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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beagle Channel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Beagle Channel is a strait separating islands of the Tierra del Fuego
Archipelago, in extreme southern South America. It separates Isla Grande de
Tierra del Fuego from the islands Nueva, Picton, Navarino, Hoste,
Londonderry, Stewart Islands and other smaller to the south. Its eastern
portion is part of the border between Chile and Argentina, but the western
part is completely within Chile. The west end is the Darwin Sound and the
east end is Nueva Island.

The Beagle Channel is about 240 kilometers (130 NMI; 150 mi) long and is
about 5 kilometers (3 NMI; 3 mi) wide at its narrowest point. To the west
the Darwin Sound connects it to the Pacific Ocean. The biggest settlement on
the channel is Ushuaia in Argentina followed by Puerto Williams in Chile,
two of the southernmost settlements of the world.

Navigation and Islands

Although it is navigable by large ships, there are safer waters to the south
(Drake Passage) and to the north (Strait of Magellan).

Several small islands (Picton, Lennox and Nueva) up to the Cape Horn were
the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between Chile and
Argentina; by the terms of a Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between
Chile and Argentina they are now part of Chile. Ships of other nations can
navigate between the Strait of Magellan and Ushuaia through the Chilean
Magdalena Channel and the Cockburn Channel with Chilean Pilot and 48 hours
advance notice.

The Yaghan peoples settled the islands along the Murray Channel
approximately 10,000 years before present. There are notable archaeological
sites indicating such early Yaghan settlement at locations such as Bahia
Wulaia on Isla Navarino, where the Bahia Wulaia Dome Middens are located.

Naming and Darwin Visit

The channel was named after the ship HMS Beagle during its first
hydrographic survey of the coasts of the southern part of South America
which lasted from 1826 to 1830.
The ship was a Cherokee-class 10 gun brig of the Royal Navy, named after the
Beagle breed of dog. She was launched on May 11, 1820 from the Woolwich
Dockyard on the River Thames, at a cost of £7,803. She took part in
celebrating the coronation of King George IV of the United Kingdom in which
she was the first ship to sail under the New London Bridge. She was then
adapted as a survey ship and took part in three expeditions.

During that expedition, under the overall command of the Australian Commander Phillip Parker King, the Beagle's captain Pringle Stokes committed suicide and was replaced by Captain Robert Fitzroy. The ship continued the survey in the second voyage of the Beagle under the command of captain Fitzroy who took Charles Darwin along as a gentleman's companion, giving him opportunities as an amateur naturalist. Darwin had his first sight of glaciers when they reached the channel on 29 January 1833, and wrote in his field notebook "many glaciers beryl blue most beautiful contrasted with snow".

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