Tierra Del Fuego (S4.09)

S04E09 Tierra Del Fuego

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Tierra Del Fuego, an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. Tierra Del Fuego, which translates to Land of Fire, consists of a main island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, often called simply Tierra del Fuego or Isla Grande, with an area of 48,100 km2 (18,572 sq mi), and a group of smaller islands. First settled by humans around 8,000 BCE, Ferdinand Magellan was among the first Europeans to explore the islands in 1520, giving them their name. In 1830, a British crew visited the region in HMS Beagle, naming the main channel that runs through the archipelago after the vessel. Widespread displacement and genocide of the native populations took place in the second half of the 19th century, particularly after the discovery of gold in the region in 1879.

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Map of Tierra Del Fuego (via GeoCurrents)

Following a dispute in 1978, the main island is now split between Argentina and Chile. The eastern part of the main island, and a few small islands in the Beagle Channel (around 39% of the total area) belong to Argentina, while the western part of the main island, and almost all the other islands (61% of the total area) officially belong to Chile. The archipelago is divided by an east–west channel, the Beagle Channel, immediately south of the main island, and in total, the land area of Tierra Del Fuego is roughly equivalent in size to Slovakia or slightly smaller than the US state of West Virginia. The climate here is generally cold and wet, and has been compared to that of the Faroe Islands.

Although the region is split between two nations, total population as a whole is estimated to be around 135,000 (2010), of whom around 125,000 live on the Argentinean side. Tierra Del Fuego is also famous its biodiversity, but since the 1940s, a colony of invasive beavers have been perhaps the most notorious animal resident.

This episode, just like all of our recent ones, is supported by our Patreon backers. If you want to help out the show, you can help out by joining us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to give us whatever you can in terms of financial support and avail of all the lovely awards and extras that entitles you to. If you’re unable to support us financially, you can always leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from.



The map of various border claims in Tierra Del Fuego, via Wikipedia

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Ireland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella).

Some further reading:

  • An article on the Bahia Wulaia Dome Middens which Joe mentions early on can be found on Archive.org
  • Antiquity also has an extensive paper on the early settlers of Tierra Del Fuego, which can be found here.
  • A short description of Magellan’s discovery of the strait which now bears his name can be found here.
  • Some of Captain Cook’s accounts of his time in Tierra Del Fuego, which Mark quotes from, are available here.
  • An account of the HMS Beagle’s first voyage to Tierra Del Fuego, part of which is quoted in this episode, can be found on Google Books.
  • The Wikipedia page which details explorers who committed suicide is here.
  • The Uttermost Part of the Earth by Lucas Bridges, which is referenced a number of times in this episode, is available in its entirety on archive.org.
  • Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle is also available in full online. The segment which deals with his visit to Tierra Del Fuego can be found here.
  • A biography (Spanish language) of the notorious Julius Popper can be read at Taringa.net.
  • You can read more about the work of anthropologist Martin Gusinde on Google Books, or watch the documentary we reference in this episode on YouTube, featuring some truly breathtaking photographs.
  • Petroleum Economist has an article dealing with the discovery and production of oil in this region, which you can find here.
  • There’s been a lot written about Tierra Del Fuego’s “Beaver Plague”, you can find articles on it from BBC, National Geographic and Nature.
  • The Beagle Conflict, which Luke discusses at length in this episode has also been the subject of a a lot of discussion. Read more at Military Wiki, The American Journal of International Law, and even an official US Government Report.
  • The full text of the May 1977 Arbitration Agreement can also be found here.
  • The Rome Reports documentary about the Pope’s involvement is available on YouTube.

Music that might interest listeners:

SELKNAM (onas)- Cantos Ancestrales



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