BULNES FORT

Fuerte Bulnes is a Chilean fort located by the Strait of Magellan, 62 km south of Punta Arenas. It was founded in 1843 on a rocky hill at Punta Santa Ana, under the command of President Manuel Bulnes Prieto.

The fort was built to further the president’s colonization policies in Southern Chile and protect the Strait of Magellan. He directed construction to ward off claims by other nations. Chiloé’s intendant (governor), Domingo Espiñeira Riesco, ordered construction of a schooner to sail to that location. He originally commissioned it in the president’s name, but Bulnes had the ship renamed Goleta Ancud, for where it was built.

She sailed from Ancud on May 22, 1843, under command of Commander John Williams WilsonChilean Navy. (British-born, he joined the Chilean Navy in 1824, where he used a Hispanic version of his name and signed documents as Juan Guillermos.) He arrived at Punta Santa Ana on September 21, 1843, about 2 km from Puerto del Hambre. He directed the construction of a fort here, using mainly logs and dirt & grass ‘bricks’.

Although the president wanted to establish a town, the harsh weather prevented attracting a large and stable population. As a result, after six years, the government founded Punta Arenas in the Sandy Point area in 1848. Once people had migrated there, military forces abandoned and destroyed the fort. Lieutenant Cambiazo supervised its burning.

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