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Expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, Cape Horn, Falklands & Tierra Del Fuego

On this virtual tour you may see:

Majestic mountains dipped in snow...
Crystalline waterways...
Whales, seals, Soaring Andes condors...
Ice-blue Glaciers that shimmer like jewels..

Tierra Del Fuego Adventures

USHUAIA, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina -

In 1946, someone in Gen. Juan Domingo Peron's navy came
up with the idea of colonizing Tierra Del Fuego with 25 pairs
of beavers from Canada to promote the local fur industry.
Half a century later the Peronist innovation has taken a
Malthusian twist and gone seriously awry.
Today, this snowy archipelago on the tip of South America
is being overrun by the beavers.   

Source: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Date: 08/09/1998

Ed. Note: These beavers have crossed the Beagle channel and
are over-running the hundreds of Islands of Tierra Del
Fuego with their priceless Beach tree forests.
These forests are suffering a big loss from the killing of trees
from the beaver dams.
Anyone want to start a beaver fur business?  

Beagle Channel looking East from Puerto Williams,
the world's most southern town.


Beyond the world's end Tourism may have moved
beyond Tierra del Fuego, but it still feels like being on
the edge, as Sophie Campbell discovers on a voyage around
the extremiti of South America.

The world is changing for Tierra del Fuego, the final
vertebra in the coccyx of South America and an island that
has always styled itself "The Uttermost Part of the Earth".
The frontiers of tourism have slid beyond its peat bogs and
snaggle-toothed mountains, and crossed 600 miles of the
Southern Ocean to Antarctica, leaving the once remote island
as much a handy jumping-off point for visitors clutching
guidebooks to the White Continent as a destination in
itself. What endures, though, is its sense of being on the
edge. The port of Ushuaia, on the Argentine half of the
island (the other half belongs to Chile), has the air of a
settlement rather than a town. Its surviving wooden houses,
tin-lined and decorated by convicts, still have a pioneering
feel - even if they do include a video shop. And the
duty-free status that fills its shops with electronics and
trainers gives it a rakish, trading mien. Fueginos call the
museum beside the bay El Museo del Fin del Mundo and can
still claim to be one of the world's southernmost
communities.    Source: The Daily Telegraph London Date:


Offshore Tierra del Fuego, in the southernmost part of Argentina,
TOTAL engineers used extended reach technology for a well drilled
from the North Hidra offshore platform. The length of its
horizontal section - 6,253 meters ! - counts among the
world's record achievements. On stream since the spring of
1996, this extended reach well serves to tap the offshore
Ara field, located in waters 30 meters deep and 1,700 meters
below the seabed. The additional production from Ara has
helped to maintain profitable levels for the development of
the Hidra field, whose reserves had already attained a
production rate of 85%. For this well, the TOTAL teams
drilled through 6,982 meters of rock - the full length of
the well - in the record time of 51 days : a true '"cutting
edge" achievement ! After an initial flow of 900 m3/day,
production rapidly reached a steady 800 m3/day. By selling
the oil produced, the 10 million dollars invested in this
project could be recovered in four months Before TOTAL's
milestone achievement, the longest directional wells in
Tierra del Fuego had horizontal sections reaching no more
than 2,700 meters. With a horizontal reach of 6,253 meters,
the well drilled by TOTAL more than doubles that performance
: a record for the American continent !

Drilling a conventional oil well essentially means boring a
hole by using a rotating drill bit driven by a string of
connected pipes. When drilling an extended reach well, the
rotating driving force - travelling several kilometers -
encounters considerable friction and drag. Reduced to a
scale 1,000 times smaller, it would be like threading a hair
3 to 4 meters long into a tube a few tenths of a millimetre
wide, and then trying to turn it ! To minimize friction, the
drilling trajectory must be analyzed and executed with
greatest care. The string is thus very slowly curved away
from the vertical - less than 0.1deg. per meter - until it
points away from the vertical at an 80 deg. angle. There is
another major challenge : the rock cuttings produced while
drilling. These cuttings are flushed out of the hole by
pumping in viscous drilling mud. When drilling at a pace of
25 meters an hour, 5 tons of cuttings have to be brought up
every hour - through a hole no more than 30 centimetres in
diameter ! If the Channel tunnel had been drilled at the
same speed, and considering that its 8-meter diameter is 25
times bigger, nearly 50 tons of cuttings would have had to
be cleaned out - every minute !

Tierra del Fuego was first recorded in 1520 during the
voyage of Ferdinand Magellan. Named for the fires (fuego)
lit along the shore by native peoples, the foggy,
inhospitable region was crossed again by voyages of the 17th
and 18th centuries including those of Drake and Cook.
Several different language groups living in the cold, foggy
region of Tierra del Fuego included the Yahgans, the Ona,
the Alacaluf, and to the north, the Tehuelche. While
Magellan's chronicler Pigafetta had collected a vocabulary
of Tehuelche words in 1520, little detailed information was
known about the Fuegians prior to the early 19th century
voyage of the British survey ship H.M.S. Beagle, which
returned three Yahgans to their homeland from a visit to

The crew of the Beagle included Charles Darwin, whose
journal for Dec. 17, 1832 records the ship entering Le Maire
Straight, then hugging the Fuegian shore with the rugged
outline of Staten Island seen amid low clouds. Anchoring
that afternoon in the Bay of Good Success, a group of
Yahgans met with the captain. The scene, including an elder
man and several youths wearing face and body paint, was
described by Darwin as an amazing confrontation of different

The Beagle Channel from Navarino Island looking West
with the snow capped peaks of the Island of Tierra Del Fuego
in the background

Australian Pre-History.

A recent anthropological study found that, of all peoples on Earth,
the physical characteristics of the original Australians
were most like the people of Tierra Del Fuego, at the
southern tip of South America. The researchers drew the
conclusion that the same people had been the first
inhabitants of the whole area stretching around the Pacific
rim. This people had spread from Asia south to Australia,
west across the Bering Strait and south throughout the
Americas. After the last major rises in sea level other
peoples replaced them in Asia, North and South America,
leaving Australia and Tierra Del Fuego isolated.  Whether or
not this theory is correct, the Australians are certainly an
ancient people. They have inhabited their lands longer than
any other indigenous people. They are generally considered
to be the oldest culture on Earth. For example, the
ancestors of Native Americans arrived in North America from
Asia 30,000 years ago, Venus of Willendorf -earliest work of
art representing a figure was sculpted 25,000 to 30,000
years ago. Early Australian rock art 20,000 years old. The
cave paintings of Lascaux, France painted 13,000 years ago.
Most anthropologists believe that the Aborigines migrated
from Southeast Asia at least 40,000 years ago. At this time
low sea levels reduced the length of the necessary ocean
crossing by boat, and increased the size of the Australian
coastal 'target'. Aborigines, however, consider that they
have always been in Australia, that they came from the land.


A Voyage to Tierra del Fuego

Geographical Context:

Patagonia is the southernmost region
of South America, and includes bits of both Argentina and
Chile. The Argentine part is mostly pampas, i.e., endless
windswept plains largely populated by ranchers (gauchos).
The Chilean part, in contrast, consists of a forested
fjord/island region much like the coast of Norway. There is
no road that traverses all of Chilean Patagonia, but there
is a boat, the MV Tierra del Fuego, which transports
passengers and trucks the length of the region, from Puerto
Montt (in the Chilean heartland) to Puerto Natales, 200km
north of the Straits of Magellan. The trip is supposed to
take three days, but can take longer if the weather or tides
are bad.

Thursday: After leaving Aysen, I had made my way to
Magallanes, the southernmost region of Chile, which includes
the Straits of Magellan and the Chilean side of Tierra del
Fuego. Magallanes is the kind of place one can easily spend
weeks in, and indeed I spent almost two weeks there, mostly
hanging around Punta Arenas (the capital of the region, and
full of very friendly people), Puerto Natales (a smaller
town north of Punta Arenas, in a spectacular setting on
the`Gulf of Last Hope' , and the Torres del Paine national
park (just south of the Patagonian icecap, with fantastic
views of glaciers and mountains). When I finally decided it
was time to head back north, I knew, of course, that I would
have to take the boat, so I could get a proper penguin's-eye
view of Patagonia.

Gondwana forests sanctuary campaign launched in chile

In April 1998, forest activists and scientists from Chile,
Argentina, New Zealand, Scotland and the U.S. met in
Santiago and Pucon, Chile to launch thGondwana Forests
Sanctuary Campaign, the goal of which is "to protect,
reconnect and restore the life of Gondwana by creating an
international sanctuary of Earth's southernmost forests."
The forests of Gondwanaland are found in portions of South
America, Australia and New Zealand. In South America, the
forests occur in south-central Chile and on both sides of
the Andes in Patagonia, from the 37th Parallel south to
Tierra del Fuego. These regions contain the major Gondwanic
genii and species: nothofagus (southern beech), alerce
(Fitzroya cupressoides) and araucaria (Araucaria araucana).
There are 8 nothofagus species found in Chile and Argentina
- ruil, roble, rauli, lenga, hualo, coihue, magellanic
coihue, and nirre. Gondwanic forests grow extensively on the
South Island of New Zealand, and in small portions of the
North Island. In Australia, Tasmania hosts the largest
extent of Gondwanic forests, while significant remnants are
found on the mainland in Victoria, New South Wales and
Queensland. The islands of New Guinea, New Caledonia and New
Britain also contain significant and diverse Gondwanic

Flourishing Forests Beneath the Southern Cross

We had the chance to visit some of these incredible ancient
forests while in Chile, and on a quick visit to Argentina.
Herquehue National Park, in Chile's Lake District, shelters
huge coihue trees, with immense spreading crowns draped with
vines, moss and lichens. Higher in the park rise immense
stands of araucaria. These bizarre trees give the entire
landscape an incredibly ancient and exotic air. One would
hardly be surprised to see the head of a diplodocus rising
high in the forest canopy. Instead one sees swift flocks of
parrot-like loros darting through the forest and hears the
lyrical call of the chucao. Since it was southern fall, the
lenga forest understory was blazing with oranges and

The Cani Sanctuary provides in a microcosm an example of how
the ever more rare and precious southern forests can be
conserved and restored. Due to be logged in 1990, the 500
hectares of the Cani were instead purchased with the
assistance of Ancient Forests International, spurring the
formation of Fundacion Lahuen. Lahuen, Chile's first NGO
dedicated exclusively to forest protection and conservation,
now administers the Cani and associated projects. These
include a native tree nursery at Pichares (first in Chile),
local education projects in which schoolchildren raise and
plant native trees, and guided tours of the Cani. Our
overnight hike in the Cani took us into immense groves of
coihue again. Further on we reached the extinct volcanic
caldera, heart of the Cani.

While in Argentine Patagonia we made a day trip to Los
Alerces National Park, which, thanks to the late season, was
deserted. While we did not get to the famous but remote
forests of Alerce - the southern version of the redwood - we
were mesmermized by the beautiful string of clear lakes and
rivers mirroring the green cypress forests and crimson lenga
trees. Graceful arrayan trees lined the lakes and rivers,
and edible berries were abundant. At Lago Menendez it was so
quiet that the crunching of gravel underfoot seemed like
sacrilege. A huge, glacier-draped peak rose far across the
lake, and distant islands and peninsulas were black with
forest. Far beyond the lake, over the Andes, directly west,
is another huge protected area - the privately-owned Pumalin

Tierra del Fuego: A Beginning at the End of the Earth

The first goal of the Gondwana Forest Sanctuary Campaign is
to protect the primary forests of Tierra del Fuego,
southernmost forests on Earth, in both Argentina and Chile.
These sub-antarctic forests are threatened by the Rio Condor
logging project initiated by the U.S. based Trillium Corp.
Composed of 360,000 hectares of 10,000-year old lenga
forest, this boreal forest region is highly fragile. The
Gondwana Campaign has begun the process of creating an
international system of inter-continental forest reserves
starting at the tip of South America, in Tierra del Fuego,
and spreading northward and outward. Tierra del Fuego will
serve as the model for the Gondwana Campaign, which will
prepare a comprehensive forest preservation and land use
plan for this huge island. The plan's purpose is to guide
communities away from large-scale industrial development
projects like Rio Condor and other unsustainable economic
and trade policies which promote export of unfinished

The campaign will also work toward an international
environmental agreement within temperate forest countries to
end logging and other industrial activities in primary
forests. The Gondwana Campaign will also monitor the impacts
on forests from economic and trade policies promoted by the
World Trade Organization (WTO); Asian Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC); and the Free Trade of the Americas
Summit. The Gondwana Forest Sanctuary Campaign will seek to
influence these international economic bodies by offering an
alternative, sustainable economic and ecological model.

Efforts are also underway to create a "Trans-Andean
Wildlands Complex", potentially one of the world's largest
protected areas (5,000,000 has.), 1,000 miles to the North,
spanning the provinces of Neuquin, Rio Negro and Chubut in
Argentina and the Lake District, Valdivian and North
Patagonian regions in Chile.

Phil Knight - NFN Gondwana Project


Trillium paid US$5,000 per hectare Date:
January, 17 2000 Source: Defensores del Bosque Chileno

Ed note: This article gives a different environmental NGO's
perspective on the controversial Savia (formerly Trillium)
forestry project in Tierra del Fuego. Last month CHIPER
published an article by CODEFF's which is by and large in
support of the project. On the other hand, Defensores del
Bosque, are adamantly against it.

Commercial fraud No investment project will be blocked on
environmental grounds Charges brought by citizens'

In spite of the fact that it still has not paid its debt to
the state, and to all Chileans, the forestry company Savia,
formerly Trillium, was authorized by the current government,
through the National Environmental Commission, Conama, to
start exploitation of native lenga forests in Tierra del
Fuego. Its environmental impact study has been approved, the
last approval necessary. Since then, the business announced
the start of logging in 500 hectares of land approved for
this year's season by the National Forestry Commission,
Conaf. In all probability, this land is in the heart of the
southern forest.

The Chilean Code of Civil Law (art. 1889) states that "the
vendor suffers commercial fraud when the price paid is less
than half of the fair price of the goods sold." This is the
Chilean Treasury's situation. In August 1991, it sold 71,085
hectares of land in Tierra del Fuego to the foreign
investment company Cetec-Sel, for the sum of 133 million
pesos (then worth some US$378,000). Five dollars a hectare.

In 1993 the forestry company Trillium officially obtained
the rights to this land, lot number six, in the heart of
Tierra del Fuego, and became the legal owner of forests,
plains, mountains and glaciers, which had previously
belonged to the people of Chile, at a ridiculous price.
Afterwards the Treasury informed the company of the possible
existence of an irregularity in the sale, which would mean
that the contract could be declared null and void, due to
commercial fraud.

If the Treasury had invoked this clause, the contract would
have been reversed, and it would have been possible to
reclaim the land. This would have avoided, at least within
an area of 76,000 hectares, the industrial logging proposed
in the Rio Condor project.

However, according to an official document sighted by a
notary in August 1995 -just before the expiration date for
receipt of application of the clause of commercial fraud -
the company agreed to hand over the fair price, by means of
a "donation" of US$856,000. In the act, the company
acknowledged that the price paid represented a grevious
injury to the Chilean Treasury, and was less than half of
the fair price.

In the document it is stated that, "the US$856,000 are
partial payment of the theoretical fair price" for lot
number 6. And it continues, "...This donation will be paid,
by means of money deposited into the public purse, and or by
means of the completion of public works, infrastructure or
construction, up to the value previously mentioned." The
money, as well as the payment in kind were to be made for
the exclusive benefit of the province of the XII Region of

The government was pleased, and they pushed through the
Trillium project despite being warned of the irreparable
environmental damage it would cause. At the start of his
term President Eduardo Frei declared that, "no investment
project will be blocked on environmental grounds." His
promise was kept in the case of Trillium project, when their
second environmental impact study was accepted. It continues
to be kept every day, in the case of the Central Raco, in
the Alto Bio-Bio, even displacing the people in its path.
And the promise will be kept again, with the start of the
most disastrous forest project yet: Cascada Chile, which
will devastate the Lakes District, Region X.

The inhabitants of the forgotten town of Puerto Porvenir,
where the "donation" was to be made, were ecstactic. Silvia
Vera, the president of the Trillium fan club, and now the
Savia Co. fan club, began to imagine eventual projects. The
contract stated: "Forestal Trillium Ltd. will propose the
various projects to be carried out to the Ministry of Public
Works, in each case including their respective particulars,
with details of their location, characteristics, public
necessity, costs and date of completion."

However, the time period in which the "donation" was to be
made expired on Jan. 31, 1999. Savia-Trillium have not paid
any money, and nor have they carried out any public works in
Region XII. At the present time, government attorneys are
taking the case before the Santiago Civil Court, seeking
completion of payment.

The company's director, Edmundo Fahrenkrog has stated in the
newspaper La Pensa Austral that, "We're not denying the
debt, but we're asking for an extension, because we haven't
operated for five years. Five years of expenses, without any
income at all, and a rescheduling of payment has been asked

In the meantime, Savia-Trillium, under the auspices of
Calafate, has acquired the wood chip mill Magallanica de
Bosques, in Punta Arenas, Region XII. Even more serious is
the plan to start felling, even though it has not paid its
debt. It does not yet hold the full title to the land, at
least in lot number six. It also has cases pending before
the courts, to answer charges brought by citizens'

Considering that this was a contract, its non-completion
supports the case for the invocation of the clause of
commercial fraud, given that the expiration date for this
action was delayed by the same contract.

The citizens' organizations, allied under the umbrella of
the Alliance for the Chilean Forests, have brought these
facts to the attention of Clara Szczaranski, the president
of the government body in charge of present legal action
against Savia-Trillium, so that her office might study the
possibility of invocation of the clause, given that in such
cases as these, there exists a ten year period during which
appeals can be made. Trillium-Savia-Calafate's failure to
fulfill the contract has reopened the possibility of
recuperating 71,000 hectares of state land in the heart of
Tierra del Fuego, for the good of all Chileans.

Szczaranski promised to have the case studied by a legal
team, for her office's later consideration. A decision in
favor of the Alliance for the Chilean Forests could change
the course of events.

Tierra Del Fuego Adventures (Continued)

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