Patagonia’s most historic estancia, Estancia Harberton is an ordered assortment of whitewashed buildings on the shores of a sheltered bay. Though Harberton is assuredly scenic, it’s the historical resonance of the place that fleshes out a visit: this farmstead – or more particularly the family who settled here – played a role out of all proportion to its size in the region’s history. It was built by Reverend Thomas Bridges, the man who authored one of the two seminal Fuegian texts, the Yámana–English Dictionary, and was the inspiration for the other, Lucas Bridges’ classic, Uttermost Part of the Earth. Apart from being a place where scientists and shipwrecked sailors were assured assistance, Harberton developed into a sanctuary of refuge for groups of Yámana and Mannekenk.
Today the estancia is owned by Tommy Goodall, a great-grandson of Thomas Bridges, and is open to guided tours that take in the copse on the hill, where you learn about the island’s plant life, authentic reconstructions of Yámana dwellings, the family cemetery and the old shearing shed. Housed in a building at the entrance to the farmstead is an impressive marine-mammal museum, Museo Acatushún, which displays the remains of all the main families of such animals – whales, dolphins, seals and the like – found in the surrounding waters.