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Rounding the Horn: Chilean Patagonia

The waters around the cape are particularly hazardous, due to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and icebergs - making it notorious as a sailors' gravgard. Sailing around the Horn is widely regarded as one of the major challenges in boating.

We awoke this morning to find that we had crossed the Drake Passage and Cape Horn — the southern most point of South America — was in sight.
The joy of having completed the journey was tempered with the news that the sea was much too rough to attempt a landing on Cape Horn itself. As a consolation, the captain cruised around the Horn east¬to-west (from the Atlantic to the Pacific) and then back again (Pacific to Atlantic)...so we can all say that we've "rounded the Horn" twice!
Since our next scheduled stop was at 5:30 pm, we spent most of the day relaxing and watching the islands of Chilean Patagonia glide past our windows. During the mid¬morning, we watched a movie "Navigating Cape Horn"; it was filmed by an American sailor in 1928 when he sailed around Cape Horn on a huge 4-masted windjammer sailing ship. Despite the fact that it was a grainy, old black-and-white film, the narration that had been added in 1980 by the sailor (then a retired captain) was light-hearted and entertaining. Seeing men dangling from timbers and rigging 17 stories up while huge waves rolled over the decks below put our return across the Drake Passage into perspective!
By early afternoon, we were turning west into the Beagle Channel, steaming toward Puerto Williams, Chile. Puerto Williams boasts that it is the southern-most town in the world. Now if you think back a week or so, you may recall that we began our cruise at Ushuaia, Argentina, which bills itself as the world's southern-most city. Argentina and Chile have had a long- lived rivalry over many things down here and this is one of them. Geographically, Puerto Williams is farther south, as it sits on the south bank of the Beagle Channel while Ushuaia is on the north bank; but Ushuaia has a population of 60,000 while Puerto Williams is a small naval base town... so they each maintain their claim to fame! One attraction in town is the prow of the ship Yelco that rescued the Shackleton crew from Elephant Island after being stranded in Antarctica for nearly two years, 1914 - 1916.
As our ship docked at Puerto Williams, the sun was shining; by the time we disembarked, it was snowing; and as we finished our trek through the town square, the snow had turned to rain. We found a warm spot at the Yacht Club (which is located inside a rusty old ship) and enjoyed a pisco sour (the national drink). By the time we were finished, the sun was out again to dry us off on our walk back to the ship. It was good to feel the solid earth beneath our feet!
Back on board, we ate dinner and retired to our cabin to watch some DVDs on the laptop and then retire.

  • Cape Horn, situated at almost 56 degrees south, is often said to be the southernmost point of South America. It is located in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The southernmost point on the mainland is Cape Froward. The region is of great significance due to its location, history, discovery, and commercial sailing.
  • The Cape was first rounded by a European on January 26, 1616, by the Dutch expedition of Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire. They named it Kaap Hoorn after the city of Hoorn, Schouten's birthplace. The Spanish name of the place is derived from the Dutch: Cabo de Hornos.
  • The Cape lies within Chilean territorial waters, and Chile supports a lighthouse keeper and his family. The government station consists of a residence, utility building, chapel, and lighthouse. A short distance from the main station is a large sculpture featuring the silhouette of an albatross. The terrain is entirely treeless, although quite lush due to the frequent precipitation.

Posted by jeburns55 01:09 Archived in Chile

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