Beagle Channel & Navarino Island

Breath-taking, stunning and pristine are three words that come to mind when you think of Navarino, a remote Chilean island, which appeals to visitors who are looking for an unblemished place to relax and unwind or hike trough the lonely and wild nature.

Navarino is the last inhabited island of the entire Tierra del Fuego archipelago. This labyrinth made up of islands lies between the Strait of Magellan in the north and flows into the Wollaston Archipelago with Cape Horn as its southernmost cape.

The name Tierra del Fuego originates from the Spanish discoverers of the archipelago in 1540.

While exploring the strait named after him, Magellan and his men found no settlements on the north side. In the south side of the strait however, they saw many fires at night, as reported by Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s chronicler.

Accordingly, Magellan named the land Tierra del Fuego or “Land of Fire”.

Chile named the region Región de Magallanes after its discoverer.

Historically, the Tierra del Fuego archipelago was home to two indigenous groups.  The Yamana sea nomads lived their lives navigating the maze-like channels of the archipelago with their bark canoes. The other group were the Selk’nam (Ona), a hunter-gatherer society that populated the main island of Tierra del Fuego.

Both groups established the first human settlements in the region. A fact that can be dated back thousands of years.

The Beagle Channel was named after the HMS Beagle during its first hydrographic survey of the coast of the southern part of South America from 1826 to 1830. The Beagle started a second voyage to continue with the mapping of the region. On this second expedition the ship was under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy. Moreover, on board was a young Charles Darwin, who on this trip developed his revolutionary theory, which was later formulated and published in the celebrated book “On the Origin of Species”.

The Beagle Channel geographically divides Chile and Argentina from west to east.

The southern and western regions of the main island and archipelago are an extension of the Andes Mountains with peaks of over 2 000m. Worthy of a special mention are the “King of Tierra del Fuego”, Monte Sarmiento (2 300m), and Monte Darwin (2 438m). The western region of the Beagle Channel is the entrance to the Glaciers Alley. Sailing south from the Beagle Channel along the Island Navarino, we reach the infamous Cape Horn.

The mythical Cape, one of the most challenging sailing grounds, forms the tip of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.

It is a conglomerate made up of islands and islets, swept by the Howling Fifties, the violent westerly winds below 50° S.

Ricardo Maragaño 168