Patagonia Location Isla Magdalena Chile

Patagonia location: Isla Magdalena

The Isla Magdalena is surrounded by the frigid waters of the Magellan straight. The island is home to a vast community of penguins and seagulls that use it as their summer breeding ground. Its lighthouse, designed and constructed by a Scottish engineer, aided the navigation of ships that circumvented the American continent during the early XX century.

Isla Magdalena light house and trail.
The CONAF manages the island which has been declared a wildlife protected area.

Isla Magdalena, Magallanes Region

The Isla Magdalena is about 35 Km from the Chilean city of Punta Arenas in the Magallanes region. It takes about a forty-minute boat ride to reach its shores and, because of the straight’s strong winds, reaching the island can be a choppy experience. In our last photo tour, the winds were calm and our journey was very peaceful.

Back in 1837, the Chilean government enacted a decree for the construction and organization of a national network of lighthouses.
The Isla Magdalena lighthouse dates from a much later time. It was constructed by the Scottish engineer and architect George Slight in 1901 and became operational by the following year. Originally, the installation of the lighthouse consisted of a house with five bedrooms, an office, an oil tank and a store, plus kitchen.

Old map of Southern Patagonia
Old map of Southern Patagonia with Isla Magdalena marker

In 1976, it was declared of historical importance due to its strategic location and function to the shipping trade lines.
This maritime route was the original navigable link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which precedes the Panama canal.

In 1981 the Chilean Navy delegated the maintenance of the site to CONAF, the Chilean park services, who has an active presence year round. There are two park rangers that take care of the lighthouse’s structure and protect the animal colonies.

Wildlife at the Island

During the summer, the Isla Magdalena becomes the breeding ground for its vast penguin population which hides its chicks underground to protect them from predators. The land is filled with holes which provide refuge to the colony during high winds. It also keeps the chicks safe and warm during the Patagonian night.
The waters of the Strait are abundant with mollusk and crustaceans which are the staple of the colony’s diet.

Isla Magdalena penguin colony having a laugh.
Penguin coming out of ground hole
Penguin coming out of ground hole

Join us when we visit the Isla Magdalena to photograph its landscape and wildlife. Check out our coming Patagonia Photography tour.

All photos taken by DWaisman with Sony A7RIII, 100-400 mm, and 1.4 teleconverter.