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January 30, 2015

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Last Name. What is your Favorite Book or Author? Where do you want to travel to? Yes, I would like to receive emails from Literary Traveler. You can unsubscribe anytime. Now that virtually every inch of the planet has been charted and tamed, some part of our collective psyche has become bored. By the score, people are paying top dollar to go to places that still bear the cachet of being wild and inaccessible: the Sahara, say, or the Amazonor Tierra del Fuego.

A more comfortable route to the age of exploration is by reading the classic Uttermost Part of the Earth : E. First published in , Uttermost records an era when a few people still lived as pioneers not to escape urban ennui but out of necessity.

The Uttermost Place in the World

The modest author has no significance outside his context. Lucas Bridges was born in , the third child of the Rev. Thomas Bridges, who, just a few years earlier, had founded Ushuaia as a mission station. As I read Uttermost , my mind kept returning to my own visit to Tierra del Fuego last year. From my hotel, I take a street that leads to the shore.

Today, it is a pizzeria.

Reaching “The Uttermost Place” on Earth

In exquisite detail, Bridges describes the advance of civilization, and its discontents. The eastern and northeastern slums of Ushuaia were made up of wigwams. There is a vast shanty town; blue smoke curls up from cinder block shacks and dark indian faces peer out of makeshift windows. But who are they? They cannot be Yahgans. A large pre-fabricated house was imported from England and erected on the shore of a sheltered harbor selected by the Yahgans. It is the first sign of civilization since leaving Ushuaia.

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Miraculously, carved out of the windswept banks is a little piece of Devonshire. There is a large, white farmhouse with green shutters, neat garden, and white picket fence; beyond that, a shearing station and supply houses. Thomas Bridges spent his remaining years at Harberton. Years later, the economics of sheep shearing turned against Fireland. A small confitera for day-trippers has been added at the back of the house.

I take a cup of tea from the serving table and give my money to a tall weather-beaten man in dungarees and flannel shirt. Bridges, manning the till. Besides, the next customer is waiting to pay.

Uttermost Part of the Earth, E. Lucas Bridges, Tierra del Fuego' | Literary Traveler

The isolation of Tierra del Fuego, both terrible and sublime, is constantly in the background of Uttermost. The closest contact with civilization was the Malvinas chain, miles away and itself only a transit point to Britain. Such ordinary goods as chocolate, coffee, and rifles, became priceless treasures. Tierra del Fuego is a harsh place for the literary-minded.