The Beagle Channel, the Strait of Magellan to the north, and the open ocean Drake Passage to the south are the three navigable passages around South America between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. The Beagle Channel and the Strait of Magellan are both very narrow passages which severely limit the size and types of ships that can safely use them, hence, most commercial shipping is done through the Drake Passage.
The Beagle Channel is about 240 kilometers (130 nautical miles; 150 mi) long and is about 5 kilometers (3 nautical miles; 3 mi) wide at its narrowest point. It extends from Nueva Island in the east to Darwin Sound and Cook Bay in the west.
The Yaghan peoples settled the islands along the Murray Channel approximately 10,000 years before present. There are notable archaeological sites indicating such early Yaghan settlement at locations such as Bahia Wulaia on Isla Navarino, where the Bahia Wulaia Dome Middens are located.
Naming and Darwin visit
The channel was named after the ship HMS Beagle during its first hydrographic survey of the coasts of the southern part of South America which lasted from 1826 to 1830. During that expedition, under the overall command of the Australian Commander Phillip Parker King, the Beagle's captain Pringle Stokes committed suicide and was replaced by captain Robert FitzRoy. The ship continued the survey in the second voyage of the Beagle under the command of captain FitzRoy who took Charles Darwin along as a gentleman's companion, giving him opportunities as an amateur naturalist. Darwin had his first sight of glaciers when they reached the channel on 29 January 1833, and wrote in his field notebook "many glaciers beryl blue most beautiful contrasted with snow".