Cape Horn, Chile

Nov 04, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

We have reached the southernmost tip of the American continent - the end of the world, Cape Horn!  This is where the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic meet, giving way to the Drake Passage in the south. Here, prevailing westerly winds flow off the Pacific, the famous Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties, winds and waves, between 40ºC and 60º C latitude which blows almost freely around the globe. The mixing of the waters from the two oceans combined with the strong winds creates very challenging conditions to sail in this region. If there are two words to describe where we were, they are water and wind. Water in all its shapes and forms, flavors and quantities, and winds so powerful that it almost seemed like a symphony from the gods playing in high volume and intensity.

The weather was unusually favorable, and we were even able to circumnavigate the island. The sun was shining, the winds seemed suspiciously calm and the swell was slowly growing. With our hopes high and with excitement we prepared for a landing. But Cape Horn decided to play us a trick and, living up to its fame, twisted the waters in such a manner that we had to head back.

Even though we weren't able to explore the island as we desired, a clear day and outstanding navigational skills from our crew gave us a privileged view from the ship. And there it was - the famous red lighthouse and the monument dedicated to many sailors lost rounding Cape Horn. 

Ghosts of Cape Horn        Gordon Lightfoot


All around old Cape Horn

Ships of the line, ships of the morn

Some who wish they'd never been born

They are the ghosts of Cape Horn

Fal deral da riddle de rum

With a rim dim diddy

And a rum dum dum

Sailing away at the break of dawn

They are the ghosts of Cape Horn

See them all in sad repair

Demons dance everywhere

Southern gales, tattered sails

And none to tell the tales

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About the Author

Madalena Patacho


Madalena was born and raised in Portugal. Her childhood was spent in Belem, surrounded by Portuguese maritime history, always dreaming about exploring the oceans. Her love for nature has led her to study biology and later to take a Master’s in management of natural resources, specialized in ecotourism. She has lived on Príncipe Island, off the west coast of Africa, working with local communities on a responsible tourism project. She is inspired by the principles of ecotourism and is always looking for the best ways to contribute and leave a positive footprint everywhere.

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