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Published: February 18th 2016
MAGELLAN STRAITS & PUNTA ARENAS
3rd February We entered the Magellan Straits in the early morning and approached Punta Arenas, once a very important port before the Panama Canal was built. This was another tender port and was to be a little hair raising during the day. The day before the Port had been closed because of the large swell and we were advised that it would be a slow transfer during the day. Punta Arenas
is an administrative "comuna" and the capital city of Chiles southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena. As of 1977 Punta Arenas has been one of only two free ports in Chile.
Punta Arenas 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. This period of growth also resulted from the waves of immigrants attracted to the gold rush and sheep farming boom in the 1880s and early 1900s. The largest sheep company, controlling 10,000 square kilometres in Chile and Argentina, was based in
Punta Arenas, and its owners lived there.
Since its founding Chile has used Punta Arenas as a base to defend its sovereignty claims in the southernmost part of South America. This led, among other things, to the Strait of Magellan being recognized as Chilean territory, the geopolitical importance of Punta Arenas has remained high in the 20th and 21st centuries because of its logistic importance in accessing the Antarctic Peninsula.
Punta Arenas is set against the rugged mountainous landscape of Patagonia. The town has several good museums recording its early history. The most popular tours are to the nearby Penguin reserves. Our short tour took us to the Salesian museum, the Salesians are a religious order whose primary task is to protect and "civilise" local Indians. Enough said. There aren't many of them left!!! The tour then went to a look out point over the city, you could see how small it was before heading out to the Municipal Cemetery, and they say "the most spectacular necropolis in Latin America". A photographers paradise, a jumble of tombs , row after row of bizarre sepulchres. Before heading back into the city centre we were taken to the most surreal
museum I have been to!! Situated in an open field it houses and I quote "artefacts used by the early settlers, pioneer homes and botanical gardens". Yes it was an open air museum but it was in my opinion a scrapyard of farm machinery.
Back in the city the final stop, the focal point was the Plaza de Armas. The Plaza is lined with trees and is dominated by a bronze statue of Magellan perched precariously on a galleon cannon. Across from the Plaza is the Hotel Jose Nogueira, former residence of Sarah Braun, one of the city's wealthy matrons.
Back to the ship and by late afternoon it was becoming increasingly difficult to transfer passengers on the tenders. Everyone did get back on board and we later heard that they closed the port again in the early evening.
Onwards to the glaciers in the Patagonian ice fields.
Tot: 4.977s; Tpl: 0.045s; cc: 21; qc: 81; dbt: 0.064s; 3; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb