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Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales, Chile


Puerto Natales is a city in Chilean Patagonia. Puerto Natales is the capital of both the commune (Spanish: comuna) of Natales and the province of Última Esperanza, (Spanish for "Last Hope"), one of the four provinces that make up the Magallanes and Antartica Chilena Region in the southernmost part of Chile. The city is located 247 km (153 mi) northwest of Punta Arenas and is the final passenger port of call for the Navimag ferry sailing from Puerto Montt into the Señoret Channel as well as the primary transit point for travelers to Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Última Esperanza Sound, originally inhabited by the Kawésqar tribe or Alacaluf and the Aoniken or Tehuelche, was sailed in 1557 by Juan Ladrilleros, a sailor who was looking for the Strait of Magellan.
The city was settled by European immigrants: The largest groups are Germans; British such as the English, Welsh and Scots; Croats; Greeks; Italians and Spaniards. Later settlement by Chilean people, with a substantial number coming from the Island of Chiloé, all attracted by the sheep-raising industry.
The city was formally founded under the government of Ramón Barros Luco on May 31, 1911. Nowadays, one of the most important activities is tourism although cattle production and the fishery industries are also significant.
The Province where Puerto Natales is located received the name Última Esperanza (Last Hope) from the sailor Juan Ladrilleros, who was seeking the Strait of Magellan in the year 1557. It was his "last hope" to find the Strait after exploring the maze of channels between the waters of the Pacific and the mainland. It was not until three centuries later, in 1830, that another major expedition sailed through the fjords and channels of Última Esperanza. This was the British expedition of the sloop HMS Beagle. Some of the expedition - (Robert FitzRoy, William Skyring and James Kirke) and their senior officers - are remembered by several place-names in the area. Commander Fitzroy was the captain during the Second voyage of HMS Beagle (1831–1836).
In 1870, interest in the region of Ultima Esperanza was rekindled. Among the daring travelers who ventured these desolated lands, was Santiago Zamora, also known as 'Baqueano' Zamora. He discovered the lake district of the Torres del Paine area and many wild horses locally known as 'baguales'. Another was the English traveler and writer Lady Florence Dixie, commemorated in the city's present-day Hotel Lady Florence Dixie.[5] Dixie authored the book, Across Patagonia.
Puerto Natales was founded on May, 1911 as a port for the sheep industry. During the last half of the 20th century the sheep industry declined and many people from Puerto Natales started to work in the coal mines of Río Turbio in Argentina. During the zenith of the sheep industry in Patagonia, two large "frigorificos" or freezer plants, were constructed in the Natales area, of which one has survived.[6] The plant at Puerto Bories, about 4 km NW from Puerto Natales, was a project of the Sociedad Explotadora de Tierra del Fuego. The Puerto Bories site was inaugurated in 1913 and was in production until 1993. The Cold-Storage Plant was constructed in "Post Victorian Industrial" architectural style and features of number of British machinery examples which reflect the technology of the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The Cold-Storage Plant complex is part of the industrial history of the Puerto Natales area. In 2010, a restoration has started.
Puerto Natales features good tourism facilities, and it has become the base for excursions to the Torres del Paine National Park; the Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument (a cave complex used by prehistoric tribes and where remains of the extinct Giant Sloth have been found);[7] the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park; and the Alacalufes National Reserve. The latter includes the Fjord of the Mountains, Cordillera Riesco and Cordillera Sarmiento.

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