Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Monday, February 8, 2010

Duende (Dwarf) Peninsula in Southern Chile


Duende mapa de Cano y Olmedilla
Detail of Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla, Juan. Mapa Geográfico de América Meridional. From [1].

Old maps fascinate me. They are charming, it is a way of traveling through space and time to remote ages when men in small sailboats explored remote areas and, putting their lives at risk, made the World a known place. Today I will take a peek at an XVIIIth century map of South America and a strange place name that appears on it: Duende (Spanish for elf, dwarf).

Duende (Dwarf Peninsula)

I came across a map drawn in 1775 by Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla, it is his Mapa Geográfico de América Meridional (Geographic Map of Meridional America), [1] which banned in Spain, was later published in England in 1799. He compiled it over a period of ten years using information from previous maps and other documents from the Secretary of State and the Consejo de Indias.

In it, what is now known as Taitao Peninsula appears under the name of “Peninsula Grande de Tres Montes” (Big Peninsula with Three Mountains), though its northernt tip was named “Taytao” point. Along its western coast is a plae named “del Duende” which, in Spanish means “of the dwarf”. Above, you can see a detail of this map.

Taitao is a westwards projection of the mainland, to which it is connected by the very narrow isthums of Olqui.

Duende does not appear in a map drawn after a Survey by Juan de Langara (1789) Carta esferica de las costas de la America Meridional desde el paralelo de [36 deg. 30 min.] de latitud S. hasta el Cabo de Hornos. The western coast of "Tres Montes" appears as mostly unexplored (it is drawn with a thin line), unlike the inner (and calmer waters) to the north and south of the Peninsula where the coast is drawn with a thick line.

Detail of Langara's Map. From [3].

This stange place name has survived and still appears on maps:

Taitao Peninsula, Chile. Duende (Dwarf) Peninsula is highlighted.
It is now a Peninsula, named Duende.
. Copyright ©2010 by Austin Whittall

I have checked two books of the first expeditions to that area -Ladrillero’s (1557-59) and Sarmiento de Gamboa’s (1579) – and found no reference to this landmark.

A 1899 Dictionary of Chilean Geography, has an entry regarding a "Duende" Island off the coast of Taitao (see below), but it gives no hint on the origin of the name.

Entry on "Duende Island". From [2].

Patagonian elves and dwarves

Though Southern Chile is home to the Trauco myth, I have only found it north of Chiloé Island (Taitao is too far south). The Tehuelche myth of Tachwull which is a Southern Patagonian myth, would not have reached Taitao (isolated by the Northern Continental Ice Field) and by the Andean Mountains. It was the home of the Chono people, and we know very little about them and almost nothing regarding their beliefs.

However, we could take the wild guess that some kind of Patagoinan dwarf such as Yosi actually spread north out of Tierra del Fuego Island and lived in the Andean Forests, including Chiloé and Taitao, and further north, originating all the mythical Patagonian dwarves (i.e. Peuquen, Anchimallén, Ivunche and Quetrunamun).

See my map showing dwarf distribution across Patagonia.

Dwarf at Taitao? a possibility

Chilean author Benjamín Subercaseaux saw some strange signals back in 1946. At the time he was on board a Chilean Navy ship, looking for a route across Rescue peninsula at Port San Esteban. In his own words, this is what happened:

we came upon, with great surprise, fresh human excrement that was on top of a rock. It could not be of sealers because, it was recent, and the boat that would have brought them should have been visible not far from this spot […] furthermore I believed I had seen a few moments earlier, naked foot prints on the coarse sand […] was that a track of Indians? Was the Taitao Peninsula inhabited? We could not ascertain this. But, he who writes these lines, saw at night […] barely perceptible tiny flashes [of fire] in the black hills, during our stay at the bottom of the fjord. I suspect that we were watched all the time from the forest.[4]

He took those signs as evidence that the supposedly extinct Chono were in fact still alive and flourishing with their stone-age culture in their ancestral territory, never having been destroyed by the Europeans.

But these signs could also be proof that mysterious hominids related to Yosi, are still alive somewhere in the empty temperate rain forests at Taitao.


[1] Online. National Maritime Museum, London.
[2] Asta-Buruaga y Cienfuegos, Francisco Solano. (1899). Diccionario Geográfico de la República de Chile. Santiago de Chile. pp. 260.
[3] Online. National Maritime Museum, London.
[4] Subercaseaux, B., (1961).Tierra de océanos. Santiago: Ercilla. pp. 118.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia

2010 International Year of Biodiversity
Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall ©

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