Harberton and Ushuaia
Postion: 54:48.819S 068:18.375W
Date: 17 December 2011
We had a lovely two day stay at Harberton. Tim’s e-mails to the family were eventually picked up and when we went ashore, we were introduced to Tommy Goodall, great grandson of Thomas Bridges, the founder of the Estancia, and to his wife Natalie who has done considerable research into all the family history and has published a beautiful book on all the flora and fauna of the area. Her passion is for cetaceans and she now runs a museum and research centre on the site, staffed by keen volunteer students. When they are not escorting guests around the museum, they are to be found in the ossuary, picking the flesh off boiled bones. The smell is pretty indescribable.
Because of the family connection, we were invited to lunch by Tommy and Natalie who are now both well into their 70’s. They have abandoned sheep and cattle ranching, mainly they said because of the wholesale theft of their animals. They now devote their time to tourism, receiving people from Ushuaia by boat and coach. Again, we were shown round by very enthusiastic volunteer guides who told us all about the history of the estancia, showed us all the antiquated sheep shearing equipment and machinery in the old shearing shed and told us all about the local plants and way of life of the Yamana indian tribe who lived in the area only 100 years ago and who are now tragically extinct. On our walk around the peninsula on our second day, we found curious remains of their encampments, large rings of discarded mussel shells which must have built up over possibly hundreds of years. They used to build circular huts from branches and twigs, forage for mussels, and when they had eaten them, just threw shells out of the front door.
On our walk, we also went up a small river to find the beaver dams. What a sight! The beavers have constructed three water tight dams and a large round home – whatever a beaver home is called. The trees all around are all dead – it looks as if an atomic bomb has gone off in the area. There is considerable evidence of on-going activity however. Higher up the banks we found recently felled trees with very obvious teeth marks. They are fantastically destructive animals.
Our journey up the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia was uneventful. The weather was incredibly benign, no wind at all, so we had to motor all the way. We tied up behind Dawnbreaker, who had been in port for a few days and were immediately met by Roxanne, the local RCC representative, who immediately whisked Tim and John off to go and look at replacement batteries. Our fears about difficulties on entering Ushuaia from the Falklands proved to be unfounded – the prefectura and the customs were all perfectly polite and formalities dealt with quickly. The temperature continued to climb during the day and reached an incredible 28 degrees – the hottest day of the year. The temperature is now down to a more normal 14 degrees.
John and I became tourists yesterday, visiting the museum in the old prison which was excellent and visiting the small but beautifully put together museum devoted to the Yamana and Ona indians, who as I have said no longer exist. They have some old film footage of these people which is fascinating to see, having read so much about them in Lucas Bridges book The uttermost part of the Earth.
An easterly storm went through last night, leading to a very bumpy night on the jetty – no protection from the East! All is calm now however, and no damage done. Looking forward to a walk today in the National Park.