Page 151. " the Whites came with a new guanaco, the sheep "
Sheep in Argentina
Public DomainSheep in Argentina - Credit: Daniel Sapag

Sheep weren't introduced to Patagonia until the 1860s, when they were brought over from the Falkland Islands by the English wool barons. They took to the landscape with vigour, but their success has also been their downfall. They decimated the vegetation, turning much of the landscape into desert, and their numbers fell from a peak of around 7.5 million before World War II to approximately 2 million in the 1990s. The number of ranches also declined rapidly, but sheep are staging a comeback and there remain around ten sheep to every human.

Page 151. " Julius Popper "

Julius Popper was a controversial figure who built a personal empire and private army on Tierra del Fuego in the late 1880s after he found gold on El Páramo beach. Originally from Romania he issued his own currency and stamps, but was reviled by the indigenous Indians for his acts of genocide against them.

Page 151. " He was one of Kitchener's sergeants at Omdurman "

British General Sir Herbert Kitchener led a battalion up the Nile, alongside the Egyptian Army, and defeated the Sudanese at Omdurman in 1898.

Omdurman, a village at the time, is now a suburb of Khartoum.

Page 157. " the settlement graduated from Naval base to convict station "
The prison at the end of the world
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe prison at the end of the world - Credit: Luis Argerich

The building of Ushuaia prison was central to the development of the town and settlement of the area. The Argentines treated it much as the British had treated Port Arthur in Van Diemen's Land, putting convicts to work constucting the town and railway in a landscape they had no hope of ever escaping.

Ushuaia today
GNU Free Documentation LicenseUshuaia today - Credit: Jerzy Strzelecki

Page 161. " Dresden had eluded the British Navy "

SMS Dresden was a light cruiser in the German Navy that managed to escape the Allied Forces at the Battle of the Falkland Islands during World War I. She had been successfully dodging the British Navy for some time when they cornered her in Cumberland Bay at Más a Tierra in 1915; they opened fire and the Dresden was abandoned minutes before she exploded and sank.

A similar naval hide-and-seek story occurred the same year in Tanganyika (now Tanzania).  The German SMS Königsberg, which like the Dresden had been successfully drawing British forces away from the main theatre of war, took refuge in the Rufiji Delta while essential repairs were carried out.  The Royal Navy tracked her down and blockaded the cruiser before finally sinking her.  The episode inspired Wilbur Smith's novel Shout at the Devil.

Page 162. " the Kronstadt Massacre "

The massacre took place on the Russian naval fortress of Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland in 1921. Part of the general left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks, it resulted in the execution of an estimated 2,100 rebels and many more in Petrograd Prison where the survivors were sent for internment.


Page 164. " the crew called him Jemmy Button "

Chatwin tells his own version of the Jemmy Button story, but there are many more, both factual and fictional, that have contributed to his fame.  


Page 168. " Marshal von Moltke "

Helmuth von Moltke was Chief-of-Staff of the Prussian Army from 1857 to 1887.

A leading strategist, he modernised the Prussian Army with new equipment and tactics that proved highly effective against Austria and Bavaria in 1866 and against France in 1870.