Thursday, 23 May 2013

Up Close to Cape Horn

By Jonny Blair


The magic of Cape Horn - this is basically the last part of planet earth as you head to the South Pole that you can realistically live on! Any further south and it's just too cold to live. Michael Palin once managed to step foot here on a BBC Documentary a few years back and now it was time to make the trip to Cape Horn.[]

Cape Horn is in Tierra del Fuego. A series of islands owned jointly by Argentina and Chile, however Cape Horn is on the Chilean side. What a great name - Cape Horn - it just sounds inspiring and makes you want to see it. That was the plan and we were on our way!

it's expensive to visit the Cape of Horn. For some reason Michael Palin didn't pay for it - it would all have been covered by a generous BBC budget for the purpose of filming. My trip was on a much lower budget and I managed to backpack my way to Antarctica - the trip to visit the Horn, even just to see it on the way back was such a bonus. However the Chilean marine authorities don't let ships close to it - they issue a proximity maximum of around 12 - 13 miles except in special circumstances.

We left Argentina behind for Antarctica sailing on the MS Expedition which was built up in Denmakr, had been registered in Africa at Liberia and was now making these regular trips down to the white continent. Everyone on the ship was asleep (except the crew) the night we headed south on the dreaded Drake Passage, so getting up close to Cape Horn wasn't happening - we were much too far east for that anyway and we had one intention - arriving in Antarctica[]

Onboard the boat there was talk about whether we could go anywhere near Cape Horn on the way back to Argentina. There were clues onboard that this may happen. Screening an onboard documentary about Cape Horn was one, yet the crew were saying nothing!

However the map of the route onboard the ship was the giveaway as we had departed from Antarctica at Elephant Island and were changing direction rapidly, instead of heading directly north, there was a slight tilting to the north west, where Cape Horn sits.

On the evening of our final ascent up the Drake Passage the visit to view Cape Horn was finally confirmed by the crew amid a joyous response. We were told at the recap of the day and the briefing session that we would indeed be sailing close to Cape Horn for a view at 5am the next morning.

However it was also the last night on board the ship to celebrate the epic journey to Antarctica so we had all been in the onboard bar celebrating and toasting to the incredible trip. It was almost 3 am when I got to bed and that meant only a couple of hours sleep before the dream arrival at the horn!

It was only 2 hours in bed and then up again so that we could actually see Cape Horn. It was a massive crowd gathered on deck for the viewing as we inched closer to the horn itself. It must have been 6.30 when we finally caught sight of it.

By 7am there it was and we all gasped as we saw it - this island tip ahead of us was indeed Cape Horn. Cheers roared louder when the captain then announced that the seas were not as rough as normal and we were being allowed to get beyond the normal 12 mile barrier and see Cape Horn close up.

Once we were that close to Cape Horn everyone was busy staring out at it and taking photos. We got within 3 miles of it in the end and it was a magnificent moment. None of us landed on Cape Horn but we saw it with our own eyes!




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