Ushuaia and the Ends of the Earth

Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego (“Land of Fire”) in Argentina, is the southernmost city in the world. Almost 60,000 people live there, which is more than live in my own city. My friend has been there, and he says it’s a nice little place. There’s a cool lighthouse, apparently.

The southernmost city in the world. Places like that – extreme places, remote places – fascinate me for some reason. I love to look at maps, pick out the spots far beyond the rest of civilization (like Svalbard, with its Doomsday Seed Vault) or the tiny specks of land all alone in the Pacific, and imagine what it would be like to go there, to live there.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to such a place, but I have to think I’d be disappointed. Ushuaia seems like a nice town, bit of a tourist trap, but I’m sure it would turn out to be much like other small cities. Svalbard, I’m picturing lots of snow and not a lot else. It’s more the idea of it, y’know?

The fascination isn’t limited to land: the Abyss region of the ocean holds a similar appeal for me. It isn’t limited to the Earth, either: I’m in love with Voyager 1, the most distant man-made object in the universe at 16 light-hours away. (Did you know Voyager 2 has a Twitter feed?) And if you want to talk about the Andromeda Galaxy, the Magellan satellite galaxies, or (God help you) intergalactic space, I am your man.

The fascination, in fact, isn’t even limited to reality. Some of my favorite remote places come from fiction:

  • The frozen innermost circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno
  • The boss chambers in video games (and if it’s a final boss, so much the better)
  • The Borg homeworld in Star Trek (no, they’ve never gone there in any episode; yes, that’s part of the appeal)

What is it about these places? Is it the sheer distance? The inaccessibility? The fact that they’re cut off from everything else? Maybe the strangeness of them (even if they turn out to be ordinary when you get there)? I’ve been thinking about it all morning, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Maybe that’s part of the appeal, too.

Do you like extremely remote places? Have you ever been to one?

4 responses to “Ushuaia and the Ends of the Earth

  1. Extremely remote places aren’t MY thing, but I can see the appeal. I wonder if that’s part of what made Deep Space Nine so intriguing too.

  2. Well, I haven’t really thought it about it too much. Usually I am more interested in seeing the diversity of places-from craggy, scarred mountaintops to glaciers to deserts. Also, political and resource maps interest me- although resource maps are really just useful if you’re planning on taking over the world (Good to know where everything is, and if I can figure out how these are found through computers I can buy land and mine previously unknown resources. Although since I plan on making coal and fossil fuels obselete there’s not much point in finding those- yet.)

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