There are a number of landmarks around the world, that most people have heard of. They owe their reputation to their vastness, like the Amazon, or Sahara Desert; their height, Mount Everest or just their location such as the Capes of Good Hope or Cape Horn. The opportunities to visit some of these locations can be rare, but earlier this month I had the good fortune to actually land at Cape Horn.
I was on board the M/V Stella Australis, a Chilean tourist passenger boat which, from the end of September until early April every year, sails between the southern Chilean port of Punta Arenas and the town of Ushuaia in Argentina. The cruise – either 4 or 3 nights in duration – makes a number of stops to see the glaciers and other highlights of the area, but the most eagerly anticipated excursion is the landing at Cape Horn, the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Pacific Ocean. Understandably, weather conditions will dictate if a landing can be made and it should be noted that not every sailing is successful in achieving this.
I was especially pleased to land at Cape Horn on the 400th anniversary of its founding by two Dutchmen, who named the location after the Dutch town of Hoorn whose merchants had funded the sailing. Reaching the island is by zodiac and once on land you have to walk up a good number of narrow steps and follow the walkways firstly to the Cape Horn Monument. This was originally erected in 1992 in memory of all seafarers who have lost their lives in the waters of the area over the years. The monument represents an albatross in flight, that type of bird being typically found in the southern seas. In 2014, powerful winds in excess of 250km per hour destroyed the statue, but a replacement has been constructed.
The weather for my brief visit was typical of the region with sleet showers accompanied by strong winds blowing over. There are several other buildings on the island including a manned lighthouse and a small chapel. I tried to absorb as much of the scenery as I could and all too soon it was necessary to return to the boat. I realised that I will probably never return to this desolate location and in over 30 years of travelling, it rates as one of my most memorable travel experiences.