Thursday, November 02, 2017

Staten Island and the Lighthouse at the End of the World

Cruising on the Zodiac, we visited several beautiful locations in the very remote Staten Island, the furthest point in Patagonia.
This depicts morning at Staten Island, which is to the east of Cape Horn and is where the Atlantic meets the Pacific.
The island is very rugged and inhabited only by a few Argentine navy men. We had picked up some Argentine
park rangers, who are happy to have a way to visit this Argentine National Park -- they aren't funded for their own ships.
The rockhopper penguin colony, which I've depicted in prior posts, was the first place we visited. It was a long
walk from the huge beach at the end of a large bay.
Zodiac landing near the penguin colony. This photo was taken during the rough walk up the hill & over the rise to the penguins.
Map of the ship's route around Staten Island. 
Staten Island was discovered and explored by a number of well-known voyagers, and it's in very dangerous waters. We had a number of hours of rough seas, but were able to make several landings when the weather cleared up. Normally the landings are to the north, but the wind was northerly so we visited more of the southern part of the island. The landing at the penguin colony was in an area that the Explorer had never gone before.

On our an afternoon Zodiac cruise at Staten Island, we explored a deep fjord.
We were a bit surprised at the sign marking the National Park.  
We enjoyed watching the cormorants that nest on the steep walls of the fjord.

They nested on many of the small shelves on the rocks. It's easy to know where to look for them: guano!

We walked across the narrowest neck of Staten Island on a stunningly beautiful afternoon, and reached this bay.
On each side of the island was one lone king penguin!
On the last of the three days at Staten Island -- also the final day before the end of the expedition -- we visited
the "Lighthouse at the End of the World." It was built in 1884, but placed unfortunately so that it was more likely
to cause ships to be wrecked than to prevent it. Decommissioned, it fell into ruins, but was replicated around 20 years ago.
Hiking up to it was a big deal! But we made it.
Waves were breaking with enormous force as we came into the bay behind the lighthouse. We saw a replica of the
lighthouse in the Maritime Museum in Ushuaia, Argentina the next day.
Lovers of this work by Verne have also built a replica
of the Staten Island lighthouse at La Rochelle, France.
I believe they were responsible for the reconstruction
we visited on Staten Island.
This pirate adventure novel by Jules Verne made the lighthouse at Staten Island famous. Verne changed many details -- such as the actual appearance of the lighthouse, which is a low building on a high point. The novel describes instead a tall building on a low point. A structure such as Verne envisioned would have no chance of surviving the incredible winds that pummel this remote island!

I read the book, which sets the lighthouse construction in 1859, much earlier than in reality, and which describes the struggle between the lighthouse keepers and a crew of evil pirates. They had been hiding in caves on the island and luring passing ships to wreck there. They had been stealing the ships' cargo, murdering the crews, and were looking for a ship that they could load up and sail off to the South Seas. It's not the type of thing I usually read but I had fun picturing the events in the landscapes that we just visited.

The Staten Island lighthouse in 1894 (photo from Wikipedia).
Above all, seeing the lighthouse and reading Verne's Lighthouse at the End of the World made me realize what the situation there was prior to the completion of the Panama Canal. Hundreds of ships had to make it either through the Strait of Magellan and associated channels, or had to make it around the extraordinarily dangerous Cape Horn. Something like 9 or 10 ships per year were wrecked, with large numbers of lives lost, as is commemorated on the monuments at Cape Horn.

1 comment:

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I enjoyed the post and photos of a place I know I will never get a chance to visit. Thank you.