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.
We were extremely lucky the morning we arrived at Cape Horn with perfect weather conditions and a flat, calm sea giving us a magnificent view of the Cape Horn Monument as well as the cape itself.
The cape lies within 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 José 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. Cape Horn is the southern limit of the range of the Magellanic penguin.
Cape Horn was discovered and first rounded 1n 1616 by the Dutchman Willem Schouten, who named it 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 boats and ships to round Cape Horn was greatly reduced by the opening of the Panama Canal in August 1914. However, sailing around the Cape Horn is still 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.
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