 1902 and was finished in 1920. The works were carried out by the prisoners themselves, and had 380 one-person cells.
The main reason for its existence was to lodge re-offenders, but it ended up with a mixture of the most dangerous criminals, thieves, political prisoners, members of the armed forces, etc.
Those prisoners with good behavior were rewarded with the chance of working outside the jail, or in the workshops. This was paid work, fact that enabled some of them to save some money for the moment they were released or to send it to their relatives outside. Among the workshops there were: press, photography, shoe repair, tailor, carpentry, bakery, medical service, pharmacy and so on, all of which gave Ushuaia's inhabitants the basic supplies in order to live. Otherwise they would depend on ships arriving to the port only once a month, or even less.
Another of Ushuaia's attractions. It's true name is "Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino", a.k.a. the Train of the End of the World which, along with the jail, constitutes an icon of the island.
This railway's history is, as almost everything in this city, linked to the prisoners of the mythical jail.
An elegant and antique formation of heated wagons, with wide windows and pulled by a steam locomotive, took us along a 8 Km. long tour departing from the End of World Station up to the Tierra del Fuego National Park Station. The round trip total time is 1 hour 40 minutes, approximate.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
The Tierra del Fuego National Park is the farthest south protected region of Argentina and the only national park that possesses maritime coasts, embracing a strip of land 6 km (3.75 mi) wide over the Beagle Channel. It was founded in 1960 and has a surface area of 63,000 hectares (151,200 acres).
As a member of the circuit of protected areas of the Andean Patagonia, the idea was to continue protecting the land that belonged to the sub Antarctic forest. The park offers protection to representatives of 6 species of arboreal animals that have established themselves on the island and now pertain to these forests. It also shelters native fauna of the region and preserves ruins from a town of ancient yámana aborigines. You can find yourself in the Lapataia Bay among the remains of mussel shells and animal bones, which is evidence that the mussels constituted the animals' diet. You may even find some utensils or tools, all of which add to the interest of the area.
Four small mountain chains, that run from northwest to southeast, enclose deep, practically isolated valleys. On the maritime coast of the Beagle Channel -an irregular stretch of 6 km (3.75 mi) of woods-, you can distinguish the deep bay of Lapataia and countless other small bays and coves, whose beaches and banks serve as the ideal environment for the existence of maritime fauna.
Parts of the two main lakes, the Fagnano and the Roca, and other minor ones, sprinkle into the park area, which also embraces a stretch of the Olivia, Pipa, and Roca rivers. These rivers flow into the waters of Lake Roca in the Lapataia Bay.
The Park possesses six excursion trails: Pampa Alta Trail, Costera Trail, and Las Lengas Trail, paths that allow you to reach the bay areas of the park and the hills, from which you can see the beautiful view of the Beagle Channel and the mountain chain of Tierra del Fuego.
Typical Upscale Housing Typical Worker Housing Typical Worker Neighborhood
This is our Tour Bus These are Black & White Cormorants View of the Beagle Channel
Climate of Argentina
The hottest and coldest temperature extremes recorded in South America have occurred in Argentina. A record high temperature of 49.1 °C (120.4 °F), was recorded at Villa María, Córdoba, on 2 January 1920. The lowest temperature recorded was −39 °C (−38.2 °F) at Valle de los Patos Superior, San Juan, on 17 July 1972.
The total surface area (excluding the Antarctic claim) is 2,766,891.2 km2 (1,068,302.7 sq mi), of which 30,200 km2 (11,700 sq mi) (1.1%) is water. Argentina is about 3,900 km (2,400 mi) long from north to south, and 1,400 km (870 mi) from east to west (maximum values). There are four major regions: the fertile central plains of the Pampas, source of Argentina's agricultural wealth; the flat to rolling, oil-rich southern plateau of Patagonia including Tierra del Fuego; the subtropical northern flats of the Gran Chaco, and the rugged Andes mountain range along the western border with Chile.
The highest point above sea level is in Mendoza province at Cerro Aconcagua (6,962 m (22,841 ft)), also the highest point in the Southern and Western Hemisphere. The lowest point is Laguna del Carbón in Santa Cruz province, -105 m (−344 ft) below sea level. This is also the lowest point in South America. The geographic center of the country is in south-central La Pampa province. The easternmost continental point is northeast of Bernardo de Irigoyen, Misiones, ) the westernmost in the Mariano Moreno Range in Santa Cruz province . The northernmost point is at the confluence of the Grande de San Juan and Mojinete rivers in Jujuy province, ) and the southernmost is Cape San Pío in Tierra del Fuego.
The major rivers are the Paraná (the largest), the Pilcomayo, Paraguay, Bermejo, Colorado, Río Negro, Salado and the Uruguay. The Paraná and the Uruguay join to form the Río de la Plata estuary, before reaching the Atlantic. Regionally important rivers are the Atuel and Mendoza in the homonymous province, the Chubut in Patagonia, the Río Grande in Jujuy and the San Francisco River in Salta.
Formerly stable prices and exchange rates were disrupted, however: the peso lost about 70% of its value from early 1948 to early 1950, and inflation reached 50% in 1951. Foreign policy became more isolationist, straining U.S.-Argentine relations. Perón intensified censorship as well as repression: 110 publications were shuttered, and numerous opposition figures were imprisoned and tortured. Advancing a personality cult, Perón rid himself of many important and capable advisers, while promoting patronage. A violent coup, which bombarded the Casa Rosada and its surroundings killing many, deposed him in 1955. He fled into exile, eventually residing in Spain.
Now the peso is stable again and inflation is under control.