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Puerto Deseado, originally called Port Desire, is a city of about 15,000 inhabitants and a fishing port in Patagonia in the Santa Cruz Provincemarker of Argentinamarker, on the estuary of the Deseado River.

It was named Port Desire by the privateer Thomas Cavendish in 1586 after the name of his ship, and later became known by the Spanish translation of the name. Today, the straggly town has a couple of pleasant squares, a former railway station and two museums, one with a collection of indigenous artifacts and one at the seafront with relics from the caravel Swift which sank in 1770, recovered after its wreck was discovered in the port in 1982. The coast boasts spectacular scenery and colonies of marine wildlife close to the town.

History

The harbour, nearly long, was discovered and used in 1520 by the Spanish expedition commanded by Magellan. Other early Spanish navigators followed, including Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa. On 17 December 1586 the privateer Thomas Cavendish sailed into the estuary on his flagship the Desire of 120 tons, accompanied by the Hugh Gallant of 40 tons and the Content of 60 tons. He named the harbour Port Desire after his ship, and the point of land at the harbour mouth is still known as Punta Cavendish. They met only a few native Americans, who shot arrows that wounded some of the crew. After ten days Cavendish took his ships on their way, and returned to England in 1588. In 1591 Cavendish set out on another expedition with five ships, himself sailing as admiral on the Leicester Galleon, while the Desire was commanded by captain John Davis. They suffered problems in the winter at the Strait of Magellanmarker so turned north, and on 20 May 1592 the Desire and the Black Pinnace lost touch with other ships and went into Port Desire to wait for Cavendish. He did not turn up, so in August they sailed to the nearby Penguin Island then south, but were caught by a storm and, forced to run before the wind, came on unknown islands, making the first provable sighting of the Falkland Islandsmarker.

Puerto Deseado's old train station (2003)


In 1670 John Narborough visited Port Desire and claimed the territory for the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker, but no substantial effort was made to press the British claim against the older Spanish claim to the region. Captain John Byron went on from there to claim British possession of the Falklands in the 1760s, and when the Spanish attacked there in 1770 one of the ships forced to flee was the corvette Swift which returned to Port Desire, but was shipwrecked on a concealed rock.

Antonio de Biedma founded the Nueva Colonia in 1780 in the area near present day Puerto Deseado, later shut down by Viceroy Vertíz.

In 1790 a fort was established at Puerto Deseado by the Real Compañía Marítima (Royal Maritime Company) of Charles IV of Spain, which served as a base for whaling until its abandonment in 1806.

Perhaps the area's most famous visitor came on the Voyage of the Beagle commanded by captain Robert FitzRoy, which brought the young naturalist Charles Darwin on 23 December 1833 for the first of several visits while HMS Beagle carried out its hydrographic survey.

Economy

Puerto Deseado's economy is based on the fishing industry. There are several fish-processing plants by its coasts on "Avenida Costanera" and a high percentage of the population works on jobs related to industrial fishing such as stevedores, crane operators, fish cleaners and the like.

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