Estancia Harberton

(continuer en français) – Last updated: October 20, 2020

Estancia Harberton was founded by the Anglican missionary Thomas Bridges in 1886. Coming from England, Thomas Bridges settled in Tierra del Fuego as early as 1870, leading a mission in Ushuaia which was dedicated to the last Yamanas natives, cruelly decimated by their contact with Europeans. In gratitude for his charitable activity, Argentina granted him citizenship and offered him the 20,000 hectares that make up the estancia located in the bay of Mánacatush, 85 km from Ushuaia.

It was the first farmstead to be established in Tierra del Fuego on the Argentinian side. The dwelling was sent in pieces from England and reassembled on the site. Harberton being the name of the village where Thomas Bridges’ wife was from in England.

The house is not open to visitors outside the tea room, it is still occupied by the descendants of Thomas Bridges. Today the fifth and sixth generations continue to run the farm.

Next to the house is a small terraced garden, sheltered from the strongest winds. It is a charming place to forget the harshness of the climate.

Continuing his involvement with the Yamanas, Thomas Bridges used his estancia to set up workshops so that they could acquire the necessary skills to integrate into the new society. As Yamanas are not tall, the workbenches are designed for their size. The window is at the height of the worktop to make the most of the natural light for as long as possible.

The estancia first dedicated to breeding sheep for wool and cows for meat. Since 1995 the sheep breeding has stopped, following a severe snowstorm that decimated the livestock. The activity had become unprofitable.

In recent years, Harberton has turned its attention to tourism by promoting its natural surroundings. The island of Martillo with its penguins belongs to the estancia, it is from here that land visits to the island start, as close as possible to the penguins. Visitors to the estancia can walk around the property and even camp free of charge with permission on sites without services. There are also several cottages overlooking the bay that can be rented for the night.

American biologist Rae Natalie Prosser joined the family by marriage. She then established her collections and laboratory at Estancia Harbeton. This eventually resulted in Acatushún, the Museum of Austral Marine Birds and Mammals, which opened in 2001. The skeletons hanging on the wall are doubled with the representation of the animal for a better understanding.

Visitors to the estancia enjoy a guided tour by one of the members of the scientific team, who is both competent and passionate about the exhibits.

In the laboratories are stored the bones of thousands of specimens collected in the region. When necessary, the cleaning of the bones, an activity that produces a pungent odor, is carried out in a remote shed on the shore. The advantage of being far from other dwellings.

The skeletons displayed outside are training materials for new team members. Put in disorder it is a matter of reconstructing the animals. Giant jigsaw puzzle in a very special kind.

One last look at this estancia at the end of the world. The Harberton Estancia is like a world apart, a world full of kindness, once in favour of Aboriginals, now towards nature, the penguins of Isla Martillo are an edifying evidence.

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