• 001 - the logo.jpg
  • 002 - Hiroshima sunset.jpg
  • 003 - Auschwitz-Birkenau ramp.jpg
  • 004 - Chernobyl contamination.jpg
  • 005 - Darvaza flaming gas crater.jpg
  • 006 - Berlin Wall madness.jpg
  • 007 - Bulgaria - monument at the bottom of Buzludzhy park hill.jpg
  • 008 - Ijen crater.jpg
  • 009 - Aralsk, Kazakhstan.jpg
  • 010 - Paris catacombs.jpg
  • 011 - Krakatoa.jpg
  • 012 - Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Hanoi.jpg
  • 013 - Uyuni.jpg
  • 014 - DMZ Vietnam.jpg
  • 015 - Colditz Kopie.jpg
  • 016 - Glasgow Necropolis.jpg
  • 017 - Hashima ghost island.jpg
  • 018 - Kazakhstan.jpg
  • 019 - Arlington.jpg
  • 020 - Karosta prison.jpg
  • 021 - Kamikaze.jpg
  • 022 - Chacabuco ghost town.jpg
  • 023 - Eagle's Nest, Obersalzberg, Berchtesgaden.jpg
  • 024 - Kursk.jpg
  • 025 - Bran castle, Carpathia, Romania.jpg
  • 026 - Bestattungsmuseum Wien.jpg
  • 027 - Pripyat near Chernobyl.jpg
  • 028 - Sedlec ossuary, Czech Republic.jpg
  • 029 - Pyramida Lenin.jpg
  • 030 - Falklands.jpg
  • 031 - Majdanek.jpg
  • 032 - Soufriere volcano, Montserrat.jpg
  • 033 - moai on Easter Island.jpg
  • 034 - Sidoarjo.jpg
  • 035 - Hötensleben.jpg
  • 036 - Natzweiler.jpg
  • 037 - Polygon, Semipalatinsk test site, Kazakhstan.jpg
  • 038 - Srebrenica.jpg
  • 039 - Liepaja, Latvia.jpg
  • 040 - Vemork hydroelectric power plant building, Norway.jpg
  • 041 - Enola Gay.jpg
  • 042 - Pentagon 9-11 memorial.jpg
  • 043 - Robben Island prison, South Africa.jpg
  • 044 - Tollund man.jpg
  • 045 - Marienthal tunnel.jpg
  • 046 - Aso, Japan.jpg
  • 047 - Labrador battery Singapore.jpg
  • 048 - Artyom island, Absheron, Azerbaijan.jpg
  • 049 - Treblinka.jpg
  • 050 - Titan II silo.jpg
  • 051 - dosemetering doll, Chernobyl.jpg
  • 052 - Holocaust memorial, Berlin.jpg
  • 053 - Komodo dragon.jpg
  • 054 - cemeterio general, Santiago de Chile.jpg
  • 055 - Tuol Sleng, Phnom Phen, Cambodia.jpg
  • 056 - West Virginia penitentiary.jpg
  • 057 - ovens, Dachau.jpg
  • 058 - Derry, Northern Ireland.jpg
  • 059 - Bulgaria - Buzludzha - workers of all countries unite.jpg
  • 060 - Sachsenhausen.jpg
  • 061 - Tiraspol dom sovietov.jpg
  • 062 - modern-day Pompeii - Plymouth, Montserrat.jpg
  • 063 - Pico de Fogo.jpg
  • 064 - Trinity Day.jpg
  • 065 - Zwentendorf control room.jpg
  • 066 - Wolfschanze.jpg
  • 067 - Hiroshima by night.jpg
  • 068 - mass games, North Korea.jpg
  • 069 - Harrisburg.jpg
  • 070 - Nuremberg.jpg
  • 071 - Mostar.jpg
  • 072 - Tu-22, Riga aviation museum.jpg
  • 073 - Gallipoli, Lone Pine.jpg
  • 074 - Auschwitz-Birkenau - fence.jpg
  • 075 - Darvaza flaming gas crater.jpg
  • 076 - Atatürk Mausoleum, Ankara.jpg
  • 077 - Banda Aceh boats.jpg
  • 078 - AMARG.jpg
  • 079 - Chacabuco ruins.jpg
  • 080 - Bucharest.jpg
  • 081 - Bernauer Straße.jpg
  • 082 - Death Railway, Thailand.jpg
  • 083 - Mandor killing fields.jpg
  • 084 - Kozloduy.jpg
  • 085 - Jerusalem.jpg
  • 086 - Latin Bridge, Sarajevo.jpg
  • 087 - Panmunjom, DMZ, Korea.jpg
  • 088 - Ijen blue flames.jpg
  • 089 - Derry reconsilliation monument.jpg
  • 090 - Ebensee.jpg
  • 091 - Mödlareuth barbed wire.jpg
  • 092 - skull heaps in Sedlec ossuary, Czech Republic.jpg
  • 093 - Nikel.jpg
  • 094 - Fukushima-Daiichi NPP.jpg
  • 095 - Tital launch control centre.jpg
  • 096 - Dallas Dealy Plaza and Sixth Floor Museum.jpg
  • 097 - Auschwitz I.jpg
  • 098 - Stalin and Lenin, Tirana, Albania.jpg
  • 099 - Malta, Fort St Elmo.jpg
  • 100 - Peenemünde.jpg
  • 101 - Tarrafal.jpg
  • 102 - Kilmainham prison, Dublin.jpg
  • 103 - North Korea.jpg
  • 104 - Mittelbau-Dora.jpg
  • 105 - St Helena.jpg
  • 106 - Stutthof, Poland.jpg
  • 107 - Merapi destruction.jpg
  • 108 - Chueung Ek killing fields, Cambodia.jpg
  • 109 - Marienborn former GDR border.jpg
  • 110 - Mig and star, Kazakhstan.jpg
  • 111 - Nagasaki WWII tunnels.jpg
  • 112 - Hellfire Pass, Thailand.jpg
  • 113 - Kiev.jpg
  • 114 - Grutas Park, Lithuania.jpg
  • 115 - Zwentendorf reactor core.jpg
  • 116 - two occupations, Tallinn.jpg
  • 117 - Trunyan burial site.jpg
  • 118 - Ushuaia prison.jpg
  • 119 - Buchenwald.jpg
  • 120 - Marienthal with ghost.jpg
  • 121 - Murmansk harbour - with an aircraft carrier.jpg
  • 122 - Berlin Olympiastadion.JPG
  • 123 - Bastille Day, Paris.jpg
  • 124 - Spassk.jpg
  • 125 - Theresienstadt.jpg
  • 126 - B-52s.jpg
  • 127 - Bledug Kuwu.jpg
  • 128 - Friedhof der Namenlosen, Vienna.jpg
  • 129 - Auschwitz-Birkenau barracks.jpg
  • 130 - mummies, Bolivia.jpg
  • 131 - Barringer meteor crater.jpg
  • 132 - Murambi, Rwanda.jpg
  • 133 - NTS.jpg
  • 134 - Mauthausen Soviet monument.jpg
  • 135 - pullution, Kazakhstan.JPG
  • 136 - palm oil madness.jpg
  • 137 - Berlin socialist realism.jpg
  • 138 - Okawa school building ruin.jpg
  • 139 - Pawiak, Warsaw.jpg
  • 140 - flying death, military museum Dresden.JPG
  • 141 - KGB gear.JPG
  • 142 - KZ jacket.JPG
  • 143 - ex-USSR.JPG
  • 144 - Indonesia fruit bats.JPG
  • 145 - Alcatraz.JPG
  • 146 - Chernobyl Museum, Kiev, Ukraine.JPG
  • 147 - Halemaumau lava lake glow, Hawaii.JPG
  • 148 - Rosinenbomber at Tempelhof, Berlin.jpg
  • 149 - Verdun, France.JPG
  • 150 - hospital, Vukovar, Croatia.JPG
  • 151 - the original tomb of Napoleon, St Helena.JPG
  • 152 - Buchenwald, Germany.JPG
  • 153 - Bhopal.JPG
  • 154 - Groß-Rosen, Poland.jpg
  • 155 - at Monino, Russia.jpg
  • 156 - blinking Komodo.jpg
  • 157 - inside Chernobyl NPP.JPG
  • 158 - Mount St Helens, USA.JPG
  • 159 - Maly Trostenec, Minsk, Belarus.jpg
  • 160 - Vucedol skulls, Croatia.JPG
  • 161 - colourful WW1 shells.JPG
  • 162 - Zeljava airbase in Croatia.JPG
  • 163 - rusting wrecks, Chernobyl.JPG
  • 164 - San Bernadine alle Ossa, Milan, Italy.jpg
  • 165 - USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.JPG
  • 166 - Brest Fortress, Belarus.JPG
  • 167 - thousands of bats, Dom Rep.JPG
  • 168 - Hohenschönhausen, Berlin.JPG
  • 169 - Perm-36 gulag site.JPG
  • 170 - Jasenovac, Croatia.JPG
  • 171 - Beelitz Heilstätten.JPG
  • 172 - Kremlin, Moscow.jpg
  • 173 - old arms factory, Dubnica.JPG
  • 174 - Pervomaisc ICBM base, more  missiles, including an SS-18 Satan.jpg
  • 175 - Cellular Jail, Port Blair.jpg
  • 177 - control room, Chernobyl NPP.JPG
  • 178 - Podgorica, Montenegro, small arms and light weapons sculpture.jpg
  • 179 - Vught.jpg
  • 180 - Japanese cave East Timor.jpg
  • 181 - Ani.jpg
  • 182 - Indonesia wildfire.jpg
  • 183 - Chacabuco big sky.jpg
  • 184 - Bunker Valentin, Germany.JPG
  • 185 - Lest we Forget, Ypres.JPG
  • 186 - the logo again.jpg

Ex-Prison & Maritime Museum of Ushuaia

  
   - darkometer rating:  5 -
 
Ushuaia's premier sight is also its main sight from a dark tourism perspective: the ex-presidio (former prison) which now houses the "museo maritimo" (maritime museum). That name, however, only covers a small part of the exhibitions, so it is a bit misleading. Most of the museum is actually about the prison itself, penitentiary facilities in general, and about all manner of other aspects ranging from early colonialism in Argentina's Tierra del Fuego and Antarctic explorers to the "Conflicto Islas Malvinas" (Falklands War).  
More background info: Ushuaia owes much of its very first lease of life to the fact that it was chosen as a remote penal colony in the late 19th century, and in 1902 the construction of the present building was begun. It was the result of a merger of an earlier military prison and a prison for repeat offenders. 
  
By 1920, its five cell-block wings, or "pavilions", which branch out from a central hall (a classic type of prison design – cf. Eastern State Penitentiary), were finished. These had a total of 386 cells, all intended for single occupancy. But at peak times the prison population was closer to 600. 
  
Most inmates were criminals sentenced to long terms or life for murder or other such serious crimes, but there were also political prisoners. 
  
The prisoners had to do all manner of work – including not least the construction of the prison itself and its surrounding workshop buildings. They also built a narrow-gauge train line – famously the southernmost one in the world, to facilitate access to work sites (logging, mainly) in the woods around the settlement. This line still exists today and has become an extra tourist attraction – see under Ushuaia
  
The prison was closed in 1947 and the premises were handed over to the naval base. The Argentine Navy still occupies much of the site today, except for the old prison, which is now the principal tourist attraction of the city in the form of a museum (the main draw otherwise being Ushuaia's role as a departure point for Antarctica cruises).
  
  
What there is to see: A lot!!! The amount that this museum has to offer is easily underestimated. The name "museo maritimo" is misleading, actually. It is not just a maritime museum, in fact that's only a small part of it. There is so much more to it and spread out over so many rooms that this museum takes some serious time, ideally split over two days to enable you to take it all in properly at leisure. 
  
To begin with there is the building itself: an impressive early 20th century edifice of a classic prison layout with a central hall from which five two-storey wings/cell blocks radiate (cf. Eastern State Penitentiary). 
  
Once inside you can take in the first part of the maritime section or leave that for later, like I did, and head straight to the first former cell block and into the prison museum part, which naturally is more interesting for the dark tourist. 
  
What you see first is a long corridor and a gallery above with a dummy guard in a blue uniform "overseeing" everything. Two bent and dented metal ovens stand in the middle of the corridor. The cells on each side contain the actual exhibition rooms and more photos and panels line the main corridor wall too. 
  
Several former cells are "occupied" by yet more dummies, this time in typical Argentine prison garb, i.e. in black-and-yellow striped suits and a cap following the same colour pattern (making them look uncannily like wasps!). Some stand listlessly by their prison bunk beds, others sit on the mattress's edge and stare dejectedly at the wall, yet others seem to enjoy the privilege of having books to read in their cells, whose walls are even cheerfully painted. 
  
But it's not all just a dummies-in-mock-cells affair. There's plenty of information too. Apart from presenting the history of the prison in incredible detail – way too much to even begin retelling it here – the exhibition also highlights certain individual prisoners' stories. For instance there was Simon Radowitzky, a Russian anarchist bomber who killed the police chief of Buenos Aires in 1909, or "El Orejudo" Godino, a serial killer of diminutive stature but oversized ears (hence the nickname). 
  
Other themes in this section include prison guards and administration, prisoners' work and working conditions (including in the woods around Ushuaia, for which the world's southernmost train line was built by the prisoners), hygiene and medical care, hierarchies amongst prisoners, and so on and so forth.
 
At the end of the corridor you come to the big central hall. It contains a cafe/bar, which at the time of my visit was closed (maybe it only opens for special events). From here the other wings branch off, three of which contain further exhibitions, and so you have to decide what to do next. I proceeded to the "historic pavilion". 
  
This is the oldest cell block of the whole compound, preserved more or less in its original state, and so it does not contain any museum commodification. It is therefore by far the most "atmospheric" part of the ex-prison! You can only walk the length of the block on the downstairs level because the upstairs is too dilapidated – visibly so: you can see the rotting floorboards from below. At one end of the corridor you can go upstairs, but only as far as the top of the stairs and take a look along the nicely grim upstairs part of the wing. At the end of the downstairs corridor you come to some old washrooms. 
   
Once back in the central hall you could go to the art galleries or the gift shop or head to the upper level of wings 2 and 4 that contain yet more museum exhibitions. I decided on the latter and to leave the former for later. 
  
On the level above the main prison exhibition there are two separate sections. One is about other prisons around the world that have become museums too. This is probably one the most intriguing sections from a dark tourism perspective. I found out about more such sites that I hadn't previously been aware of, so it was quite educational for me personally – and I will have to add a few new entries to this site on the basis of those hints! Other prison sites covered in this exhibition are much better known (and already covered on this website too) such as Robben Island (South Africa), Alcatraz (USA) or Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin (Ireland).
  
Opposite the prison-museums-of-the-world section is an exhibition about Antarctica, early explorers such as Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott and Nordenskjöld but also about Argentina's contemporary activities on the "Big White". 
  
On the second floor above the art gallery is a section about old-time Ushuaia and the early colonization of Tierra del Fuego in general – including bits about the Yamana natives of the region, who were as good as wiped out by the European settlers. 
  
Opposite that section is the other half of the maritime museum (the first one, remember, is in the entrance building – we'll come back to that in a bit). Here you can find the usual ship models, including cross sections made to endearingly detailed precision, and other maritime bits and bobs. 
  
One especially intriguing section is about the Falkland Islands – or Islas Malvinas, as they are called here, of course. There are photos of some of the main sights of the islands' capital Stanley – only that it isn't called that here either, but is referred to by the name the Argentinians had in mind for the place had they been able to keep the islands, namely "Puerto Argentino". But as we all know, Argentina lost the Falklands War against Britain, which is still bitterly remembered in Argentina and Ushuaia in particular. The museum outlines some of the particulars of the war – including the sinking of the cruiser ARA General Belgrano. There's a model of the cruiser too – as well as images from the sinking and objects from it. Charts outline the initial landing operations by Argentina ("Operation Rosario") and the initial operations on South Georgia are covered too. But what is (typically) missing is a proper substantiation of the Argentinian claim on the islands (cf. the Falklands sovereignty dispute).
  
The other half of the maritime museum part is found in the same building that the main entrance is in. This section covers  more contemporary aspects of the maritime theme (current Antarctic research vessels, for instance) but also more historic stuff, including a number of lovingly made models of shipwrecks! Upstairs are a couple more small exhibitions, one about (Sub-)Antarctic wildlife – with lots of stuffed penguins – and another about oil extraction efforts in the area. 
  
There's a small gift shop adjacent to these last sections, but the main one is to be found downstairs in pavilion 4.  The shops are well worth a good look since they stock a huge range of items, ranging from clothing (including mock prisoner's striped jumpers) to coffee-table books on Antarctica and Tierra del Fuego. Behind the main shop is a space for temporary exhibitions and there are rooms for other special events too.
  
Finally there is the art section. This too proved to be much better than I would normally anticipate in such a setting. Some of the artwork on display here was really quite cool! 
  
The museum has a few outdoor exhibits as well. The largest of these is a replica of the "faro del fin del mundo" (= 'lighthouse "at the end of the world') on Isla de los Estados, the island off the eastern tip of the Tierra del Fuego "mainland". The inside of the lighthouse can only be seen on guided tours. 
  
Also outside are a boat, a steam engine and a bit of train on tracks to represent that southernmost train line built by the prisoners (the real train line can also be visited – see Ushuaia). 
  
All in all it is certainly an incredibly rich museum by any account. Some of the presentation could do with a bit of careful modernization, but then again, I am quite fond of old-fashioned museums, so maybe it's a good thing it's a bit "stuffy".
  
All texts are bilingual, Spanish and English, and for the most part the English translations are just about good enough to see you through if you don't speak Spanish, though they are far from perfect (not necessarily always too badly riddled with mistakes, but just very, very clumsy overall and thus not easy to read).
  
While this Ushuaia museum may not be so important as to make it a destination worth travelling to specifically in its own right, it nevertheless is surely a must-do when in the area. And then give it the time it deserves too.
  
  
Location: just beyond the eastern end of central Ushuaia, at the end of Gobernador Paz street and across Yaganes street, within the huge compound of the Ushuaia naval base. 
  
Google maps locator:[-54.8035,-68.2979]
  
  
Access and costs: easy to get to, generous with opening times; not overpriced for what you get.  
  
Details: the museum is very easy to locate: just walk one of the main streets of Ushuaia city centre (the waterfront Av. Maipu or the shopping street Av. San Martin)  until you come to its eastern end on Yaganes. Turn left into Yaganes, then take the first right and after a few yards you'll be in front of the wing with the museum entrance. Outside a propped up boat, some sculptures and a white anchor support the museum sign to mark the location. So it should be pretty impossible to miss. Even easier still is doing the museum at the end of one of those blue bus city tours (see Ushuaia), which at the end either drop you off right outside the museum or in the city centre.
  
Opening times: daily (except on public holidays) from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (in winter only open from 10 a.m.).
  
Admission: 110 Argentine Pesos (ca. 10 EUR – as of early 2014). Tickets are valid for two days, but you have to present an ID document (passport or driving licence or so), then they will stamp your ticket accordingly. If you consider this extra validity, as well as the very generous opening times, then the price is not that bad, really. If you want to, you can get an incredibly good "mileage" out of it. 
  
Guided tours are also offered, in Spanish on a regular basis, in English on request. I didn't go on one as I thought it unnecessary (if you give them good time, the museum exhibitions are pretty self-explanatory), but if you're pressed for time, then it may be a good way of getting a decent overview at least. 
  
  
Time required: longer than you would think. Much longer. A whole day may not be enough to see everything. It is often recommended that you spread a visit out over two days – as you do get free admission on a consecutive second day. It is possible to do it in one day, but you'd either have prepare yourself for a long and draining museum day or skip and skim a lot. I managed in one day, but it was a bit of a struggle.
  
  
Combinations with other dark destinations: see under Ushuaia
  
  
Combinations with non-dark destinations: some parts of the museum are already rather light than dark, such as the art exhibition parts or much of the maritime sections. For more non-dark sights outside the museum see under Ushuaia
  
   
 
  • Museo Maritimo 01 - outside by the car park and entranceMuseo Maritimo 01 - outside by the car park and entrance
  • Museo Maritimo 02 - insideMuseo Maritimo 02 - inside
  • Museo Maritimo 03 - floor planMuseo Maritimo 03 - floor plan
  • Museo Maritimo 04 - dummy guard overheadMuseo Maritimo 04 - dummy guard overhead
  • Museo Maritimo 05 - typical windowMuseo Maritimo 05 - typical window
  • Museo Maritimo 06 - prisoner-in-cell mock-upMuseo Maritimo 06 - prisoner-in-cell mock-up
  • Museo Maritimo 07 - a better class of prisonerMuseo Maritimo 07 - a better class of prisoner
  • Museo Maritimo 08 - escapeMuseo Maritimo 08 - escape
  • Museo Maritimo 09 - old prison doorsMuseo Maritimo 09 - old prison doors
  • Museo Maritimo 10 - former washroom and loosMuseo Maritimo 10 - former washroom and loos
  • Museo Maritimo 11 - central hallMuseo Maritimo 11 - central hall
  • Museo Maritimo 12 - central hall with barred bar behind barsMuseo Maritimo 12 - central hall with barred bar behind bars
  • Museo Maritimo 13 - old cell block wingMuseo Maritimo 13 - old cell block wing
  • Museo Maritimo 14 - upstairs in the dilapidated old cell blockMuseo Maritimo 14 - upstairs in the dilapidated old cell block
  • Museo Maritimo 15 - another refurbished wing with dummy prisoner standing watchMuseo Maritimo 15 - another refurbished wing with dummy prisoner standing watch
  • Museo Maritimo 16 - maritime sectionMuseo Maritimo 16 - maritime section
  • Museo Maritimo 17 - model of the General Belgrano cruiser in the Malvinas War sectionMuseo Maritimo 17 - model of the General Belgrano cruiser in the Malvinas War section
  • Museo Maritimo 18 - Antarctica sectionMuseo Maritimo 18 - Antarctica section
  • Museo Maritimo 19 - warm hat and face mask of an Antarctic explorerMuseo Maritimo 19 - warm hat and face mask of an Antarctic explorer
  • Museo Maritimo 20 - model of the EnduranceMuseo Maritimo 20 - model of the Endurance
  • Museo Maritimo 21 - shipwrecks sectionMuseo Maritimo 21 - shipwrecks section
  • Museo Maritimo 22 - taxidermy wildlife sectionMuseo Maritimo 22 - taxidermy wildlife section
  • Museo Maritimo 23 - oil drilling sectionMuseo Maritimo 23 - oil drilling section
  • Museo Maritimo 24 - in the gift shopMuseo Maritimo 24 - in the gift shop
  • Museo Maritimo 25 - some outdoor exhibitsMuseo Maritimo 25 - some outdoor exhibits
  • Museo Maritimo 26 - narrow-gauge trainMuseo Maritimo 26 - narrow-gauge train
  • Museo Maritimo 27 - replica of the Lighthouse at the End of the WorldMuseo Maritimo 27 - replica of the Lighthouse at the End of the World
  • Museo Maritimo 28 - outsideMuseo Maritimo 28 - outside
  • Museo Maritimo 29 - dummy guard and real dogMuseo Maritimo 29 - dummy guard and real dog
 
   

© dark-tourism.com, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2019

Cookies make it easier for us to provide you with our services. With the usage of our services you permit us to use cookies.
More information Ok