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Patagonia(pätägō`nyä), region, c.300,000 sq mi (777,000 sq km), primarily in S Argentina, S of the Río Colorado and E of the Andes, but including extreme SE Chile and N Tierra del Fuego. Patagonia, except for the far southern plains, the sub-Andean region, and the Andes, is a vast, wind-swept semiarid plateau, sloping gently toward the east and terminating in cliffs along the Atlantic Ocean. Crossing from the Andes to the Atlantic are transverse valleys, some cradling rivers. Although most of the water courses are intermittently dry, some rivers (the Río Negro, the Chubut, the Santa Cruz, and the Gallegos) are perennial. The sub-Andean region in the west contains numerous lakes (Nahuel Huapí, Buenos Aires, Viedma, and Argentino) fed by glaciers; it also has some deep, fertile valleys. Subantarctic conditions prevail in the far south. The region is at times affected by the eruption of Andean volcanoes; in 1991 an eruption of the Hudson Volcano in Chile caused great ecological damage in Patagonia.
Until recently sheep raising (mainly for wool) was the major industry of Patagonia, but oil production, particularly around Neuquen, Río Gallegos, and Comodoro Rivadavia (the region's largest city), has become very important. There are coal deposits in the upper Río Gallegos valley, and iron-ore deposits at Sierra Grande. Tourist resorts in the lake region are very popular. Cattle are raised, and agriculture is practiced in irrigated oases along the Río Negro and the Chubut. A rich field for the paleontologist, Patagonia has been visited by many scientific expeditions since the days of Charles Darwin. Of the original inhabitants, the Tehuelches (the "Patagonian giants") are the most important. Among the native animals are the guanaco, the rhea, the puma, and the deer.
Probably first visited (1501) by Amerigo Vespucci, the Patagonian coast was explored (1520) by Ferdinand Magellan. Settlements were attempted in the 16th and 17th cent., but the inhospitable country and natives discouraged colonization. It was not until after Julio A. Roca, an Argentine general, campaigned against the native people that Argentine ranchers began entering the territory in the late 19th cent. Chileans had been coming in for some time, and despite efforts to exclude them during and after the Argentine-Chilean boundary dispute in the early 20th cent., many continued to immigrate. Many Europeans, including many British, took up ranches, and immigration has made the population ethnically the most European in all Argentina.
Making up more than a third of Argentine territory and still sparsely populated, Patagonia is a vast natural reserve, and settlement has steadily increased. The region became fashionable with wealthy foreigners in the 1990s and many celebrities bought homes there, fueling a boom in property sales. Studies have revealed the presence of vast untapped mineral wealth. By the 1990s, environmental damage caused by the depletion of the ozone layerozone layer
region of the stratosphere containing relatively high concentrations of ozone, located at altitudes of 12–30 mi (19–48 km) above the earth's surface.
..... Click the link for more information. in the Antarctic region had become noticeable.
See W. H. Hudson, Idle Days in Patagonia (new ed. 1985).
a natural region in South America, in southern Argentina, south of the Colorado and Negro rivers and east of the Andes. The terrain is dominated by plateaus rising in a series of steps from the Atlantic Ocean to an elevation of 2,000 m in the west. There are lowlands only in the northeast and in the southeast south of Golfo San Jorge.
Patagonia is composed mainly of Middle Cenozoic sedimentary and volcanic strata, as well as morainic (in the west and south) and glaciofluvial deposits. Located in the rain shadow of the Andes, it has a temperate, semiarid climate. Annual precipitation averages 150–300 mm; south of 50° S lat., precipitation amounts to 400–500 mm annually, and in the west to 600–700 mm. The average temperature in July is 8°C in the north, 2°C in the south, and — 5°C in the west, where temperatures can be as low as — 35°C. The average temperature in January is 20°C in the north and 10°C in the south. Strong winds are characteristic of the area. Rivers rise in the Andes and cut across Patagonia in deep canyons. Variations in the flow of water are mitigated in some rivers by large glacial lakes, such as Nahuel Huapí, Viedma, and Argentino. Some of the lakes, including Buenos Aires, Pueyrredón, and San Martin, drain into the Pacific Ocean.
The land between the rivers has almost no surface drainage. The vegetation consists primarily of semidesert grasses and scrub growing on brown soil (sierozem in the north). In the west and south steppe grasses and chestnut soils predominate. There are many endemic animals, including the Colpeo fox (Dusicyon culpaeus), the pampas cat, the skunk, the Patagonia cavy (Dolichotus patagona), the rodent tuco-tuco, and the armadillo; there are numerous birds. The main branch of agriculture is sheep raising. Grains are cultivated in the valleys north of 44° S lat. In the northwest (the Plaza Huincul region), the east (near Comodoro Rivadavia), and near the Strait of Magellan, there are deposits of petroleum and natural gas. The name “Patagonia” was given to the area by the expedition of F. Magellan in 1520.
E. N. LUKASHOVA