Thursday, February 13, 2014

S America/Antarctica - 1/01/2014 - Cape Horn, Chile

We were at sea most of the day and the weather wasn't very pretty.  It is New Years Day so we decided that this would be a good day to use the gift certificate that our son, Scott, gave us as a Christmas gift.  All but two of the dining rooms are included in the cruise cost.  The Pinnacle, a steak house, and an Italian restaurant cost extra because the food and wine are upscale compared to the other options.

My appetizer was excellent.

I also loved the Kobe beef steak.  This was a real treat after eating the regular ship food for days.  Thanks Scott!

We arrived in the late afternoon at the Horn.  Fortunately, the weather improved slightly so we had a few rays of sunlight.  We were also fortunate of be here during relatively calm seas.  There is a storm forecast for later in the day.  This area is one of the most dangerous places on earth to sail.  Here is what Wikipedia says about the Horn.

"A number of potential sailing routes may be followed around the tip of South America. The Strait of Magellan, between the mainland and Tierra del Fuego, is a major — although narrow — passage, which was in use for trade well before the Horn was discovered. The Beagle Channel (named for the ship of Charles Darwin's expedition), between Tierra del Fuego and Isla Navarino, offers a potential, though difficult route. Other passages may be taken around the Wollaston and Hermite Islands to the north of Cape Horn.
 All of these, however, are notorious for treacherous williwaw winds, which can strike a vessel with little or no warning; given the narrowness of these routes, vessels have a significant risk of being driven onto the rocks. The open waters of the Drake Passage, south of Cape Horn, provide by far the widest route, at about 800 kilometres (500 mi) wide; this passage offers ample sea room for maneuvering as winds change, and is the route used by most ships and sailboats, despite the possibility of extreme wave conditions.

Several factors combine to make the passage around Cape Horn one of the most hazardous shipping routes in the world: the fierce sailing conditions prevalent in the Southern Ocean generally; the geography of the passage south of the Horn; and the extreme southern latitude of the Horn, at 56° south.

The prevailing winds in latitudes below 40° south can blow from west to east around the world almost uninterrupted by land, giving rise to the "roaring forties" and the even more wild "furious fifties" and "screaming sixties". These winds are hazardous enough that ships traveling east would tend to stay in the northern part of the forties (i.e. not far below 40° south latitude); however, rounding Cape Horn requires ships to press south to 56° south latitude, well into the zone of fiercest winds.  These winds are exacerbated at the Horn by the funneling effect of the Andes and the Antarctic peninsula, which channel the winds into the relatively narrow Drake Passage.

The strong winds of the Southern Ocean give rise to correspondingly large waves; these waves can attain great height as they roll around the Southern Ocean, free of any interruption from land. At the Horn, however, these waves encounter an area of shallow water to the south of the Horn, which has the effect of making the waves shorter and steeper, greatly increasing the hazard to ships. If the strong eastward current through the Drake Passage encounters an opposing east wind, this can have the effect of further building up the waves.  In addition to these "normal" waves, the area west of the Horn is particularly notorious for rogue waves, which can attain heights of up to 30 metres (100 ft).

Ice is a hazard to sailors venturing far below 40° south. Although the ice limit dips south around the horn, icebergs are a significant hazard for vessels in the area. In the South Pacific in February (summer in Southern Hemisphere), icebergs are generally confined to below 50° south; but in August the iceberg hazard can extend north of 40° south. Even in February, the Horn is well below the latitude of the iceberg limit.  These hazards have made the Horn notorious as perhaps the most dangerous ship passage in the world; many ships were wrecked, and many sailors died attempting to round the Cape".

We did take the Strait of Magellan as we headed for Beagle Channel.

There is a small Chilean naval base on Hornos Island where the Cape is located.

Cruising around the Cape is a big deal.  Holland America gave us a certificate for doing that.

A Chilean Pilot boat helped guide us around Hornos Island and Cape Horn.

Click on the next two photos to enlarge them and look for the porpoises swimming near the center of the photos.

The next port and post is Ushuaia, Argentina.

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