We were very surprised to wake up on our last day at sea on our Antarctic journey (in a fortuitously very calm crossing of the Drake Passage between the Antarctic Peninsula and South America) to find out that the weather and wind conditions were excellent around Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn), Chile, so that we would be able to make a rare Zodiac landing on the island.
Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn), Chile, is the southernmost tip of South America and the Western Hemisphere. It remains a maritime legend to this day, as sailing around this remote point and then through the Drake Passage was (and is) one of the most challenging nautical routes on the planet. The violent stretch of chaotic water between Antarctica and South America, one frequented by icebergs, huge waves and plagued by gale-force winds, is crossed by sailors with great trepidation. Many still prefer to use the sheltered Strait of Magellan, to the north of Ushuaia, Argentina.
“Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and marks where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans collide. For decades it was a major milestone on the clipper route, by which sailing ships carried trade around the world. The waters around Cape Horn are particularly hazardous, owing to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and icebergs; these dangers have made it notorious as a sailors’ graveyard. The need for ships to round Cape Horn was greatly reduced by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Sailing around the Horn is widely regarded as one of the major challenges in yachting.” — Wikipedia
“The cape lies within what are now Chilean territorial waters, and the Chilean Navy maintains a station on Hoorn Island, consisting of a residence, utility building, chapel, and lighthouse. A short distance from the main station is a memorial, including a large sculpture made by Chilean sculptor Jose Balcells featuring the silhouette of an albatross, in remembrance of the sailors who died while attempting to “round the Horn”. It was erected in 1992 through the initiative of the Chilean Section of the Cape Horn Captains Brotherhood. The terrain is entirely treeless, although quite lush owing to frequent precipitation.” — Wikipedia
Cape Horn was our last landfall before sailing north to the eastern entrance of the Beagle Channel, from which point we sailed west back to our starting point for this voyage, Ushuaia, Argentina. The landscape, waters, icebergs, glaciers, penguins, birds, historic settlements, and highly changeable weather left permanent impressions on all of our fortunate small group of “explorers” on this voyage. Fortunately we were able to capture much of this through photography and videography.
Visiting Antarctica is a trip of a lifetime and not to be missed. Put it on your bucket list!