On board the Celebrity Eclipse let's go on a South America cruise. It is December, and early summer is enjoyed by the people of the southern half of the Americas. We are on the way to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Latin America.
Ushuaia - city center view
But before we get to know Ushuaia, we first have to circumnavigate the legendary Cape Horn. In front of Cape Horn we can expect low temperatures, and there is also constant rain. The sea is calm, however. What the heck, for us and many of our fellow travelers, the trip around the Cape is the same as the circumnavigation of the North Cape.
The discovery of Cape Horn
More than 400 years ago, in January 1616, seafarers first passed Cape Horn on behalf of the Dutch Australian Company. The surrounding marine region is known as the Drake Passage. It connects the Atlantic with the Pacific. Because of the inherent dangers it is called one of the most feared and inhospitable sea routes in the world. The alternative route through the Strait of Magellan, also a link between the two oceans, was discovered as early as 1520.
Rocks in the Drake Passage
Cape Horn is not the southernmost point of Latin America
Cape Horn lies at 55 ° 59 'south latitude on the Isla de Hornos. The also symbolic North Cape on the other hand lies at 71 ° 10 'north latitude, i.e. in a much more exposed position to the North Pole than Cape Horn to the South Pole. Like the North Cape in Europe, Cape Horn is not the furthest point in South America. You can find it on the Diego Ramírez Islands, about 100 kilometers southwest of Cape Horn. Apart from this statement, Cape Horn is generally referred to as the southernmost point of Latin America.
The rock plateau of Cape Horn
A gigantic ship graveyard
In front of Cape Horn there are regular strong winds from the west and rough seas. Because of these conditions, Cape Horn is rightly considered a gigantic ship graveyard. More than 800 ships wrecked and sank there in storms, and more than 10.000 sailors lost their lives. The memorial of a stylized albatross, visible from a great distance, has been dedicated to these sailors on the island since December 1992. According to a poem, the bird carries the souls of the dead sailors on its wings into eternity.
Cape Horn - little more than a rock plateau
Stairs lead from the simple pier up to the ten square kilometer rock plateau, which is around 250 meters high. The maximum height of the cape is put at 424 meters. The lighthouse, a house and the Albatros monument are located on the plateau. Wooden walkways connect the points with one another. As can be read, a Chilean soldier accompanied by his family does one year service on the lighthouse. Ships of the Chilean Navy regularly supply the islanders with essentials. Cape Horn is really not a holiday region, and 280 days a year it rains more or less heavily.
Cape Horn lighthouse
We also have to experience this on board the Celebrity Eclipse. Only the die-hard among the passengers are on the outside decks. The remainder spends the passage in the lounges and other sheltered places. Later the rain will ease and visibility will improve. The sea, on the other hand, is extremely calm. From the bridge we continuously hear information about our stage destination.
In front of the Isla de Hornos, huge rocks rise from the sea. The country looks barren and desolate. Finally we see the lighthouse, the home of the military post and the Albatros monument. Nice to have seen it all.
Update March 2021