Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the south of South America, separated from the mainland by the Magellan Strait. The 73,753 km² archipelago was divided between Argentina
in 1881. The eastern part belongs to Argentina (the Territory of Tierra del Fuego) and its main towns are Rio Grande and Ushuaia. The western part belongs to Chile (Magallanes province) and its main towns are Porvenir and Puerto Williams. Cape Horn is at the southernmost part of the archipelago, in Chilean land.
"Tierra del Fuego" (Spanish: "Land of Fire") got its name from Ferdinand Magellan who, on passing the archipelago in 1520, spotted a number of fires burning along the coastline. These fires may have been made by the archipelago's aboriginal inhabitants: the Ona, Alakaluf and Yahgan (commonly called Yamana). Four aboriginals were taken from Tierra del Fuego in 1830 by Robert Fitzroy, and were sailed to Britain to meet the King. The three survivors later returned to Tierra del Fuego on the Beagle, with Charles Darwin, who believed the native Fuegans to be "the missing link".
The arrival of missionaries, introduction of sheep farming and the discovery of gold in the 1880s led to European, Argentine, and Chilean immigrants, which gradually killed off the native Fuegans. An excellent book on the history of the Yamana and their demise is The Uttermost Part of the Earth by E. Lucas Bridges, the son of one of the early missionaries. His father, Thomas Bridges, documented what he could of the Yamana language and found that it had a larger vocabulary than the English language.
Today, the economy is based on petroleum, tourism, textiles, electronics and, to a decreasing degree, sheep-farming.
The western parts of the archipelago form the southernmost tip of the Andes range. The eastern parts are an extension of the Patagonian plateau. Based in the south of Patagonia, the climate is cold but warmer than many assume; in winter, the average temperature is -2 Celsius (28 Fahrenheit). In summer, it can climb to 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), although in reality it rarely rises far beyond 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit). There are frequent high winds and much rainfall, especially in the coastal areas.