Dawson Island

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Dawson Island

Dawson Island, Chilean land mass of about 8 square miles located in the central section of the Strait of Magellan, where it takes a northwestern turn and travels away from the Seno del Almirantazgo. On the continental shore, and facing the northern tip of the island, lies Puerto del Hambre (Port Famine), the site where Pedro Sarmiento De Gamboa tried unsuccessfully in 1584 to establish a permanent settlement. Windswept Dawson Island houses a detachment of the Chilean Marines, whose barracks held political prisoners during the first dictatorship of Carlos Ibáñez Del Campo (1927–1931) and during the early years (1974–1978) of General Augusto Pinochet's rule.

According to an International Red Cross report in 1974, Dawson Island was home to ninety-nine political detainees who were sentenced to forced labor and live in squalor. When the camp was shut down in October 1974, the prisoners were transferred to the Punta Arenas prison, and some were released.

See alsoChile, Geography; Ibáñez del Campo, Carlos; Pinochet Ugarte, Augusto; Sarmiento de Gamboa, Pedro.


Additional Bibliography

Collier, Simon. A History of Chile, 1808–1994. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Spooner, Mary Helen. Soldiers in a Narrow Land: The Pinochet Regime in Chile. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994.

                                    CÉsar N. Caviedes