Dec 08, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer
With Antarctica now nearly 700 nautical miles far to our south, our sights are set for Ushuaia, Argentina, our home port for the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere. The grip of the Southern Ocean, however, still held firm as we sailed through the “Furious Fifties”—powerful gale-force winds south of the Equator—toward Cape Horn, Chile. This iconic and legendary point of land, part of the Hermite Archipelago, is where hundreds of ships and thousands of mariners have been laid to rest over the centuries—victims of the notorious and regular gales that have lashed these shores for millions of years. Conditions today could be described as typical with 20–30-knot winds and swells of 2 to 3 meters. Albatross and other seabirds plied these waters in search of food, taking advantage of the steady winds to ease their search. Their very presence was comforting: watching them rise and fall on the mighty winds served as a fitting welcome salute for weary travelers from afar.
As we rounded the Horn, our Bridge team brought us close enough to be able to see the lighthouse and monument to lost sailors on this once-feared and deadly locale. Both the lighthouse and the monument reside there under the control of the Chilean Navy; it was our first view of land in two days and a welcome sight. We set our course next for the Beagle Channel and ultimately Ushuaia, Argentina. For the remainder of the day, there were several lectures on board from our natural history staff and our guests were able to enjoy the calm seas and begin to process the events and experiences that unfolded on our expedition to Antarctica.
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