THE GEOGRAPHIC SPACE
The Magallanes and Antartica Chilena Region occupies the extreme south of the continental Chilean territory and the proportion of the Chilean Antarctic Territory which turns it into the more extensive of the country, even taking only in consideration the American proportion.
The American territory of Magallanes comprises the southern part of Patagonia and the western section of Tierra del Fuego Island and the south and west adjacent archipelagoes.
The central part of the region coincide with parallel 53 degrees south, covering from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, marking the widest part of the national territory (500 kms.) The Magellan Strait forms a penetration to the east that opens to the Atlantic in its eastern mouth, circumstance that gives the region a unique feature: to be open to the Atlantic community.
The region's surface is 1,382,033 sq. kilometers, with 1,250,000 sq. km. in its Antarctic Territory share and 132,033 sq. km. of continental American territory. The region's population reaches 151,869 inhabitants (2002 census).
The Andes Mountain Range, known in the region as Patagonian Andes, is the characteristic of the relief; it extends to 52 degrees south. At this level is interrupted by Smith Channel, reappearing at Brunswick peninsula and continues at Tierra del Fuego where is named Darwin Mountain Range.
Some of the most outstanding summits of Patagonian Andes are: Lautaro volcano (3,380 mts.); Murallon (3,600 mts.), the highest of the region; Cerro Ladrillero (1,665 mts.); Mount Sarmiento (2,234 mts.) and Mount Darwin (2,328 mts.). Besides these elevations, stands out the known group of Paine, impressive rocky massif whose summit reaches 3,050 meters.
Part of the Patagonian Andean relief is occupied by several ice fields. Among them stands out South Ice Field, that goes beyond 300 km. south of Baker river, giving place to a landscape of incomparable beauty with a mix of fiords, lakes and mountain summits.
West and southwest of the Andean mountain range spreads a vast area of archipelagoes, formed by islands of several sizes, rocky mounts that form a geographic labyrinth, counted among the lengthiest and beautiful of Earth. Among the principal islands are, from north to south, Wellington, Madre de Dios, Tierra del Fuego and Reina Adelaida archipelago.
The most important channels are those going from north to south, generally parallel to the direction of Patagonian mountain chain: Messier, Wide, Concepcion, Smith and Beagle channels. Also, the Magellan Strait is an important seaway. Another kind of relief in Magallanes are steppes or Patagonian pampas. They are vast and flat lands, covered with pasture, what makes them a typical cattle raising area.
All of Magallanes Region has been affected one way or the other by glacial phenomena, at least from the great Pleistocene glaciating, whose maximum development happened approximately a million years ago. Since then, although in intermittent form, advances and backward movements, more marked from the last 15,000 years, went progressively giving form to the present landscape, until the ice retired to its present position, throughout the Patagonian and Tierra del Fuego Andes.
The region's hydrography has a particularity that makes it different with that of the rest of the country, the presence of ice fields and glaciers that have prevented the formation of important water courses, so there are not great rivers. According to the place where they pour their waters, they can be classified in two types: rivers that flow into inner waters of our country and those that do it in the Atlantic Ocean (passing by Argentinean territory).
Between the first ones are Serrano, Hollemberg, Perez, Pinto and La Caleta rivers. San Juan and Chabunco rivers stand out, which flow from Brunswick peninsula into the Strait of Magellan.
The rivers that flow their waters into the Atlantic Ocean, across Argentinean land, are long and slow, such as Rio Grande, in Tierra del Fuego, and Penitente in the Province of Magallanes.