Cabo De Hornos: Seeing Cape Horn – It’s Not A Dream!

Date – 16th November 2010

Time – Early morning – 7 am (pre breakfast)

Position – 59o 10′ S
Geographic Location – Cabo De Hornos/Cape Horn, Tierra Del Fuego, Chile
Weather Conditions – Clear, crisp, calm
Wind – Calm

A Michael Palin documentary a few years back saw him actually land and set foot on Cape Horn. For those who don’t actually know, Cape Horn is, realistically the last point of “liveable” land on planet earth. Conditions further south are generally too cold, and this particular island is the southern most tip of South America.

It’s owned by Chile, not Argentina and forms the southern point of the island area known as Tierra Del Fuego. I love the name actually – CAPE HORN. It has a certain inspired ring to it. Seeing Cape Horn would certainly be something to remember!

And I was hell bent on seeing it for real, and selfishly I wanted to step foot on it.

Stepping foot on Cape Horn is at a high cost, hence why Michael Palin was able to do it – being a posh English type on a rich BBC budget, I envy his adventures but cannot afford them.

Chilean officials do not allow any boats that are not Chilean to go within 12 or 13 miles (can’t remember which) of Cape Horn itself, without a strict permission.

Our boat, the MS Expedition was built in Denmark, registered in Liberia and sailing between Antarctica and Argentina. On the way down to Antarctica, we seemed to take a fast, steady direct route down the Drake Passage, and late at night, meaning we were all asleep when we crossed the place where Cape Horn was. Furthermore we were a few hundred kilometres too far east anyhow!

Russell and I had talked about whether or not we would see Cape Horn on the way back. Indeed the day before they had shown us a Cape Horn documentary which had us wondering. I asked a few of the leaders and they were tight lipped about it.

But it became obvious that the plan was to change direction so we could catch a glimpse of the horn. I noticed that we were making fast progress (there was a live map on board the boat near the reception, where we could all see where we had been and where we were going) and in fact had suddenly changed direction to head north west rather than directly north, following our departure from Elephant Island. 

This meant we were obviously planning to sail within viewing distance of Cape Horn, which was then rumoured to be our final “surprise” on board. This was later confirmed at that day’s “Recap and briefing” where we were told we would get an early morning wake up call on our approach to Cape Horn so none of us would miss out. We were told this would be around 5 am.

The night before proved to be quite a late one in the onboard Polar Bear Bar, it was our final journey on the treacherous Drake Passage and we had all bonded as a group on board the ship and on land on the magical continent. 

I left the bar around 2.30 am, with many still up. Sunset had passed us by on the west and sunrise had begun in the east, giving the boat the odd position of one side in darkness and the other side in early morning light.

I awoke at 5 am just a few hours later, and awoke Mark my cabin mate to say “It’s 5 am, arent we supposed to be near Cape Horn now?” I looked out the window and there was no sign of Cape Horn so we drifted back to sleep and waited on the wake up call. 

I awoke again at 6 am, still with no announcement from The Bridge about whether or not we had reached Cape Horn, but I decided to get up and shower and change anyway as I couldn’t miss this chance.

Finally just before 7 am we had the announcement that we were on our approach to Cape Horn. We were also informed that the Captain had been in touch with the Chilean authorities and that we were able to breach the normal barrier of 12 – 13 miles within the Cape.

It was straight upstairs to the For’d Deck for the fantastic morning view of the fabulous Cabo De Hornos.

In the end we got within 3 miles of Cape Horn! It wasn’t even a dream. I saw Cape Horn for real. 

And so did my Northern Ireland flag. 

Fancy that…

This was the closest shot I got of cape Horn. Totally immense. Been there, done that, didn’t stand on the land there.

What Is It? – Cabo De Hornos/Cape Horn, Tierra Del Fuego, Chile

What Is Special About It? – It is a small steep island that is in fact the last point of the major liveable continents on the planet before heading south to Antarctica. Seeing Cape Horn was just amazing!

Key Songs (double A-side):





(this video includes the captain’s announcement to confirm that we are going within 3 miles of the horn!)





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