New adventures afoot...

New adventures afoot...
where in the world...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Uttermost Part of the Earth's Museum

Tierra del Fuego has lived as a special part of history for a long time as a legendary location, whether in fanciful myth or as a very practical 'hump' necessary to get round if traversing the seas.  I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to visit a place that figures in the legend, the historic Estancia Harberton.  It has been a farm/ranch since the late 1800s and is now additionally a tourist destination and research center (pics below) for birds and marine mammals.

There is an absolutely fantastic book that describes the founding of the estancia and the European settlement of the area, including excellent descriptions if the indigenous populations of the area and relations between the groups: The Uttermost Part of the Earth, by Lucas Bridges.  Reading this book is what brought an American woman named Natalie Prosser here in the 60s, who ended up marrying the owners son (Tom Bridges) and she has developed an incredible biological resource here-- a private museum and repository of thousands of animal skeletons collected from the regions beaches.  Here is the museum director Angie with a new find...

Due to the currents surrounding/passing the tip of the continent, along with a combination of local topography and tidal influences, the region receives many animals washing up on its shores, just waiting for keen biologists to pack them off home, strip off the flesh (heedless of the muck and stench), and add the cleaned bones to the ever growing collection.  The museum hosts several university students each year as part of an internship program, learning collection and necroscopy techniques as well as giving tours of the museum to visitors.

Natalie Goodall and her students have been responsible for hundreds of publications, shedding light in many lesser known marine species, just by virtue of working in a sparsely populated and researched area (not to mention a student work ethic and pervasive curiosity).  Bottom line, it's pretty awesome what they're doing here.  And at just shy of 80, Natalie is still full of projects and priorities, keeping the museum and lab headed into the future.

Below, Natalie and crew in 1984 processing a stranded whale.

A couple days ago, after a short guided tour of the farm and its history

I got to visit a penguin colony on an island that the family owns and slows a tour company to take tourists there.  Three kinds of penguins: Magellanic (that live in burrows away from the shore) gentoo, and a couple of lost King penguins :)

Not ready to leave this evening, but my other commitments (oh yea, going to Antarctica!) are calling... what a great experience here!

1 comment:

  1. Really cool outpost, and write-up! And big thanks for the info on how to properly boil a whale carcass. Been doing it wrong this whole time!