Why is Tierra del Fuego called Fireland?

When the first Europeans came sailing around these islands, they noticed fires everywhere. We saw one forest fire, and evidence of former fires, but that did not seem enough for a land to be called Fireland. There are no volcanos, there are not even hotsprings….So what is going on?

The first tribes of people of Tierra del Fuego and the adjacent archipelago lived by hunting and fishing. Especially around the coast, people fished and gathered shellfish. Being constantly exposed to the water, they protected themselves against the elements (think almost constantly strong winds, close to freezing waters, rain and snow) by covering themselves with animal fat instead of clothing-which would constantly be wet. For warmth, they always carried fire around, wherever they want, even on their canoes. And just like the North American indians, they used smoke signals to communicate. So it makes sense that, when one or more of them saw these strange looking vessels along their coast, they spread the word all along that coast with lots of smoke signals….and where there is smoke, there is fire – on Fireland, or Tierra del Fuego. So the word goes.

Would you like to learn more about Tierra del Fuego and it’s original people, who have been eliminated, but by now revered? I am reading an interesting book called Uttermost Part of the Earth by Lucas Bridges, who was the son of the first Brit who set foot on and settled at the place they now call Ushuaia, and later started a farm called Harberton. Though seen through the eyes of a missionary’s son, the book has interesting insight about the life, customs and beliefs of the people he grew up with.

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