We spent the next two days “at sea”. You know, everything is “on sale”, all passengers get to eat ten meals a day, numerous demonstrations to help you decide to buy some kind of back/arm/foot/head repair kit, etc. My body is beyond repair, especially at their prices, so I spend my time sipping Bloody Marys, looking at the passing sights (if there is any) and typing on my computer. So today we’ll go around Cape Horn --- twice. Seems that the captain wants to make sure that there aren’t any complaints about folks “missing” the cape so we’ll go by it once for each side of the ship.
Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island. Although not the most southerly point of South America (which are the Diego Ramírez Islands), Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and marks where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. Cape Horn was discovered and first rounded by the Dutchman Willem Schouten, who named it Kaap Hoorn after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands. For decades, Cape Horn 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. Thus a few recreational sailors continue to sail this route, sometimes as part of a circumnavigation of the globe. Almost all of these choose routes through the channels to the north of the Cape. Many take a detour through the islands and anchor to wait for fair weather to visit Horn Island, or sail around it to replicate a rounding of this historic point. Several prominent ocean yacht races, notably the Volvo Ocean Race, the VELUX 5 Oceans, and the Vendée Globe, sail around the world via the Horn. Speed records for round-the-world sailing are recognized for following this route.
We will also be going through Beagle Channel which is a strait in Tierra del Fuego Archipelago on the extreme southern tip of South America partly in Chile and partly in Argentina. The channel separates the larger main island of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego from various smaller islands including the islands of Picton, Lennox and Nueva; Navarino; Hoste; Londonderry; and Stewart. The channel's eastern area forms part of the border between Chile and Argentina and the western area is entirely within Chile.
The Beagle Channel, the Straits 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 Atlantic Oceans. However, most commercial shipping uses the open-ocean Drake Passage. The largest settlement on the channel is Ushuaia in Argentina (which we are scheduled to visit tomorrow) followed by Puerto Williams in Chile. These are two of the southernmost settlements of the world.