Situated on the Isla de los Estados, thirty kilometers from the American continent, is the mysterious lighthouse at the end of the world or San Juan de Salvamento.
No tourist visits are allowed at the lighthouse at the end of the world. It served as inspiration for the famous novel by the French Jules Verne “The Lighthouse at the End of the World”, published in 1905.
This small island was discovered in 1615 by Le Maire and Shouten. It has a length of only 65 kilometers with its widest part being 16 kilometers and the narrowest being only 500 meters. The surrounding seas to the island are very dangerous. With this in mind, the Argentine sailor Luis Piedrabuena decided to build the San Juan de Salvamento shelter in 1862, located near the island’s bay.
Later, in 1884, the Argentine Navy built a lighthouse on the island to provide assistance to ships. It was the second lighthouse in the history of Argentina and was named San Juan de Salvamento. Jules Verne knew about this peculiar place and, with his fertile imagination, built the story that gave title to his novel. The story narrates that thieves of shipwrecked ships capture the people who managed the lighthouse. They then used the lighthouse to deceive other ships and rob them.
An island full of mysteries
The San Juan de Salvamento lighthouse was a circular building, six meters high, made of lenga wood. The cabin was octagonal and there were seven oil lamps behind the glass panes. The light emitted by these lamps served as a guide for the ships at sea. Several cabins were located inside the building for the sailors to rest. The lighthouse was active until 1902. It then fell into oblivion, until the Argentine authorities decided to make it a “national monument” in 1975.
In 1993, the lighthouse reconstruction process began. It was financed by two French municipalities, Nantes, where Jules Verne was born, and La Rochelle. Eventually, in February 1998, the “Lighthouse at the End of the World” was inaugurated on the Isle of the States.
For lovers of Jules Verne’s novels, the lighthouse is certainly worth a visit. This site could become an interesting tourist destination for Argentina. Nevertheless, it is currently not possible to reach the lighthouse. Authorities in Argentina prohibit access to the island. On what grounds?
It is a state secret. Conspiracy theorists claim that the government does not want to reveal lands that are not even displayed on maps, which are inhabited by aboriginal communities of Los Yaganes. Some others believe that the authorities have done a bad job. One thing is certain: the Isla de los Encantos, where the Lighthouse at the End of the World is located, continues to be a mystery.