|Native name||Cabo de Hornos (Spanish)|
Location of Cape Horn in continental Chile
|Subregion||Antártica Chilena Province|
Cape Horn (Spanish: Cabo de Hornos, pronounced [ˈkaβo ðe ˈoɾnos]) 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 identified by mariners and first rounded in 1616 by the Dutchman Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire, who named it Kaap Hoorn (help·info) 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.
The need for boats and ships to round Cape Horn was greatly reduced by the opening of the Panama Canal in August 1914. Sailing around 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. 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, Velux 5 Oceans Race, and the solo Vendée Globe and Golden Globe Race, sail around the world via the Horn. Speed records for round-the-world sailing are recognized for following this route.
See also: Magellanic moorland
Cape Horn is located on Hornos Island in the Hermite Islands group, at the southern end of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.[unreliable source?] It marks the north edge of the Drake Passage, the strait between South America and Antarctica. It is located in Cabo de Hornos National Park.
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.[unreliable source?] 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.[unreliable source?] Due to severe winds characteristic of the region, the sculpture was blown over in 2014. A 2019 research expedition found the world's southernmost tree growing, a Magellan's beech mostly bent to the ground, on a northeast-facing slope at the island's southeast corner. Cape Horn is the southern limit of the range of the Magellanic penguin.[unreliable source?]
The climate in the region is generally cool, owing to the southern latitude. There are no weather stations in the group of islands including Cape Horn; but a study in 1882–1883, found an annual rainfall of 1,357 millimetres (53.4 inches), with an average annual temperature of 5.2 °C (41.4 °F). Winds were reported to average 30 kilometres per hour (8.33 m/s; 18.64 mph), (5 Bf), with squalls of over 100 kilometres per hour (27.78 m/s; 62.14 mph), (10 Bf) occurring in all seasons. There are 278 days of rainfall (70 days snow) and 2,000 millimetres (79 inches) of annual rainfall
Cloud coverage is generally extensive, with averages from 5.2 eighths in May and July to 6.4 eighths in December and January.[unreliable source?] Precipitation is high throughout the year: the weather station on the nearby Diego Ramírez Islands, 109 kilometres (68 mi) south-west in the Drake Passage, shows the greatest rainfall in March, averaging 137.4 millimetres (5.41 in); while October, which has the least rainfall, still averages 93.7 millimetres (3.69 in).[unreliable source?] Wind conditions are generally severe, particularly in winter. In summer, the wind at Cape Horn is gale force up to 5 percent of the time, with generally good visibility; however, in winter, gale-force winds occur up to 30 percent of the time, often with poor visibility.
Many stories are told of hazardous journeys "around the Horn", most describing fierce storms. Charles Darwin wrote: "One sight of such a coast is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril and death."
Being the southernmost point of land outside of Antarctica, the region experiences barely 7 hours of daylight during the June solstice, with Cape Horn itself having 6 hours and 57 minutes. The region experiences around 17 and a half hours of daylight during the December solstice, and experiences only nautical twilight from civil dusk to civil dawn. White nights occur during the week around the December solstice.
Cape Horn yields a subpolar oceanic climate (Cfb), with abundant precipitation—much of which falls as sleet and snow.
|Climate data for Diego Ramírez Islands (Isla Gonzalo)|
|Average high °C (°F)||14.7
|Daily mean °C (°F)||7.2
|Average low °C (°F)||6.5
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||126.0
|Source: Meteorología Interactiva|
Cape Horn is part of the Commune of Cabo de Hornos, whose capital is Puerto Williams; this in turn is part of Antártica Chilena Province, whose capital is also Puerto Williams. The area is part of the Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region of Chile. Puerto Toro, a few miles south of Puerto Williams, is the closest town to the cape.
In 1526 the Spanish vessel the San Lesmes commanded by Francisco de Hoces, member of the Loaísa expedition, was blown south by a gale in front of the Atlantic end of Magellan Strait and reached Cape Horn, passing through 56° S where they thought to see Land's End. Since the discovery, the sea separating South America from Antarctica bears the name of its discoverer in Spanish sources. It appears as Mar de Hoces (Sea of Hoces) in most Spanish-language maps. In English charts however it is named the Drake Passage.
In September 1578, Sir Francis Drake, in the course of his circumnavigation of the world, passed through the Strait of Magellan into the Pacific Ocean. Before he could continue his voyage north his ships encountered a storm, and were blown well to the south of Tierra del Fuego. The expanse of open water they encountered led Drake to guess that far from being another continent, as previously believed, Tierra del Fuego was an island with open sea to its south. This discovery went unused for some time, as ships continued to use the known passage through the Strait of Magellan.
By the early 17th century the Dutch East India Company was given a monopoly on all Dutch trade via the Straits of Magellan and the Cape of Good Hope, the only known routes at the time to the Far East. To search for an alternate route and one to the unknown Terra Australis, Isaac Le Maire, a wealthy Amsterdam merchant and Willem Schouten, a ship's master of Hoorn, contributed in equal shares to the enterprise, with additional financial support from merchants of Hoorn. Jacob Le Maire, Isaac's son, went on the journey as “chiefe Marchant and principall factor,” in charge of trading aspects of the endeavour. The two ships that departed Holland at the beginning of June 1615 were the Eendracht of 360 tons with Schouten and Le Maire aboard, and the Hoorn of 110 tons, of which Schouten's brother Johan was master. It was Eendracht then, with the crew of the recently wrecked Hoorn aboard, that passed through the Le Maire Strait and Schouten and Le Maire made their great discovery:
At the time it was discovered, the Horn was believed to be the southernmost point of Tierra del Fuego; the unpredictable violence of weather and sea conditions in the Drake Passage made exploration difficult, and it was only in 1624 that the Horn was discovered to be an island. It is a telling testament to the difficulty of conditions there that Antarctica, only 650 kilometres (400 miles) away across the Drake Passage, was discovered only as recently as 1820, despite the passage having been used as a major shipping route for 200 years.
From the 18th to the early 20th centuries, Cape Horn was a part of the clipper routes which carried much of the world's trade. Sailing ships sailed round the Horn carrying wool, grain, and gold from Australia back to Europe; these included the windjammers in the heyday of the Great Grain Race of the 1930s. Much trade was carried around the Horn between Europe and the Far East; and trade and passenger ships travelled between the coasts of the United States via the Horn. The Horn exacted a heavy toll from shipping, however, owing to the extremely hazardous combination of conditions there.
The only facilities in the vicinity able to service or supply a ship, or provide medical care, were in the Falkland Islands. The businesses there were so notorious for price-gouging that damaged ships were sometimes abandoned at Port Stanley.
While most companies switched to steamers and later used the Panama canal, German steel-hulled sailing ships like the Flying P-Liners were designed since the 1890s to withstand the weather conditions around the Horn, as they specialized in the South American nitrate trade and later the Australian grain trade. None of them were lost travelling around the Horn, but some, like the mighty Preußen, were victims of collisions in the busy English channel.
Traditionally, a sailor who had rounded the Horn was entitled to wear a gold loop earring—in the left ear, the one which had faced the Horn in a typical eastbound passage—and to dine with one foot on the table; a sailor who had also rounded the Cape of Good Hope could place both feet on the table.
One particular historic attempt to round the Horn, that of HMS Bounty in 1788, has been immortalized in history due to the subsequent Mutiny on the Bounty. This abortive Horn voyage has been portrayed (with varying historical accuracy) in three major motion pictures about Captain William Bligh's mission to transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to Jamaica. The Bounty made only 85 miles of headway in 31 days of east-to-west sailing, before giving up by reversing course and going around Africa. Although the 1984 movie portrayed another decision to go round the Horn as a precipitating factor in the mutiny (this time west-to-east after collecting the breadfruits in the South Pacific), in fact that was never contemplated out of concern for the effect of the low temperatures near the Horn on the plants.
The transcontinental railroads in North America, as well as the Panama Canal that opened in 1914 in Central America, led to the gradual decrease in use of the Horn for trade. As steamships replaced sailing ships, Flying P-Liner Pamir became the last commercial sailing ship to round Cape Horn laden with cargo, carrying grain from Port Victoria, Australia, to Falmouth, England, in 1949.
Cape Horn has been an icon of sailing culture for centuries; it has featured in sea shanties[unreliable source?] and in many books about sailing. One of the classic accounts of a working ship in the age of sail is Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana Jr., in which the author describes an arduous trip from Boston to California via Cape Horn:
Just before eight o'clock (then about sundown, in that latitude) the cry of "All hands ahoy!" was sounded down the fore scuttle and the after hatchway, and hurrying upon deck, we found a large black cloud rolling on toward us from the south-west, and blackening the whole heavens. "Here comes Cape Horn!" said the chief mate; and we had hardly time to haul down and clew up, before it was upon us. In a few moments, a heavier sea was raised than I had ever seen before, and as it was directly ahead, the little brig, which was no better than a bathing machine, plunged into it, and all the forward part of her was under water; the sea pouring in through the bow-ports and hawse-hole and over the knightheads, threatening to wash everything overboard. In the lee scuppers it was up to a man's waist. We sprang aloft and double reefed the topsails, and furled all the other sails, and made all snug. But this would not do; the brig was laboring and straining against the head sea, and the gale was growing worse and worse. At the same time sleet and hail were driving with all fury against us. We clewed down, and hauled out the reef-tackles again, and close-reefed the fore-topsail, and furled the main, and hove her to on the starboard tack. Here was an end to our fine prospects....
After nine more days of headwinds and unabated storms, Dana reported that his ship, the "Pilgrim" finally cleared the turbulent waters of Cape Horn and turned northwards.
Charles Darwin, in The Voyage of the Beagle, a journal of the five-year expedition upon which he based The Origin of Species, described his 1832 encounter with the Horn:
... we closed in with the Barnevelts, and running past Cape Deceit with its stony peaks, about three o'clock doubled the weather-beaten Cape Horn. The evening was calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine view of the surrounding isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his tribute, and before night sent us a gale of wind directly in our teeth. We stood out to sea, and on the second day again made the land, when we saw on our weather-bow this notorious promontory in its proper form—veiled in a mist, and its dim outline surrounded by a storm of wind and water. Great black clouds were rolling across the heavens, and squalls of rain, with hail, swept by us with such extreme violence, that the Captain determined to run into Wigwam Cove. This is a snug little harbour, not far from Cape Horn; and here, at Christmas-eve, we anchored in smooth water.
William Jones, writing of his experience in 1905 as a fifteen-year-old apprentice on one of the last commercial sailing ships, noted the contrast between his ship, which would take two months and the lives of three sailors to round the Horn, and birds adapted to the region:
An albatross appears out of the murk, to examine us in our plight. The gale is of hurricane force, but the bird sails serenely and unhurriedly through the air, within a few feet of the ship's rail, on the windward side. Then it turns into the eye of the wind, and disappears in the murk —westward —without any discernible effort in its aerial gliding, while we are still drifting to leeward, incapable of emulating its brilliant defiance of the gusts.
Alan Villiers, a modern-day expert in traditional sailing ships, wrote many books about traditional sailing, including By way of Cape Horn. More recent sailors have taken on the Horn singly, such as Vito Dumas, who wrote Alone Through The Roaring Forties based on his round-the-world voyage; or with small crews.
Bernard Moitessier made two significant voyages round the Horn; once with his wife Françoise, described in Cape Horn: The Logical Route, and once single-handed. His book The Long Way tells the story of this latter voyage, and of a peaceful night-time passage of the Horn: "The little cloud underneath the moon has moved to the right. I look... there it is, so close, less than 10 miles (16 km) away and right under the moon. And nothing remains but the sky and the moon playing with the Horn. I look. I can hardly believe it. So small and so huge. A hillock, pale and tender in the moonlight; a colossal rock, hard as diamond."
And John Masefield wrote: "Cape Horn, that tramples beauty into wreck / And crumples steel and smites the strong man dumb."
A memorial presented in Robert FitzRoy's bicentenary (2005) commemorates his landing on Cape Horn on 19 April 1830.
Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song entitled "Ghosts of Cape Horn".
In 1980 Keith F. Critchlow directed and produced the documentary film "Ghosts of Cape Horn", with the participation and archaeological consulting of famous underwater archaeologist Peter Throckmorton.