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“The Crying Post Project: Post #9, Zone of Convergence.” Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Post Notes
The placement of most Crying Posts depends on a combination of networking, bridging cultural and linguistic divides, negotiating sticky local politics, and a whole lot of luck. The Post to go up in Ushuaia, Argentina was perhaps the one most in doubt for the longest time, but the one that ended up being the most publicly successful. 

As some of you may know, since the beginning of this project I have wanted to put up a post that would address the ozone hole over Antarctica. Ushuaia, on the island of Tierra del Fuego, is the southernmost city in the world. Referred to as “The End of the World,” it was likely to be the best location to reference that remote continent. So I began networking months in advance, and was met quickly with success - that turned out to lead nowhere. After a little somewhat more desperate searching I found Marcia Alvarado, who was very interested in supporting my project, but unfortunately was to be in Buenos Aires when I would be in Ushuaia. Fortunately, she had numerous connections in Ushuaia, unfortunately, no one seemed quite able to commit to anything, and many of them spoke no English, and my Spanish while good enough for directions and restaurants wasn't quite up to the task. Here, two friends, Tracy Cramer, and Raquel Andersen, came through with some translations. 

However, although I had some tantalizing leads, I had no commitment by the time I was ready to leave. This made things more difficult, as I often ship the post in advance to my contact in other countries. In this case having a contact was critical as Argentina has unusually restrictive shipping regulations. Without such a person, I would have to design an alternative post. Fortunately the project is flexible enough to allow this. So I developed the first aluminum telescoping Crying Post -small enough to fit into a standard size suitcase! 

Marcia had impressed upon me the importance of meeting up with the Secretary of the Tourism for Ushuaia, Daniel Leguizamón. When I called on his office, I was met instead with Mara Uria. This is where luck played a big role. She had recently (2 weeks earlier) been hired on, in part because she spoke fluent English. This, and her immediate enthusiasm for the project, were the reasons for my ultimate success. I only had 4 days in town, so things would have to move quickly. But we couldn't get Daniel and the other important official players (including Adolfo Valentin López, Subsecretary for Planning and Urban Projects) into a meeting all at the same time until the day before I was to leave. Mara made an impassioned presentation on my behalf convincing the others of the value of the project. Nonetheless an official commission meeting would be required. And although they felt that it would be approved, that meeting couldn't occur until after I was to leave. Time for plan B. One of them suggested that a local site under private ownership would be a faster possibility and mentioned a local tourist attraction called “The Train to the End of the World,” which takes tourists on a trip through the extraordinarily beautiful National Park of Tierra del Fuego. 

So after lunch Mara and I drove out to meet with Rubén Diaz, the manager of the company. In discussion with him I learned that the Train was based on a train built by the original non-native population of Ushuaia: prisoners. The story of both the prisoners and the complete genocide of the original native population of Tierra del Fuego would add extra layers to the value of this Crying Post. Once again, owing to the persuasive skills of Mara we had a convert to the project. In yet another setback, we learned that Rubén's brother - his partner in this business - would also need to give approval. Unfortunately, his brother was at that moment flying back to town from Mexico City, and would be unavailable until late in the evening. 

Mara said that she would call me as soon as she heard something, but we absolutely had to have approval by the next morning, as I was to leave town later that day. I awoke the next morning to a message from the her taken late the previous night - success! A drive out to the site, the usual unanticipated technical problems, time for photos and a return to town just in time for my departure. In addition to the location - right at “The Train to the End of the World,” where it will be seen by thousands of tourists and local school children - it is Rubén's intention to replant the post permanently in a concrete pedestal. This location serves as a memorial for a number of issues. However, the Train is one of the positive forces here in Ushuaia. Placing a post here reminds me that in spite of the often depressing information that this project brings to me, there are always people trying to make a positive difference. Given this history, I couldn't be more pleased to have my post here at the Train to the End of the World.
The Ozone Hole and Lessons Not Learned

Every post includes multiple reasons for its placement at a specific location. The ozone hole, while certainly the initial impetus, is by no means the only one.
We are all familiar with the story of the ozone hole over Antarctica. Initially noticed in the mid 1980's there was a significant seasonal loss of ozone in the atmosphere over Antarctica, and it was worse every spring. Although there has been ozone depletion throughout the atmosphere, without going into the chemistry it is exacerbated in very cold climates. Much like global warming (more on that later) the initial reports were met with political resistance world-wide. Unlike global warming, in a relatively short time (after a period of political confusion) there was a decently well organized international response to (slowly) end the use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). However, even the rosiest predictions anticipate that it will not be until late in this century that the damage will mend, and this recovery could be complicated by global warming. But why do we even care? 

Ozone in the upper (stratospheric) atmosphere protects many living organisms on the planet from biologically damaging ultraviolet radiation bathing the earth from the sun. One example of possibly endangered life is oceanic plankton. These tiny plants and animals make up the base of the marine food ecosystem, and additionally suck out a lot of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is ever more important owing to global warming. Their loss would only stress an already struggling planet. Other examples range from the adverse effect of UV on the bacteria necessary for plant growth to the possible increase in cataracts amongst white males. But the issue most important to most of us is that UV radiation is an important cause of several types of skin cancers in animals including human beings. Some of these cancers can be fatal depending on availability and access to treatment. As you would expect, populated areas closest to the Antarctic are on the front lines of skyrocketing cancer rates -as much as a 56% increase. These areas include Southern Chile and Argentina, including Tierra del Fuego (where Ushuaia is located). There is also some evidence of increased cancers in fish.

There are complex and uncertain relationships between ozone depletion and global warming. But lets move on to global warming in general, because even though this is a planetary phenomenon, its effect on Antarctica has been significant. Although the temperature of the continent as a whole has been fairly stable, the Antarctic Peninsula has seen an increase of 2.5° C over the past 50 years. This is noticeably higher than the rest of the world. It has lead to dramatic events such as the break up and loss of up to 60% of the huge Larsen B ice shelf in 2002. Additionally, changes to a delicate ecosystem have been seen. The number of krill, a small shellfish found throughout Antarctic waters, has plummeted in the past decades - in part it is believed because of the loss of sea-ice owing to global warming. Krill is a major source of food for everything from fish to penguins to seals to whales. Additionally, penguins are an important source of food for seals, so the damaging cascade is clear.

As scientists and locals have noted, the extraordinary and beautiful glaciers in Southern South America are receding. These glaciers normally melt into stunning turquoise lakes and rivers that support a wide variety of life - including human beings - in an environment that is otherwise a desert. Like the ice mentioned above, these glaciers are receding at an unprecedented rate. At some point this water source will be gone and there is nothing to replace it.

Antarctica is the fifth largest continent with an area of roughly 14 million kilometers (5.4 million square miles). Most of this area, however, is made up by a vast permanent ice sheet averagin 2,450 meters (8,000 feet in thickness. Only about one percent of the total landmass is visible, as mountains and coastal features. 

The continent is divided into two parts. The largest, semi-circular part is called Greater Antarctica, and much of its edge lies conveniently along the Antarctic Circle in the Atlantic, Indian, and Western Pacific Ocean sectors. The curved tail, which is made up of an expanded land mass at its base known as Lesser Antarctica and a long narrow part named the Antarctic Peninsula, extends some 1,200 kilometers (744 miles) towards the southern tip of South America and is located in the eastern Pacific Ocean sector. 

Greater Antarctica is mostly covered by ice, but in some coastal areas jagged mountains project through this covering. The Antarctic Peninsula, on the other hand, is a long chain of alpine mountains, topped by an ice plateau and sculpted by many active glaciers. Most of the coast actually consists of ice cliffs, but there are some areas, particularly on the Pacific Ocean side, where one encounters exposed rocky shores. 

Taking the ice sheet into account, Antarctica is the highest of the world's continents. There are several vast mountain ranges, mostly covered by ice. 

Between these vast mountain ranges are extensive low-lying plains and basins, which are covered by some of the thickest ice on the continent. . . . The underlying bedrock is almost at sea level. In some areas of Greater Antarctica the bedrock has been depressed well below sea level by the weight of the overriding ice, which can be more than 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) thick. . . . According to some studies, if the ice covering were to be removed completely, Greater Antarctica would rise by approximately 1,000 meters and Lesser Antarctica by 500 meters. At the same time, the water produced by melting ice would raise the level of the Earth's oceans by about 60 meters (200 feet), flooding huge areas of the world. 

 . . . 

Greater Antarctica is basically a giant shield of metamorphic rocks dating from Precambrian and early Paleozoic times, as much as 3,800 million years ago. This basement rock contains more recent intrusions, and is overlain by sedimentary rocks in many areas. … The younger sedimentary rocks… were formed from marine muds, estuarine and fresh water deposits, shales, coal measures, and desert sandstones dating from 400 million to 200 million years ago. … The fossils of freshwater fish, reptiles, and certain kinds of vegetation confirm that this area was once located in a temperate region. 

[Lesser Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula consists of separate mountain ranges that include small] crustal plates that were once probably parts of the large super-continent called Gondwana. . . .[A chain of islands stretches from the peninsula to the South American continental shelf. This area] has a long history of volcanic activity and earth movements. . . . 

Fossils found in the Antarctic Peninsula, southern South America, Tasmania and other areas provide evidence of continental drift, and reveal how all these regions may have been joined together in the past . . . . Fossilized pollen grains have been found from trees similar to the southern beech (which is found today in Tierra del Fuego and Tasmania). . . . 

[Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and driest continent.] Antarctica actually creates its own wind systems. . . . By definition, most of the continent is a desert. There is very little precipitation each year in the interior, and the vast amount of ice and snow which make up the polar ice sheet has accumulated over millions of years.

Antarctica: The Reader/ Nigel Sitwell and Tom Ritchie
Post Place

S 54º 46' 67'' 
W 68º 20' 33'' 
Elev. 14 m (46') 

As regular followers of The Crying Post Project will recall, in addition to marking environmental events, the posts often reference cultural history as well. Ushuaia, has an interesting past. It was originally created in 1884 as a prison and penal colony. (As a coincidental side note, the original jailers came from Galicia, Spain, the site of an earlier Post.) Life at the end of the world was difficult for the non-incarcerated, and was often hellish for those imprisoned. Escape was practically a non-issue as the environment was so cold, and the location so remote that escapees would die or gladly allow recapture. In the early years the selection of prisoners was somewhat haphazard - everything from murderers to street children. The prison was so feared that some men preferred suicide. Even the boat trip to Ushuaia for prisoners was described as torture. Treatment varied according to time period, politics, and the whims and personalities of prison directors. But punishment, as you might expect, was often brutal and fatal, interspersed with periods of more enlightened treatment. In the early part of the 20th Century some numbers of political prisoners were also sent to Ushuaia. Although they were generally treated much better than regular inmates, it was still an ongoing travesty of the justice system - a long, difficult trip to a remote and inhospitable location, only to be returned after an election. The prison was finally closed in 1947. 

In the beginning of the 20th C. the incarcerated built a rail system in order to retrieve materials to build their own prison. Later on the train was used to take convicts to the forest in order to cut wood for heating and cooking. The system fell into disuse after the prison was closed, and was rescued and reconfigured in 1994 to become a ride for visitors to see the beautiful National Park just outside of the city. The park is one small attempt at redress, in contrast to the many environmental tragedies of Tierra del Fuego. The island is so beautiful, and it contains so many unique life forms. To their credit, the owners of The Train to the End of the World, write that their train “has several benefits, firstly it protects the environment as the pollution caused by the train is considerably less than any other type of transport. Secondly, it allows a large number of people to be carried through small areas, which must be preserved from over-use by walkers, such as a national park.” They even created an environmental impact report in advance of construction. 

(1. Source of information: The Prison of Ushuaia/ Carlos Pedro Vairo.) 

(2. Source of information: The Train At The End Of The World, The Legend That Was Not Allowed To Die/ Luis Garibotti

Beavers and Genocide

As often the case, I have learned that his post is not just about Antarctica, as initially thought. In addition to these large global events, Tierra del Fuego hasn't been spared from smaller, but often more devastating events common to island ecosystems the world over. As photojournalist Kevin Moloney writes in his excellent website ( Tierra del Fuego suffers from the misguided attempt to create a fur industry with the 1946 importation of 50 Canadian beavers. “Free of bears and wolves that check their numbers in North America, an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 beavers now inhabit the Argentine half of the main island of Tierra del Fuego. Tens of thousands more cruise the waterways of the Chilean side. The rodents have eagerly inhabited 90 percent of the island's river systems, damaging trout spawning creeks, river drainages, water quality and the habitats along the edge of Tierra del Fuego's once clear mountain streams. They have swum the icy shipping lanes of the Beagle Channel to arrive on Navarino and Hoste islands, if not others in the archipelago. A 1980 Chilean census of the animals on Navarino island found 15,000 beavers — a number that could have doubled in the intervening 20 years, say researchers. All that separates the beaver from invading the mainland of South America is the Strait of Magellan. Fearful eyes of Chile and Argentina watch from the other side, hopeful that they won't succeed. A spread of the industrious rodents up the Andean range would spell equal disaster for river systems there.” Many other exotic animals were introduced with less damaging, but by no means, inconsequential, negative effects.

It should come as no surprise that like forests everywhere, those on the island are being severely overharvested with all the ill effects one would anticipate. As expected, the profits go to support huge multi-national corporations with local people seeing very little benefit. 

As documented by Moloney and others, the plight of the original indigenous inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego was not unlike that at other Post sites: disease, environmental change, forced migration, forced religious conversion, outright murder - the usual litany. The difference here is the fact that except for possibly one or two people, all of them were killed directly or indirectly by the incursion of Euro-Americans within a couple hundred years. The close relationship between cultural destruction and environmental destruction is a common theme throughout the literature and this project.
Degree of Estrangement

The western colonial map is an abstraction that tends to extinguish other dimensions of reality in an act of violent appropriation. The degree of estrangement from the physical landscape may have been unique. The colonial grid has been implicated in a history of environmental despoliation perhaps never before seen on the same scale: or, more to the point, never conducted as an act of principle founded on the assumption that human improvement was based essentially on its opposition to the world of nature.

Mapping Reality/ Geoff King
The Tree of Life
In his theory of natural selection, Charles Darwin (1809-82) laid down the basis of modern theories of the evolution of species. There is a famous analogy in The Origin of the Species in which Darwin compares living creatures to a great tree which he calls the Tree of Life. The green and budding twigs represent the existing species and the old wood represents fossils. As the tree grows, the living twigs branch out on all sides. Successful branches shade and kill the surrounding weaker offshoots, just as successful species and groups of species have overcome their competitors. Most of the young twigs drop off, although some remain as thin and straggly branches, representing the threatened species. A few twigs become great branches, and a small number become major limbs, which support a dense foliage of new twigs and leaves at the top of the tree. 

According to Darwin, "As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the Earth and covers the surface with its everbranching and beautiful ramifications."

The Sacred Earth/ Brian Leigh Molyneaux
Tragedy and Darwin

It sounds like the plot to a particularly misguided TV makeover show, but when a British sea captain brought four South American Indians back to Britain, and enrolled them in school, his plan was to help spread civilisation across a "dark continent". 

. . . 

When the Beagle set sail from Plymouth for the south Atlantic in 1831, with Darwin in the charge of Captain Robert Fitzroy, it was also taking three young Patagonian Indians home after a bizarre social experiment. 

His charges - two of them still children - had spent the previous 15 months living on the outskirts of London, where they had been the subjects of what, viewed through modern eyes, seems like an astonishing act of imperialism. 

The trip back to the southern hemisphere was also a return journey for Fitzroy, who had originally been sent there, in charge of the Beagle, to survey this remote part of the globe for the British government. 

On that initial journey Fitzroy had taken four local "savages" from the southernmost tip of the continent, known as Tierra del Fuego, as retribution for the stealing of one of his whaling boats. 

As hostile as the captain's conduct may seem, his motives were largely 19th Century benevolence: Fitzroy planned to ferry his four captives back to Britain and school them in the ways of Christianity and gentility. He then planned to return them to their homeland in the belief they would spread their newly instilled values through this "dark continent". 

The four were an incongruous bunch, spanning in age range from nine to 26, with an equally motley collection of names given them by Fitzroy. 

Fuegia Basket, the youngest and the only female, was named after "Basket Island"; 

Jemmy Button, aged about 14, took his name from the pearl button he was exchanged for; 

Boat Memory, who was about 20; and 

York Minster, who was named after a hill that had been likened in shape to the ancient city's cathedral. 

The experiment started badly. Boat Memory died of smallpox shortly after the Beagle docked in Plymouth. Fitzroy took the other three to London and enrolled them in the first Church of England primary school, located in Walthamstow, today a suburb but then a village to the north east of the capital. 

[After some time, things started to go badly for the three survivors, becoming potentially embarrassing for Captain Fitzroy. He decided to return them to Tierra del Fuego, but was looking for someone interesting to share the long boat ride with, preferably a naturalist.] 

Up stepped Charles Darwin, then a trainee pastor, and, like most others at the time, a firm believer in the biblical account of the Creation. 

The repatriation of the Patagonians was every bit as disappointing as the experiment to Fitzroy. They had been packed off with a haul of presents from British well-wishers - wine glasses, tea trays, butter dishes - all of which were useless in their home environment. 

 . . . 

When Fitzroy returned a year later to catch up, having traipsed around the south Atlantic with Darwin, he found Jemmy Button had simply gone back to his old way of life. 

"Fitzroy had to face the fact his experiment had been a total disaster because they had reverted to savaging; their civilisation had been a gloss. It plunged him into a deep depression," says [Peter Nichols, author of Evolution's Captain, which examines the relationship between Fitzroy and Darwin]. 

Reports that filtered back to Britain many years later would have depressed him even further. Fuegia Basket had become a prostitute "turning tricks on the beach" for British sailors and Jemmy Button stood trial for hijacking a ship of British missionaries, who were all slaughtered. 

Yet, as Mr Nichols points out, without the experiment Darwin might never have set out on what turned out to be the momentous voyage through which he forged his theory of natural selection.

BBC News Magazine/ Jonathan Duffy and Megan Lane,
The Legend of the Magellan Barberry (Calafate)

The Antarctic beech (ņire), high deciduous beech (lenga) and evergreen beech (coihue) forests begin to develop a characteristic shade, announcing the autumn and providing trees with a multicolor range, from intense red to shades that go from golden to orange. This transformation has repeated itself year after year, since immemorial times. 

This landscape was inhabited by the Tehuelches, the native landowners. When winter came, they began to emigrate on foot, northwards, where the cold was not so intense and hunting never failed. 

In connection with these migrations, the Patagonian tradition tells this legend. It is said that once, Koonex, the old curandero of a Tehuelches tribe, could not walk any more; her old and tired legs were exhausted, but the walk could not be stopped. Koonex understood the natural law of fulfilling destiny. The women of the tribe made a hut of guanaco fur, gathered enough logs and food for the old woman and left her; they parted singing a family song. 

On her way back home, Koonex set her tired eyes in the distance, until the people of her tribe were lost behind the edge of a plateau. She was left alone, to die. Every living creature went away. She began to feel the silence with a heavy and enveloping drowsiness. 

The multicolored sky began to extinguish slowly. Many suns and moons went by until spring came. Then buds grew, swallows arrived ... and so did plovers, merry reddish-collared sparrows and garrulous parrots. Life was coming back


Singing merrily, a flock of little birds alighted on Koonex's hut. 

Suddenly, the voice of the old curandero could be heard from inside the hut: she was reprimanding the birds for having left her alone during the long and harsh winter. 

After such a surprise, a little sparrow answered her: "we flew away because in autumn food is scarce; besides, during winter there is no place where we can find shelter." "I understand you," answered Koonex, "that is why, from now onwards, you will have food in autumn and good shelter in winter; I shall never be left alone." Then the old woman was silent. 

When, suddenly, a gust of wind turned over the leathers of the hut, instead of Koonex, there was a beautiful thorny bush of perfumed yellow flowers. By the mid summer, the delicate flowers turned into fruits and, before the autumn, they began to ripen and acquired a purplish blue color, an exquisite flavor and a high nutritious value. 

Since then, some birds no longer emigrate, and those that had already left, when they heard the news, came back to try the new fruit and fell in love with it. 

The Tehuelches also tried it, and adopted it forever. They spread the seeds all over the region, and since then, "he who eats Calafate, always returns."


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