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Río Seco Museum

From the first moment I heard about the Natural History Museum of Rio Seco, it rolled around my thoughts as a place of curiosity. The descriptions had been vague, and though the couple of photos I had seen, including one of some museum workers and a stranded whale, had peaked my interests, I never imagined to be so impressed. The location of the museum is in an old cold storage factory built in the last century by the South American Export Syndicate Ltda. All of this noted on a small inscription in the entryway. The architecture includes a number of houses that surround three large outbuildings. 

The moment I passed the portico of the museum entrance, I was greeted by my friends and museum employees, Aymara Zegers and Miguel Cáceres. We quickly entered the first outbuilding and they began to show me the work they were doing. There was an overwhelming smell of decomposition. Scattered throughout the building, even right at the entrance, are large bones and vertabrae from a cetacean, a whale, that was stranded in Tierra del Fuego. The place is far from looking like your traditional museum, but it is fascinating to visualize the reconstruction of a skeleton and be able to count the vertebrae one by one on this large creature (a total of 54). 

Afterwards, we went to one of the old houses that currently serves as an “assembly” area for different types of animal skeletons. My mouth dropped! It was like entering the room of a 19th century naturalist! On the shelves you could see bottles with formalin and strange creatures inside them, as well as dozens of skeletons of almost all the animals of the region, kestrels (Falco tinnunculus), flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis), Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus), beavers (Castor canadensis), among many others. I could have spent hours in that place.

The third building was the most similar to a traditional museum of everything we had visited. Perfectly assembled and complete with a great number of every type of animal, this area shows the work being carried out in the museum. Without pretension nor with much governmental funding, they have been able to construct an example of a large chunk of fauna from the Magallanes region. Without a doubt, this place has transformed itself into a must-see for locals and tourists alike. It provides a clear and enlightening way to understand the nature around us and the obligation to protect the places where these creatures live, reproduce, and die.

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How to arrive

The Rio Seco museum is located to the north exit of Punta Arenas in the direction of the airport. From the highway, you will see signs indicating this area. The museum is located on the waterfront facing the sea.

Good to know

For now the museum is a work in progress, the employees are almost always wandering the region to collect bones or work on skeleton assembly. This leaves little time for set visiting hours. Therefore, it is necessary to solicit a visit via facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mhnrioseco/) or the personal cell phone of Aymara Zegers (+569 51003791). There is no entrance fee but it is strongly recommended to support the museum with a voluntary donation to help continue the museum’s work.