Located at 54° 8’ 60” S 73° 19’ 0” W the Islas Ipswich are a group of uninhabited islands in the Magallanes y de la Antartica Chilena in the extreme south of Chile, close to Tierra Del Fuego. They are situated just to the south of Islas Grafton, and comprise one high island named Ipswich Island, with a number of islets and rocks between that island and the larger Isla Grafton.
How to get there:-
No regular transport service exists to these remote islands. The only practical way to get there is to hire a boat.
Nearest airport is Punta Arenas Ibanez.
Time Zone: Chile Standard Time (GMT -4 hrs). Daylight saving time in summer + 1 hr.
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The islands were first surveyed & named between November 1829 and January 1830 by Capt. Robert FitzRoy in HMS Beagle. FitzRoy was born at Ampton in Suffolk, England in 1805 & was the grandson of the 3rd Duke of Grafton, hence the name of the nearby Islas Grafton (Viscount Ipswich is the subsidiary title of the eldest sons of the Duke of Grafton. See Viscount Ipswich section on the page). FitzRoy was also captain of HMS Beagle on Charles Darwin's famous five year voyage from 1831-1836. He rose to the rank of Vice Admiral &, in 1843, became Governor of New Zealand. He later returned to England & died in 1865.
Ipswich Island was visited on 11 January 1830 and this account is given in the narrative of the journey: “Landing was dangerous and ascending the hill extremely difficult, on account of thick tangled brushwood which grows about three or four feet high on every part of the east side and is so matted together as to be almost impenetrable.” (Voyages of the Adventure & Beagle, Volume 1)
Numerous others islands in the archipelago were also first surveyed by nineteenth century British explorers, hence the English sounding names of many in the vicinity. Some of these names have been changed by the Chilean government and may not be the same as on older Admiralty charts. Islas Grafton was originally extended to the larger group of islands, and the main island used to be called Isla Carlos, but is now Isla Grafton.
Detail from “The Strait of Magalhaens” from Voyages of the Adventure & Beagle Vol.1
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The region in which the Islas Ipswich are situated is the Magallanes y de la Antartica Chilena, which literally translates as Magellanland & Chilean Antarctic. The region is named after the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan whose expedition of 1519 to 1522, was the first to sail from the Atlantic into, then across, the Pacific. It is the most southerly region of Chile & covers the western part of Tierra Del Fuego, part of Chilean Patagonia & Chile’s Antarctic territories, as well as hundreds of islands along the pacific coast of South America. Cape Horn & the Strait of Magellan are in this region, as well as the Torres del Paine National Park. It is Chile’s largest region, but one of the countries least populated areas, being an area of inhospitable mountains, glaciers, fjords & islands. It became a province in 1929 & in 1961 the present boundaries were established. In 1974 it became a region with its capital at Punta Arenas.
Marine fauna includes the blue whale, the southern right whale & the killer whale or orca. Elephant seals, southern fur seals, South American sea lions & leopard seals can be found here, as well as three species of penguin: the rockhopper, the macaroni & the Magellanic (see photo, right). Nine species of albatross can be found in southern Chilean waters, including the wandering, the gray-headed & the sooty. Also present are numerous species of shearwaters, petrels & storm petrels.