Posts Tagged ‘patagonia’

Uncovering Family History in Chile

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Jeffrey A. Cole has led over 50 Smithsonian journeys to Latin America since 1992. Jeff’s research and publications have focused on colonial South American history and civil-military relations in Argentina and Chile. He has taught Latin American Studies at Clark University, Tulane University, SUNY-Oswego, Cornell University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Smith College. Here he discusses a recent Patagonia Explorers trip to Chile.

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Sometimes something really wonderful, and unexpected, takes place on a Smithsonian tour. In February 2012, on our last day in Chile and while visiting the port city of Valparaíso, our Smithsonian group visited a statue dedicated to William Wheelwright. Mr. Wheelwright, born in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, introduced steamship navigation, the telegraph, and other innovations to Chile in the nineteenth century. More importantly, on this occasion, his great-granddaughter, Margaret (“Peg”) Keirstead, had the chance to share her pride in his service with her fellow Smithsonian Journeys travelers. As we all lined up to have our picture taken in front of the statue, a Smithsonian banner proudly displayed, everyone reflected on the many ties between Chile and the United States, and how our histories are intertwined.

The group had visited Cape Horn on a beautiful morning, had walked among more than 100,000 penguins on Magdalena Island in the Strait of Magellan, and had enjoyed beautiful weather in Torres del Paine National Park, but this sharing of a personal connection to William Wheelwright in Valparaíso might well have been the highlight of the trip; it certainly was for Peg.

Smithsonian Journeys - Valparaíso, Chile

Smithsonian travelers pose in front of a statue of William Wheelwright, an important early steamship and railroad entrepreneur in South America and great-grandfather of Peg Keirstead (in the very back wearing a gray shirt).

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Find out more about our Patagonian Explorers trip here.

Exploring Patagonia – Five Things

Thursday, April 28th, 2011
The Perito Moreno Glacier. Photo: Allison Dale

The Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia. Photo: Allison Dale

Ever wonder how it is on the other side of the Equator? It might be hot in the Southern Hemisphere, but there’s snow, ice, and glaciers too in Patagonia, where during a heat wave, temperatures  might reach all of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

1) The explorer Magellan named the region, which includes the southernmost portions of Chile and Argentina, after the native people there. He used the word Patagón, or giant, to describe the group, who were an average height of about 6 feet tall, much taller than the Europeans of the time.

2) Rawson, the capital of the Chubut region of Patagonia, was settled by Welsh immigrants in 1865, as part of an effort by the Argentinian government to attract settlers to areas outside of Buenos Aires. The going was even tougher than they anticipated; the settlers had been told the arid plateau of Chubut was much like lush, green lowland Wales.

3) Humans have inhabited Patagonia since 10,000 BCE, if not longer, and traces of past settlements can be found across the region. One of the best known is the Cueva de las Manos (cave of hands), located in Santa Cruz, Argentina. The cave painters used ink made from hematite, and some archaeologists speculate that the young men stenciled their hands on the cave as part of a tribal rite-of-passage ritual. The cave was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

4) The Patagonian region of Santa Cruz, in Argentina, is home to a 52-square mile petrified forest. The forest grew 150 million years ago, during the Jurasssic period, and was later buried under volcanic eruptions at the beginning of the Cretaceous Period, when the Andes began formation.

Cave Paintings at the Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina. Photo: Mariano Cecowski.

Cave Paintings at the Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina. Photo: Mariano Cecowski.

5) Some of the most famous residents of Patagonia include the Magellanic penguins of Magdalena Island. Situated in the center of the Strait of Magellan, Magdelena Island hosts 60,000 breeding pairs of penguins. Penguins mate for life, going back to the same nest to meet and breed each year.

Need more reasons to travel to Patagonia? Check out Smithsonian’s  Patagonian Explorer tour, where you’ll explore the glaciers, islands, and windswept landscapes of Tierra del Fuego, the Beagle Channel, and more.

Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost urban center, is 6,500 miles away from Washington, DC. What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home? Please share.

On Patagonia

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Glaciers of Patagonia - Photo: Allison Dale

Glaciers of Patagonia. Photo: Allison Dale

Veteran Smithsonian Journeys Study Leader Jeff Cole has led over forty of our tours in Latin America since 1992. He has also directed lecture series for the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program here in Washington. Here, Jeff shares his thoughts on a recent cruise around Cape Horn and a visit to Torres del Paine. For more on Jeff, including Q&A and his upcoming tours, click here.

I had seen Cape Horn from ships a number of times in the past, squinting through my binoculars to make out the handful of buildings and monuments. I always wondered what it would be like to step foot on that last little bit of the Americas, and promised myself that one day I would do just that. My hopes were only heightened by documentary films featuring the island (e.g. Captain Irving Johnson’s 1929-30 footage), or the written accounts of mariners, including Darwin and Fitzroy.

When at long last I was able to amble up those 67 stairs from sea level to the island’s top, and stand before the Albatross Monument erected in the memory of sailors who never made it home, I felt a real sense of joy and accomplishment. Now that I’ve done the landing twice, and gotten the t-shirt, I enjoy seeing our Smithsonian Journeys travelers realize their own ambitions, whether to step on Cape Horn, to walk with penguins on Isla Magdalena, or to follow condors circulating overhead in Torres del Paine National Park. Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and Cape Horn are magical places, and only a lucky few get to see them. For me, they are a second home.

Ready for the ultimate adventure? Click here for our tours to Patagonia and here for upcoming tours with Jeff Cole.

Patagonia: Five Things

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The Perito Moreno Glacier. Photo: Allison Dale

The unseasonably hot and humid weather we’ve had in Washington, DC, lately had our staff discussing cooler climates. This got us thinking about snow, then ice, and then glaciers, which led us to Patagonia. Here’s five things you should know about Patagonia, where during a heat wave, temperatures might reach all of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.1) The explorer Magellan named the region, which includes the southernmost portions of Chile and Arentina, after the native people there. He used the word Patagón, or giant, to describe the group, who were an average height of about 6 feet tall, much taller than the Europeans of the time.

2) Rawson, the capital of the Chubut region of Patagonia, was settled by Welsh immigrants in 1865, as part of an effort by the Argentinian government to attract settlers to areas outside of Buenos Aires. The going was even tougher than they anticipated; the settlers had been told the arid plateau of Chubut was much like lush, green lowland Wales.

3) The Patagonian region of Santa Cruz, in Argentina, is home to a 52-square mile petrified forest. The forest grew 150 million years ago, during the Jurasssic period, and was later buried under volcanic eruptions at the beginning of the Cretaceous Period, when the Andes began formation.

Cave Paintings at the Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina. Photo: Mariano Cecowski.

Cave Paintings at the Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina. Photo: Mariano Cecowski.

4) Humans have inhabited Patagonia since 10,000 BCE, if not longer, and traces of past settlements can be found across the region. One of the best known is the Cueva de las Manos (cave of hands), located in Santa Cruz, Argentina. The cave painters used ink made from hematite, and some archaeologists speculate that the young men stenciled their hands on the cave as part of a tribal rite-of-passage ritual. The cave was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

5) Some of the most famous residents of Patagonia include the Magellanic penguins of Magdalena Island. Situated in the center of the Strait of Magellan, Magdelena Island hosts 60,000 breeding pairs of penguins. Penguins mate for life, going back to the same nest to meet and breed each year.

Need more reasons to travel to Patagonia? Check out Smithsonian’s new Patagonian Frontiers tour, where you’ll explore the glaciers, islands, and windswept landscapes of Tierra del Fuego, the Beagle Channel, and more.

Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost urban center, is 6,500 miles away from Washington, DC. What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home? Please share.

Video: Diving Inside a Glacier

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

There are so many things we can learn from the Patagonia region whether from its culture or natural history. Here are a few little facts we uncovered.

  1. Patagonia is one of the least polluted places in the world, due to its remote location, sparse population and the low-impact lifestyle of its residents.
  2. Indigenous to the Patagonia region is the Kawésqar Community of Chile, who arrived in the region around 6000-7000 B.C. and were masters at navigating the waterways of the region. Their community has never been particularly large and maximum population estimates are around 5000. Today, there are only 22 living Kawésqar people and they are fighting to keep their culture and language from extinction.
  3. Scientists noticed repeated blue whale sightings close to shore in Patagonia’s Golfo Corcovado in the late 1990s. The location was actually a breeding location which was relatively unknown until these sightings were recorded. A team of researchers later identified the area as a blue whale nursery, which now provides opportunities to study this endangered species up close.
  4. Glaciers at Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can reach almost four miles high. The National Park is the 3rd largest ice field in world behind Antarctica and Greenland.

What does it look like inside one of these massive glaciers? Take a look with these people who study glaciospeleology:

Would you scuba dive inside a glacier?

Learn more fun facts about Patagonia on our value-priced journey—Patagonia and the Natural Wonders of Argentina and Chile.