In 1584, Spanish explorer Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa organized an expedition of 15 ships and 4,000 men to control the Strait of Magellan, but after a series of disasters only three ships with 300 colonists arrived to found Ciudad del Rey don Felipe, south of present-day Punta Arenas . Even worse for the Spaniards, the inhospitable climate and unsuitable soils made agriculture impossible; when British privateer Thomas Cavendish landed three years later, he found only a handful of survivors and dubbed it Port Famine, which has survived as the Spanish Puerto del Hambre.
For many years, the consensus was that starvation alone determined Puerto Hambre’s fate, but historian Mateo Martinic has suggested that disease, mutual acts of violence, Tehuelche attacks, and a simple sense of anguish or abandonment contributed to its demise.
The area remained unsettled until 1843, when President Manuel Bulnes ordered the cutter Ancud south from Chiloé  with tools, building materials, food, and livestock to take possession for the expansionist Chile. The result was Fuerte Bulnes, a military outpost that survived slightly longer than the original Spanish settlement before being relocated to Punta Arenas  in 1848.
Modern Fuerte Bulnes, on the site of the first Chilean settlement, is a national monument more for its site than for its reconstructions of 19th-century buildings and the defensive walls—with sharpened stakes—that surround them. Among the structures were residences, stables, a blockhouse, a chapel, a jail, and warehouse.
Archaeologists located nearby remnants of Ciudad del Rey don Felipe in 1955, and later excavations turned up human remains, bullets, tombs, and ruins of Puerto Hambre’s church. A recent plaque (1965) celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company’s ships Chile and Perú and their routes around the Horn.
Puerto Hambre and Fuerte Bulnes are 58 kilometers south of Punta Arenas  via Ruta 9, which is paved about halfway; the rest is bumpy but passable. There is no regular public transportation, but most Punta Arenas operators offer half-day excursions. Admission is free.