This map plots the settings and references in In Patagonia

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Santa Cruz Province
Santa Cruz Province
GNU Free Documentation LicenseSanta Cruz Province - Credit: Dbenbenn

Santa Cruz Province covers central Patagonia, and once again Chatwin zig-zags from west to east and south to north.

In the west, at Perito Moreno, he goes in search of the unicorn and the Enchanted City of the Caesars; in the east he stops off at Puerto Deseado (Port Desire) where Darwin landed; in the south he uses the 'boring' town of Rio Gallegos as a base to explore the Anarchist Rebellion of Antonio Soto; and in the north at San Julián he tells the story of the Patagonian Giants.

Perito Moreno
GNU Free Documentation LicensePerito Moreno - Credit: Christof Berger

The town of Perito Moreno in the west is an unremarkable settlement, but to its south lies the magnificent glacier of the same name. Part of the Los Glaciares National Park, it is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that are not retreating, and one of the wildest parts of Argentina. A huge tourist attraction, much of the park has been allocated to scientific study and is out-of-bounds to the wider public. 

South-east of Perito Moreno town lies the Cueva de los Manos (Cave of the Hands) where the imprints of thousands of hands, along with petroglyphs and paintings of guanacos and hunters, were left on the rock face 8,000 years ago. 

Cuevas de las Manos
GNU Free Documentation LicenseCuevas de las Manos - Credit: Christof Berger

Puerto Deseado on the Atlantic coast is a fishing port of around 15,000 inhabitants. It was discovered by Thomas Cavendish in 1586, although Magellan had rested there 66 years earlier. It was claimed for Great Britain in 1670. But there were rival claims by the Spanish who used it for a short time as a whaling station. Its most significant visitor was Charles Darwin, who arrived in HMS Beagle on 23 December 1833. It remains an important fishing port, and attracts tourists who come for the wildlife (dolphins, sea-lions, penguins, cormorants, seals, guanacos) in its many nature reserves.

Patagonian Fur Seals
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePatagonian Fur Seals - Credit: Mirko Thiessen

Darwin also made significant discoveries at San Julián, 220km south of Puerto Deseado, where he found bones of the Macrauchenia. In the early 20th century it was an important centre for sheep-raising and the location of a freezer plant complex.  Today it is home to approximately 6,000 inhabitants and barely rates a mention in the guidebooks.

Sheep-farming was essential to the economy and growth of Río Gallegos, another 360km further south. The Argentine government boosted its growth in the early 20th century by encouraging settlers from the Falklands and Chile, and it has a population today of around 80,000. It is an important naval base, and home to the Pioneers Museum, which tells the story of the early settlers.