Timeline and Complete History of Ushuaia

Argentine Navy seaplane, one of the first to arrive to Ushuaia in the 1930s

Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur Province in Argentina, and the southernmost city of the nation. Ushuaia maintains the title of the world’s southernmost town. Ushuaia is situated in an extensive bay on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, bounded on the south by the Beagle Channel and on the north by the Martial mountain range.

History of Ushuaia

The Selk’nam Indians (Ona) first arrived in Tierra del Fuego around 10,000 years ago. The southerly group of people indigenous to the region, the Yamana (also known as Yaghan), who occupied the present-day Ushuaia, lived in constant conflict with the island’s northern inhabitants.

For most of the late half of the 19th century CE, the eastern part of Tierra del Fuego was populated by many nationals who were not Argentine natives, including several British subjects. Ushuaia was established informally by British missionaries, following former British surveys, long before Argentine government representatives or nationals arrived there permanently. Under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy, the British ship HMS Beagle first reached the channel on January 29, 1833 CE, during its maiden trip surveying Tierra del Fuego. The town was initially named by early British missionaries using the original Yámana name for the region.

Much of the city’s early history and its hinterland is depicted in Lucas Bridges’s book Uttermost Part of the Earth (1948 CE). The name Ushuaia first appears in reports and letters of the South American Mission Society in Britain. The ruthless British missionary (who converted people forcefully), Waite Hockin Stirling, became the first European to live in Ushuaia when he lived with the Yámana people between January 18 and mid-September 1869 CE. In 1870 CE, additional British missionaries came to build a small settlement. The subsequent year the first marriage was performed. In 1872 CE, 36 baptisms and seven weddings, and the first European birth in Tierra del Fuego was registered.

In 1873 CE, Juan and Clara Lawrence, the first recorded Argentine citizens to explore Ushuaia, came to teach school. That same month, Julio Argentino Roca, who later led as Argentine President twice, encouraged a penal colony for most re-offenders, modeled seemingly after one in Tasmania, Australia, to secure permanent residents from Argentina to help establish Argentine autonomy over all of Tierra del Fuego. But only after the famous Boundary treaty of 1881 CE between Argentina and Chile did formal efforts get underway to install the township and its jail.

In the 1880s CE, numerous gold prospectors came to Ushuaia following rumors of big goldfields, which proved to be incorrect. On October 12, 1884, CE, as part of the South Atlantic Expedition, Commodore Augusto Lasserre installed the sub-division of Ushuaia, with the naval officers and missionaries signing the Act of Ceremony. Don Feliz M Paz was announced Governor of Tierra del Fuego and, in 1885 CE, named Ushuaia as its capital. In 1885 CE, the territory police were organized under Antonio A. Romero, with offices also in Ushuaia. But it was not until 1904 CE that the Federal Government of Argentina officially recognized Ushuaia as Tierra del Fuego’s capital.

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