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Patagonia, Chile 72-Hour Vacation

Cruise at the End of the World
Exploring Patagonia's majestic glaciers and fjords


Quiet day in the Beagle Channel
Quiet day in the Beagle Channel

DAY 3

The much-feared Cape Horn
The much-feared Cape Horn

Overnight, the Mare Australis has left the protected, quiet waters of the channels to ply her way south to Cape Horn in the swell of the Pacific. Everyone knows the reputation of Cape Horn, the largest cemetery of ships in the world (800 wrecks pave the bottom of the sea), where a storm is more typical than sunshine. It is also the tomb of many brave sailors who discovered and opened this route around the continent. The weather does not always permit disembarkment. There’s some suspense on the deck while the captain evaluates the situation. Is it safe to hop in the Zodiacs as the swell swings the rubber boats up and down the hull? Is it wise to try to shoot for the small landing strip that has been installed at the foot of the cliffs, dropping abruptly into the water?

Passengers boarding a Zodiac boat from Cape Horn
Passengers boarding a Zodiac boat from Cape Horn

The surf renders its approach delicate, but a couple of vigorous sailors receive the difficult mission of keeping the passengers of the Zodiacs steady between two backwashes. Today, Captain Enrique Rauch has made the decision to clear the landing of his passengers. After a rough ride, we jump quickly onto the wood board cast on the rocks. There we are, at the very end of the world, the mythical Cape Horn, a dark, threatening rock plunged in the fog, whipped by the winds—a challenge to the human presence. Even though we are not the first to accomplish this voyage, being there awakens in our minds a special feeling of having physically touched the “extreme.” This moment is unforgettable.  Measuring the harshness of these waters and of the elements, we can’t help but admire the bravery of our ancestors who sailed these hostile areas aboard their frail vessels. On top of the 130 steps there’s not much to see except for a chapel, a navy and weather station, and two monuments dedicated to the Horn captains, which rekindle in our souls the respect and the gratitude we feel for those pioneers of the sea.

Ushuaia—perhaps not the southernmost city of the world, though it pretends to be
Ushuaia—perhaps not the southernmost city of the world, though it pretends to be

As the weather worsens, we are urged to return on board. While we navigate north, it takes some time to dissipate the emotion of this extraordinary moment. Welcome back to real life! Even though our next stop, Puerto Williams, is not a shining city, it is the transition to the existing world, the one where we live. Puerto Williams is the southernmost city of the world, beating Ushuaia, which claims the same title, by a few miles. Puerto Williams is not exactly an appealing seaside resort. The dusty, sleepy Chilean naval base is named after Juan Williams, who took possession of the Magellan straits in 1843 in the name of Chile. To be a denizen of Puerto Williams must require a stoical mind. As the night falls on the Beagle, the shimmering lights of Ushuaia write the end of an exceptional journey, the one of a lifetime.

MORE PATAGONIA INFORMATION

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Travel Guide Chile



PSF060107
(Updated: 06/04/08 HC)

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