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Diving in the Beagle Channel
Ushuaia, Argentina - City at the End of the World

Expedition Log: 2005

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Map of Ushuaia
Satellite Image of Ushuaia
Antarctic Circle - Travel Map (click for a larger view)

Ushuaia, a small city at the southern tip of Argentina is often referred to as The City at the End of the World because of its extreme southern location. This city stands in a sheltered bay on Isla Grande de Teirra del Fuego, which actually forms the north shore of the famous Beagle Channel. In the 1980s, this city became the administrative capital of the Province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands. In 1982, it also attracted the Centro Austral de Investigaciones Cientificas (CADIC). This is a scientific organization specializing in anthropological and biological research in the region.

Between these activities and the expansion of its airfield to accommodate larger plans, Ushuaia has captured the increasing tourist traffic for Antarctica. Many of the Antarctica travelers depart from this city and, while generally overlooked as only a “pit stop” on the way south, Ushuaia does offer some tourist activities, including excursions to the nearby islands in the Beagle Channel for bird watching. Some 200 species of seabirds breed in these areas, along with summer migrants from North America who journey south for the summer. The weather in Ushuaia is unpredictable and unreliable. A mild day can turn atrocious quickly with sudden wind and rain squalls, so hikers who venture out into the parks nearby should be warned and prepared at all times.

Many divers stop at Ushuaia before heading down to Antarctica. Why not start your adventure by exploring the clear waters of the Beagle Channel at the End of the World (well, very close to it...). The diving here is beautiful, but can be very cold! Divers will be able to swim through forests of giant kelp, visit amazing shipwrecks, dive with jellyfish, king crabs, and discover many varieties of tiny colorful creatures.

The best and safest dive locations will always be chosen by the Captain based on the current weather and seas conditions. Since the winds are usually less frequent in winter, the water is calmer and clearer, but of cause colder! In summer, when water temperatures rise, plankton growth increase which lowers visibility. Water temperature in winter is about 2-4ºC (36-40ºF). In summer, it can easily reach 8-10ºC (46-50ºF). Drysuits are definitely recommended. If you need equipment, Ushuaia Divers can provide anything you need.

Most of dive sites are close to Ushuaia, and can be reached by car or boat. Diving trips typically consist of two tank dives with a surface interval of about 30-45 minutes (depending on your diving schedule), where divers get a chance to warm up while the boat moves to the second dive site. Usually, the Captain will try to visit Isla de los Lobos, and during the interval, move to Puerto Karelo, in the Bridges Islands, where the AFASyN (Tierra del Fuego Association of Underwater and Nautical Activities) has constructed a shelter. There, you will have some lunch and make the second dive.

Boat departs at around 9 AM and returns at around 2 PM.

If necessary, divers are able to make a shallow shore dive, to check buoyancy and adjust weight. Also, for divers that seldom or never have done drysuit diving, this is a great opportunity to learn or to refresh those forgotten skills. Below there is a list of some diving sites.


Our Dive in the Beagle Channel

Tuesday, 15 February 2005
Scuba Diving in the Beagle Channel
08:35 pm (2035 hours)

Today, we spend our free day Scuba Diving in the Beagle Channel with Carlos and Patricio from Ushuaia Divers, our guides. Carlos the boat captain, a retired Argentine fight pilot was warm and friendly and made us feel very welcome. Their 28 foot twin engine dive boat can comfortably accommodate two crew members and 5-6 guests. We were fortunate to have the entire boat to our selves during our trip. The forward cabin was large enough to store all our clothes and other equipment we wanted to keep dry. The boat is also equipped with a toilet, kitchen, and a room with a shower at the stern. During our stay, we were able to enjoy fresh coffee, tea and biscuits.

Our first dive was in a dense Kelp forest along a drop-off near "East Point" of Bayo Casco. We dove to 49 feet (15m) for 40 minutes. The water was fairly clear, 30 foot (9m) visibility, with lots of invertebrate life: King Crabs, Arrow Crabs, Decorator Crabs, small Crayfish-looking creatures and lots of starfish. There were many small fish in the Kelp, which is quite thick. During our dive we both decided to shoot wide angle using Nikonos V cameras with 15mm lenses. Although we took some great pictures, this would of been a great macro dive as well!!

During our surface interval between dives, the weather turned real nasty in only a few minutes. The wind kicked up tremendously, creating an instant 2 foot (.6m) chop in the channel. The second dive was more or less in the same location as the first, but here we stayed shallower than 40 feet and explored the remains of a small sunken sailboat which sank about 20 years ago. Unfortunately the wreck was totally covered in kelp and encrustations. Because of the thick over growth, it was very hard to distinguish the wreckage from the surrounding rocks.

As we surfaced to conclude our dive at the end of the world, we were greeted with a heavy surface current which made getting back to the boat a little difficult. Because the boat was anchored from shore, it pivoted like a clock pendulum in the fast moving current. After grabbing the draft line we slowly made our way to the stern and was soon onboard sipping hot coffee and eating fresh biscuits.

These were, if nothing else, good shakeout dives before we leave for Antarctica the following afternoon.

Warning: To all divers and underwater photographers, make sure to buy your "C" cell batteries before getting to Ushuaia. We found out that we forget to pack spare batteries for our underwater lights and tried to by them in town. Well, after about 2 hours of walking around town trying to describe to the local store owners of over a dozen stores what are "C" cell batteries, only to be told that they do not carry this type of battery. We finally found one store which had only four packs of batteries. This small store was directly across the street from the taxi service building in front of the main port entrance to the shipping dock.

This was our experience during our February 2005 visit, hopefully this has changed...


Available Dive Sites

Site Descriptions
Photo Gallery

Beagle Channel Dive Sites
Map Courtesy of Ushuaia Divers

ISLA DE LOS LOBOS (Sea lions island)
ISLAS BRIDGES (Bridges islands)
PUERTO CUCHARITA (Little Spoon harbor)
ISLA REDONDA (Round island)
ISLA ESTORBO (Hindrance island)

Shipwrecks - Many shipwrecks can be found around the Big Island of Tierra del Fuego. Storms, strong winds and currents have littered this area with ship remains. Unfortunately, the same conditions that wrecked these ships are the same reasons that make diving them sometimes impossible. However, there are a few shipwrecks where diving is permitted, and the memories of diving them can be unforgettable.


Dive Operators

Ushuaia Divers (Carlos Giuggia) - English Española (Spanish)
Telephone: 54 02901 444701, 54 02901 15619782, 54 02901 15512921
Address: L.N.Alem 4509, Ushuaia (c.p. 9410), Tierra del Fuego, Argentina


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Last Modified: December 21, 2009

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