1918: Construction Begins on the Lighthouse (Almost) at the End of the World

December 19, 1918

Construction began on a lighthouse within the region of Tierra del Fuego that is part of Argentina. Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse was specifically built on an islet in the Beagle Channel as a navigational aid for vessels sailing to and from Ushuaia, which is one of the world’s southernmost cities. The islet where the lighthouse stands is part of a group collectively known as the Les Eclaireurs islands. (“Les Eclaireurs” is the French phrase for “The Scouts”; this name was given to those islets by French Navy Captain Louis-Ferdinand Martial when he led a scientific mission in the area during the 1880s.)

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse was completed in 1919 and it began operations the following year. This conical brick tower has remained in service ever since, so far withstanding the powerful waves and winds that often batter against it. Measuring 36 feet (11 meters) in height, the lighthouse is mostly painted red and white and topped with a black gallery (open platform) and lantern room. The structure is remotely controlled, with an automatic light emitting white flashes at intervals of 10 seconds and with a range of 7.5 nautical miles (13.9 kilometers). Electricity for the lighthouse is provided by solar panels. Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is not open to the public, and the only regular inhabitants on the islet where it is situated are cormorants (a type of aquatic bird) and sea lions.

The aesthetic appeal and exotic surroundings of the human-free Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, however, has guaranteed that it is rarely if ever overlooked by people visiting the area. The lighthouse has become a popular attraction, and numerous tourists have made the effort over the years to see it up close. “While navigating the Beagle Channel on the way to Cape Horn, I was impressed by the stark beauty of Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse,” noted one of these tourists in an article that he wrote for the Baltimore Sun in 2005.  That “stark beauty” has helped make Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse one of the most photographed lighthouses across the globe.

Another one of Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse’s major claims to fame, though, is rooted in folklore rather than fact. The structure is commonly known throughout Argentina and elsewhere as the Lighthouse at the End of the World (Faro del fin del Mundo) due to the mistaken belief that it was renowned novelist Jules Verne’s inspiration for the lighthouse featured in his posthumously published book The Lighthouse at the End of the World. Verne actually based the lighthouse in his work on the San Juan de Salvamento lighthouse, which was built on the remote island Isla de los Estados in the easternmost point of Argentina’s portion of Tierra del Fuego. This lighthouse remained in service only between 1884 and 1900.

For more information on Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, please check out  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Eclaireurs_Lighthouse.

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