It's the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine

No, Elizabeth did NOT enjoy Guinness with us!
Thanksgiving for us this year looked a lot different than our typical deep-fried turkey and Christmas tree cutting! This year, we were pilgrims who landed in the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina. Instead of our usual feast, lunch was lamb stew and a pint of Guinness! It hit the spot after a long day boating on the Beagle Channel in frigid weather, only 300 miles from Antarctica. Just across the channel, we could see parts of Chile - so close, but so far away and not a chance of getting a Chile stamp on our passports - again! Oh well, maybe someday.

It was surreal to be so far south, imagining explorers and brave sailors who had traversed these chilly waters years ago without GPS or depth-finders! One of Mark's must-do's was to boat along the Beagle Channel, so we signed up for a boat tour for our first full day there.
During our boat tour, we learned about the South American Sea Lions who live on the rocky islands in the Beagle Channel.  Because we were visiting in the Spring, there were a few new pups to see, which was amazing!  The kids, however, were most intrigued by the poop.  Yes, our children have a fascination with all things bathroom related, as many kids their age, and they got a kick out of the bright red feces that covered the rocks.  It caused quite a stench, too!

Here is a proud sea lion showing off his latest creation.  Sorry I couldn't make this photo a scratch n sniff so you could enjoy the full experience with us!

Along with sea lions, we also spotted birds such as vultures, Antarctic Tern, Dolphin Gulls, and even a lone penguin floating in the water, obviously a bit lost.  See photos of many of the birds here.  

The boat took us right up close to the islands, so that we could get a great view.  Then we got a chance to walk around one of the islands where the native Yamana people once lived.  We learned that they wore minimal clothing and stayed warm by coating their skin with seal fat.  We couldn't imagine being out in the weather without our winter coats and gloves, let alone in our birthday suits!  Yikes.  It was a wonderland of new learning, surrounded by snow-peaked mountains and still waters, a classroom like I'd never taught in before. 

Beagle Channel Lighthouse
The following day we took a stomach-lurching bus ride out to the oldest farm in Tierra Del Fuego, Harberton Estancia, where we boarded a souped up dinghy that drove us out to Penguin Island.  This was the excursion we'd been anticipating since booking our trip!  We saw 3 types of penguins.  The Magellanic penguins were the ones we studies about, so it was great to see their burrows and hear their honking.  The Gentoo penguins were settled on the island, too, but built nests of rocks and shells on top of the land.  And finally, one single King penguin had found its way to the island all the way from Antarctica, and was a very unique sight to see!

King (left), Magellanic (center), and Gentoo (right)

The city of Ushuaia was a quaint little town, with fantastic seafood restaurants that served fresh king crab, sea bass, and cod.  After lunch one day, we visited the Maritime and Presidio Prison Historical Museum. The prison was moved to Ushuaia in 1902, due to the fact that if a prisoner escaped, he would have nowhere to go.  Because of this, it is also known as the Alcatraz of South America.  It housed high profile criminals and many political prisoners during the time it was opened.  It was eerie to walk through the cement corridors and read accounts of the people who were sentenced to spend their lives there.  Again, the kids were most amazed by the bathrooms, that had mere holes for toilets.  You could just see their wheels turning as they tried to figure out how that worked!

Even with red sea lion poop and ground floor toilets, our Thanksgiving spent in this part of the world was unbelievable.  It reminded us of how much we have to be thankful for in our small little family and in our great big world.


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