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Our "Summer" Travels To South America, Part 15

Ushuaia, Argentina: A small town that is the launch point from Argentina to Antarctica

By Armando F. Sanchez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: March 21, 2013


Our "Summer" Travels To South America, Part 15


Before we arrived to Ushuaia, Argentina, the ship traveled further south to an island called "Cabo de Hornos". It has a lighthouse and is the furthest point of land. Before the Panama Canal was built in 1914, all ships had to pass around this point. It's considered one of the most treacherous point to sail through and one can easily see why.

You are standing on top of two oceans and currents are mixing and going in two counter directions. The winds are coming from all four major points on the compass. The weather is cold but the winds today is slight. In this area the winds can come to be between 60-100 miles gales per hour. Today the winds were relatively calm (25 miles) and chilly outside.

Modern mechanized ships receiving satellite weather reports can plow through the wind and currents but for hundreds of years it was crossed by small wooden ships using only sails. It's little wonder that hundreds of ships never made it to the other side of this lighthouse. The mountain cliffs on the islands around here are very steep and rocky so even if they came to shore the continuous and large waves would crush and destroy everything. This area and terrain is very unforgiving to sailors and ships that ran into trouble in this part.

We are still on the Atlantic side of the the continent. This is another small town that is the launch point from Argentina to Antarctica. Several of the scientific Antarctica exploration ships are in port. The Russians and Spaniards are here. There are two small cruises ships that are dedicated to go from here to Antarctica during the summer months. They travel for about a week and can cost around $5,000 to $10,000 per person. One can only visit there in the summer months, December through March.

Back in town we took a short bus tour to their national park. It's small in area but you get an understanding how glacier action formed this entire area. Diagrams show that at one time the lower third of South America was under one massive sheet of ice.

Everywhere you tune you see the evidence and exposed granite rock on the mountains and that carving that glaciers leave behind as they moved and begin to melt. The glaciers that are still in the area are now tiny remnants. In comparison to what was once here one can see that they are practically all gone. The few that we have seen are expected to disappear in a few years. I truly feel like I am above the tree line in the Rocky Mountains and the space between the mountains is filled with the ocean. It's green on the cliffs but the exposed granite rock surrounds us as far as the eyes can see.

The people here don't seem to mind the cold weather. They say its the winds that can get ferocious. It's still summer here but most of us are wearing jackets, sweaters and gloves. Many of the mountain tops, while not very high, still have a bit of snow on top of them. Ushuaia has two ski lift areas and persons here like to hike. What I was amazed to learn is that they have a major airport that can land a jumbo jet. They show a picture of the Concord once landing here. Apparently a group of millionaires wanted to visit Antarctica so they contracted the entire jet to bring them to this distant and remote area. That's the jet set for you.

Our next cruise stop is Punta Arenas, Chile. By leaving Ushuaia we now begin traveling northward and traveling back again on the Pacific Ocean.

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