Sunday, March 16, 2014

Visiting Tierra del Fuego--A Walk on Cape Horn

beach at Cape Horn
beach at Cape Horn
In November of 2009 I boarded the Via Australis as part of National Geographic trip to sail the Beagle Channel from Argentine Patagonia to Chilean Patagonia, not around Cape Horn but through the safer (though not especially safe) interior waterways. Before sailing westward, however, we were offered the opportunity to walk on the island at the tip of South America, Cape Horn. (Take Google Maps to the tip of South America link then zoom out).







coming ashore on Cape Horn
coming ashore on Cape Horn
Bundled in several layers of wool plus layers of plastic to resist the rain, plus orange life preservers, we climbed into zodiacs. (Zodiac is apparently a trade name for little rubber boats, open but very stable even with clumsy tourists aboard.) Here you see the zodiacs of tourists coming from the Via Australis, as I look back at the ship from the beach.
Cape Horn - a wet slippery boardwalk
Cape Horn - a wet slippery boardwalk
From the beach we climbed a steep wet wooden stair to a boardwalk across the low, wet vegetation.

I don’t know what I had expected but somehow not what it was:  a high, rocky island.

Cape Horn in the distance
Cape Horn in the distance
A Chilean family lives on Cape Horn, making Chile’s point that it’s their territory.  The family rotates out annually since it is very isolated and the weather is frequently worse than the cold rain we had. There’s a house, a lighthouse, and a chapel to sailors who lost their lives in these waters.  I have no pictures of those.
cold rain on Cape Horn
cold rain on Cape Horn
We came ashore in chilly weather, but as I walked the boardwalk toward the southern
end of the island, the rain turned to sleet. It was horrid. I’d had my gloves off to take pictures and my fingers got miserably cold. When I went to pull up my hood over my hat, my fingers didn’t work very well. It remains a sharp memory of physical misery. After I pulled my hood up, pocketed the camera, and put my gloves back on, I warmed up enough to decide against going back to the ship right away.

The path leads to the Albatross Memorial to all the fallen sailors. It sits on a rise with sky behind it. I thought it very impressive.


The Albatross memorial Cape Horn
The Albatross memorial to lost sailors, Cape Horn
The sun almost came out.

The island was beautiful in a bleak way:  

Cape Horn
Cape Horn 



grasses and cushion plants, Cape Horn
grasses and cushion plants, Cape Horn



















shrubs of Cape Horn
small shrubs on Cape Horn
Cape Horn landscape
Cape Horn landscape
The path goes just a bit beyond  the Albatross Memorial, where you are look out to ocean that stretches unbroken to Antarctica.  Quite impressively the end of the earth.
south from Cape Horn
And, looking south from Cape Horn, there is only ocean


Comments and corrections welcome.


Kathy Keeler





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