Nearly 500 years ago, a group of explorers from the Old World approached the coast of an unknown land for the first time,fires and columns of smoke from the natives seemed to float upon the waters: this mystical setting probably gave the island its name, Land of Fire. In 1520, Magellan first passed through the strait that now bears his name, in search of a passage to the Spice Islands of Asia. He comments on the strong westerly winds, dangerous currents, violent seas and fire on the seashores. The Selk'nam, Haush, Yagan and Alacalufes peoples who populated the area were hunters and gatherers. The Selk'nam, also known as Ona, and Haush lived mainly on hunting the guanaco and dressing in its skin, while Yagan and alacalufes, known collectively as the "canoe Indians" lived on fish, shellfish and marine mammals. The Yagan (also known as Yamana) consumed fungus called "Indian bread" that feeds on ñire, a species of southern beech. Despite the bad weather that often occurs, they wore little clothing, but were kept warm by the constant fires. European sailors called the place "Tierra del Fuego" (Land of Fire) because there were Yagan campfires all along the coast. Captain Robert Fitzroy of the Beagle kidnapped a few Yagan, took them back to England for a religious education and returned them after several years. Darwin, who visited the area in 1834, wrote that the difference between the people of Tierra del Fuego and Europeans was greater than that between wild and domestic animals. He referred to them as "the most abject and miserable creatures I've ever seen". The Chilean presence in the Strait of Magellan started in 1843. In 1978, Chile and Argentina almost went to war because of the claims of three small disputed islands in the Beagle Channel. The problems of the international border in the area were resolved with the assistance of Pope John Paul the II. What once was a remote and inhospitable place today attracts thousands of people from all over the world due to its almost untouched ecosystem that works in such severe conditions and its enchanting unique scenery

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