Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego

Back in the 1990's and early 2000's I spent a lot of time going to Antarctica. All told, I completed 30 trips to the "ice". And the jumping off point was always on the island of Tierra Del Fuego in either Argentina or Chile. I am quite familiar with these waters and was happy to go on a three day cruise to Cape Horn and Punta Arenas, Chile.

Here is a view of the landing beach at Cape Horn.

Our ship is called the Australis. Landing on the island only has a 30% success rate. So we were quite jazzed when we woke up in the morning and found calm sea's on the landing beach. A flood of wonderful memories came back to me as we ascended the 120 stairs.

The boardwalk at Cape Horn. The Chilean Navy operates a small weather station here. The island was contested between Argentina and Chile until the pope had to intervene in the early 1980s. There are still landmines off of the boardwalk to the north. Most trips to Antarctica try to stop here but we saw no one else today.

View of the monument to the lost mariners who attempted to round the Horn.

Can you see the albatross? There is a marble plate near here with a poem written in Spanish. It goes:

I am the albatross 
that waits for you 
at the end of the world

I am the forgotten souls
of the loss seamen
who sailed across Cape Horn
from all the seas of the world

But they have not died in the fury of the waves;

Today they fly on my wings,
towards eternity, 
in the last vestiges 
of the antarctic winds

It is said that over 10,000 sailors lost their lives trying to round Cape Horn. There are accounts of ships making it around the Horn in five days, while others took up to 94 days to get around the tip of South America. This place looms large in the hearts and minds of the world's mariners. You can see the actual cape in the background over my shoulder. It is a highlight of my life really, to know this place so well.

The lighthouse at Cape Horn

600 miles south of this point lies the northern tip of Antarctica.

Southern beech trees battered by wind at Orange Bay. I gave my fourth lecture of the trip in the Yamana Lounge on the ship, "The Patagonian Landscape and How People Arrived at Tierra del Fuego".

Piloto glacier on the western side of Tierra Del Fuego

These fjords receive huge amounts of rain

Magellanic penguins on Magdalena Island

A fitting end to our three day cruise. On to Buenos Aires!

Touching the toe of the Indian at the statue in the square of Punta Arenas means one will return to Patagonia. So far, it has worked every time for me and will except for once.

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