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Tierra del Fuego

The Tierra del Fuego—a group of islands at the southern tip of South America—have some of the worst weather in the world. The rugged islands poke into the ocean current circling Antarctica, and are almost continuously battered by high winds and covered by clouds. On March 28, 2003—an early fall day in the Southern Hemisphere—the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this rare view of the islands and the Patagonia region of South America. Even in this image, however, Cape Horn, the southernmost point on the continent, remains cloudy.

Magellan sailed between the Tierra del Fuego and the mainland in 1520 during his expedition around the world. Magellan named the region the ‘Land of Fire’ when he saw fires along the southern shore of the Strait of Magellan. Subsequent settlement brought diseases which destroyed these cultures. The western Tierra del Fuego now belongs to Chile, and the eastern side is part of Argentina.

Image courtesy Jefferey Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC