Good geo-topics can be found everywhere. Often I derive inspiration from anonymous Twelve Mile Circle visitors who sprinkle digital trails behind them as they travel along. Every one of us leaves our fingerprints whenever we tunnel through the Intertubes. It’s innocuous for the most part and we don’t think much about it as we jump from one site to another, but it’s all there and it’s available. I can’t and don’t use any of it to identify individuals (nor do I want to) but I do use it to generate plenty of great story ideas.
One trekker arrived from Ushuaia, Argentina looking for information on New Zealand Ferries. That’s what I believe, anyway. The incoming IP address geolocated to that rare spot. This person thus became the southernmost visitor to my website totally unbeknownst to him or her, an honor likely to be held until someone from Antarctica decides to call.
Ushuaia sits at 54.8° south of the equator. There aren’t many places of significance further south than Ushuaia.
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Ping around the Internet for awhile and it won’t take long to find a variety of sources that consider Ushuaia to be the southernmost city in the world. "City" is such a subjective word. Does 60,000 people make it a city? Punta Arenas in Chile has double that population a little further north. Puerto Williams has a couple thousand people a bit further south. Which one is the southernmost city?
Argentina and Chile have a history of one-upmanship at the continental tip, jockeying for control of trading routes, tourism and access to Antarctica. I guess Ushuaia has as good a claim to being the southernmost city as the others but it’s really more for bragging rights than anything else.
In fact the strategic location of Tierra del Fuego and the geopolitical situation with Chile led to the founding of Ushuaia in the first place. It doesn’t have Sixteenth Century roots like many other towns and cities in Argentina, not at all. Rather Ushuaia dates back only to the 1890’s when it started as a penal colony. Those early convicts literally built their own prison and then a town around it. Ushuaia provided a remote, confined location for the more troublesome members of society and a means to establish Argentine sovereignty over their southern domain. That sounds a lot like the Australian model and indeed it took inspiration from that source according to many of the sites I consulted.
Ushuaia gazes upon the Beagle Channel, with Chile to the south and west. It anchors Argentina’s triangular corner on the Island of Tierra del Fuego, isolated and detached from the rest of the nation.
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Airlines and ships provide the most direct access to and from the Argentine mainland. It is possible to arrive by automobile but this journey requires crossing into Chilean territory and taking a ferry across the Strait of Magellan. In theory one should also be able to travel there by bus but it would require several distinct transfers and lots of time.
Trains do not reach this far south. However there is an antique 8 kilometre narrow-gauge steam railroad called the End of the World Train (Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino) into the Tierra del Fuego National Park that serves as a major tourist attraction. It was designed originally to carry timber into Ushuaia as the prisoners built the town. Today it’s considered the world’s southernmost railroad although it’s self-contained and has no outlet to the outside world.
I didn’t know anything about Ushuaia until I noticed that small dot on my website access map in Google Analytics. This sounds like another great place to add to my every-growing list of towns that I someday want to see in person.
Do you know of a peculiar place or location you’d like me to feature on the Twelve Mile Circle? Maybe your home town? Please let me know in the comments below or in a separate email message. Don’t let me know why you believe it’s a geo-oddity though. I’ll figure that out on my own. The answer may be completely different than what you expected. Learning is part of the fun.