Heading East to Harberton – 15 March 2017

Today marked our first full day in Ushuaia and with it, a trip to the West and to Estancia Harberton; a small homestead steeped in history. We took a minibus with driver Eric for about 2 hours East of our hotel through the mountains, where we also got another glimpse of the Beagle Channel.

Harberton homestead (photo: Sonja)

Harberton is surrounded by stunning scenery and the landscape is marked with a few distinctive buildings. Some are made from wood of the local trees and topped with rusty red roofs that have definitely stood the test of time, but some were also imported from England! We were met by our local guide Diego and learned all about the founding of Harberton by Thomas Bridges in 1886 and his subsequent work to build relationships with, and protect the natives.

Main house imported piece by piece from England (photo: Sonja)

Harberton is still very much a family-run place and the care and attention that has been put into preserving the history and authenticity of the homestead was great to see. Natalie R. P. Goodall was originally a botanist that married into the Bridge/Goodalls family. She created beautiful gardens surrounding the Bridges’ home that we got to explore.

Sei whale arch in the beautiful garden with native chilco (fuchsia) (photo: Sonja)

But it was another of Natalie Goodall’s passions that really got us excited. What started as her hobby, has now become one of the most extraordinary collections of marine mammal and bird skeletons! After a delicious 3-course lunch we headed what appeared to be a rather non-descript museum. Thousands of (mostly complete) specimens have been meticulously collected by Natalie and her students and co-workers over the decades. Sei whales, pilot whales, fin whales, beaked whales, spectacled porpoises, Magellanic penguins and leopard seals,  to name just a few, are displayed in all their glory in the Museum Acatushún.

Measuring out the whale skeletons…. it takes 15 students…. (photo: Sonja)

Our guide Santiago and lead scientist Angi also took us ‘behind the scenes’ to the labs where we got to see the full magnitude of what Natalie has built over the years and it was truly extraordinary!

Inside the museum (photo: Sonja)

Cabinets full of marine mammal specimens unparalleled by most major museums that keep just the ‘perfect’ examples  or only parts of a skeleton instead the complete specimen. One of the displays showed some of the interesting bone pathologies they had found through the years. We were also lucky enough to see some of the specimens mid-processing. If you were feeling a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) reading this, maybe you can seek some consolation in that it was rather potent in there! What Natalie has created in her lifetime was very humbling and inspiring for us to witness and the museum is a wonderful testament to her passion.

Marine mammal enthusiasts around a sperm whale skull

And now for an early night before our trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park tomorrow.

written by Laura Palmer

Laura & beaked whale

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