January 31, 2006
Today I went to the Maritime Museum in Ushuaia. Built out of an old prison, there was an atrium at the center with around five wings jutting out from the sides. Each cell contained its own exhibit.
One wing was dedicated to the old prison. I learned about criminals such as the Short Man With Big Ears, who killed dozens of children and set fire to numerous buildings. He spent some time in prison for the killings, but the authorities figured he was just a lunatic and let him go. When the killings started soon thereafter, they put him away for good at Ushuaia.
Another wing was dedicated to the old ships of the area. They had models of the first ships to sail through the Straights of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, and Cape Horn, all of which near Tierra del Fuego. Magellan's voyage was the most impressive to me. He set sail in 1520 with 265 men to look for a passage to Asia. He had no idea what type of terrain he would encounter, but eventually Magellan's crew became the first to sail all the way around the world. Magellan himself was killed during the voyage and only 18 of his men made it back to Portugal alive.
Another section was appropriately all about Antarctica. It included exhibits about the first men to make it to the south pole successively. There was also an exhibit about Shackleton's voyage. His crew got stranded in the ice during a terrible storm in the Antarctic Sea. He left with a few of his men in a tiny boat to make the 800 mile journey to the closest inhabited island. After they got to the island, they spent six months traversing the brutal terrain until they reached civilization. Amazingly, the people who were left behind in Antarctica for the winter all survived.
The final wing I walked through was for Salvador Dali, the famous surrealist. He was most famous for his paintings of melting watches, but he made a lot of other crazy works, too. The main exhibit on display was two paintings of Jesus that were places against mirrors such that when you looked at them from a short distance, Jesus appeared to be three-dimensional. Another painting was of his wife walking away naked, but when looked at from a distance of ten meters, it looked like Abraham Lincoln. Dali confirmed his strangeness when he said, "The only difference between myself and a lunatic is that I'm not a lunatic."
The museum was easily one of the best ones I've visited in South America. It was brilliantly laid out in the old prison, and the explanation for every exhibit was written in both Spanish and English. I spent six hours there until they rudely decided to close at 8:00.
My other big news today is that I'm for sure going to Antarctica. I just paid for it today. It was pretty funny when the tour agent warned me about the cruise. She told me that they have some formal dinners, so I'll have to bring my suit along. I hope my mud-stained t-shirt and zipper-off pants count or I might be relegated to playing the banjo at the bottom of the ship like on Titanic.
The cruise will go from Ushuaia to a few Antarctic islands, then to the Antarctic peninsula, followed by the Falkland Islands, one of the remotest, least visited places on Earth. Afterward, I'll have two days to "relax and reflect on my adventure" before being dropped off in Buenos Aires. I wasn't planning to go to Buenos Aires yet, but it's a small sacrifice to get to see Antarctica.
Don't worry, the offer to visit me in Buenos Aires still stands. I'll probably just stay there for a few days and start heading south again. I'll stay in the Argentina-ish region for a couple months before heading back to Buenos Aires in April.
The photo album for this entry is here.