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The increasing significance of Beagle channel region led to various incidents and confrontations between Chile and Argentina around transit and fishing rights, which could potentially lead to full scale war.[1]

Argentine request for demarcation in 1904

On 23 August 1904 the Argentine government asked Chile to demarcate the boundary on the Beagle Channel.[2] Chile didn't consider it necessary because there were a complete cartography of the channel and the treaty awarded the islands depending on the location.

Chilean decree 1914

In order to avoid belligerents activities in Strait of Magellan, which would impede navigation, on 15 December 1914 Chile declared that the internal waters of the Strait of Magellan as well as the channels around should be considered as a Territorial or Neutral Sea even where they extend more than three miles from shore.[3](p71) In 1914 a German merchant was inspected by a British warship and on 14 March a Norwegian ship was seized by a British warship. Argentina protested the Chilean decree on 8 March 1915 but didn't specified the reasons.[3](p72)

The Snipe Incident

In 1958 the Argentine Navy shelled a Chilean lighthouse in the (uninhabited) Snipe islet and occupy the island. Both ambassadors were recalled, the Chilean Navy was sent to the zone and the Argentine Marines were pulled back from the island. It was the most serious incident occurred in the zone.

Ballenita Incident

In July 1967 the master of Panamanian ship Ballenita was fined in Chile after he accepted an Argentine pilot for the route to Ushuaia. As result, Chilean pilots have to board ships bound to the Beagle Channel in Montevideo and no longer in Buenos Aires.

Cruz del Sur Incident

The lucrative centolla fishery around Tierra del Fuego led to an incident in August 1967 when the Argentine schooner Cruz del Sur was found fishing 400 metres (1,300 ft) from Gable Island and had to be ordered by a Chilean Patrol Boat Marinero Fuentealba[4] to retrieve her nets and leave the zone escorted out of Chilean waters.

Few days later the ship re-appeared in the company of an Argentine patrol craft. Protests from both sides were issued at the highest diplomatic level.

Quidora Incident

On 29 November 1967 the Chilean Patrol Boat Quidora (PTF-82) was shelled by the Argentine Navy from Ushuaia.

The USCGC Southwind affair

On 3 February 1968 the USCGC Southwind in emergency conditions headed to Ushuaia via the eastern entrance of the Beagle Channel without notification nor permission of the Chilean Government. The Chileans protested.

The Barnevelt incident

On 21 May 1977, after the arbitral award, the Argentine Navy installed a lighthouse in the (inhabited) Barnevelt Island. It was immediately dismantled by the Chilean Navy.[5]

On the east mouth of the Magellan Strait

On 8 June 1978 Chile sent a diplomatic objection to Argentine activities off the eastern mouth of the Magellan Strait and reserving rights there. In September 1980 a offshore oil rig authorized by Argentina was warned by a Chilean warship and then by military helicopter to abandon the area. Also an Argentine military aircraft threatened a Chilean warship proceeding toward the Strait of Magellan from the Falkland Islands.[3](p83ff)

ARA Gurruchaga incident

On February 19, 1982, six weeks before the beginning of the Falklands War, an incident occurred that could have sparked a full fledged war between Chile and Argentina during the Papal mediation in the Beagle conflict. An Argentine patrol boat, the ARA Gurruchaga (Ex-USS Luiseno (ATF-156)) was anchored at Deceit Island inside the Beagle zone under mediation in Vatican, ostensibly providing support for sports boats participating in the Rio de Janeiro-Sydney boat race. The Quidora torpedo Boat approached and ordered the Argentine ship to leave the area. She fired several warning shots when the Argentine craft refused to move, as other Chilean ships converged to the scene. Although originally ordered not to leave the area and to wait for Argentine warships to arrive, the Argentine patrol boat received new orders to proceed to port as it became obvious that the Chilean navy had no intentions of backing down.[6]:page 22

The shelling of faro de Gusanos

On 19 October 1984, as the Chilean and Argentine delegations signed the first agreement to the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 between Chile and Argentina, the Argentine artillery units fired eight rounds on the Chilean lighthouse "Gusanos" near Puerto Williams on the south shore of the Beagle Channel.[7][8]

See also


  1. David R. Struthers, The Beagle Channel Dispute Between Argentina and Chile: An historical Analysis, Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence, May 1985, page 63 ff
  2. Note N° 154 of 23 August 1904, by the Chilean Minister in Buenos Aires to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Chile) in Santiago, cited in Historia de las Relaciones Exteriores de Chile, Arbritaje británico de 1899-1903, Octavio Errázuriz Guilisasti and Germán Carrasco Domínguez, Editorial Andrés Bello, 1968, Santiago de Chile, page 91
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Michel A. Morris, The Strait of Magellan, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
  4. Patricia Arancibia Clavel & Francisco Bulnes Serrano (2004) (in Spanish). La Escuadra En Acción: 1978: el conflicto Chile-Argentina visto a través de sus protagonistas. Santiago: Maval Ltda. ISBN 956-258-211-6. 
  5. Renato Valenzuela Ugarte and Fernando García Toso in A treinta años de la crisis del Beagle, Magazine Politica y Estrategia, nr 111, 2008, page 37
  6. W. Ben Hunt (1997). Getting to War: Predicting International Conflict With Mass Media Indicators. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-10751-3. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  7. The Pittsburgh Press article Argentina accused of violating pact, on - Oct 18, 1984, retrieved 1 February 2012
  8. Article [1] in Spanish newspaper El País on 19 October 1984, retrieved on 1 Februarz 2012>

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