A very early start this morning – we had to be up and in the sky lounge by 7am ready with our life jackets and gear for our excursion to Cape Horn. This was the highlight of the trip and we were all eagerly waiting for the chance to visit the “end of the world”. We knew there was a chance we would not be able to land – they quote statistics of 70% success in landing on Cape Horn – but some people say this is a bit optimistic – the weather is so changeable, and the previous week’s voyage had not been able to land due to a storm.
When we woke, we opened the curtains to see what it was like outside – and it was fairly calm … so we hoped it would go ahead. Indeed, we soon heard the sounds of the zodiacs being offloaded from the boat, so we quickly got dressed and prepared for our excursion.
The zodiacs took us to the base of a steep stairway which lead to the top of a cliff on the sheltered side of the island. From here, we followed boardwalks to the lookout and monument from where we could see the actual cape itself. We were on another part of the island – not the most southerly part – that is a steep bluff, which would be too difficult to access (and possibly too dangerous, being fully exposed to the weather).
The weather was cool, but not uncomfortable, and we enjoyed the short walk, but on the way back towards the lighthouse, the wind picked up and it started raining a bit. We could see some large ocean liners cruising around the cape, and by the amount they were heaving up and down in the water – we could tell it was fairly rough … and this was actually good weather!
The wind continued to get stronger, and by the time they herded us off the island and back onto the zodiacs, the swell had risen substantially – and it was a bit of a hairy ride back to the boat. Of course Leanne and I just smiled at each other – it was nothing compared to our zodiac ride to Magdalena island.
We heard later from one of the expedition leaders that the wind speed peaked at around 70 knots (130kph) just as the last zodiac with the excursion staff was departing – it was apparently a bit exciting for the crew as they returned.
A large ocean liner pulled into the bay just after us and was about to disembark – but they were unable to due to the change in the weather – we had timed it perfectly.
Back on the boat, we changed and went down for breakfast – we were starving by this time and enjoyed a nice hot breakfast. The boat had started to move around quite a lot in the rising swell – we discussed over breakfast whether we would try and circumnavigate Horn Island, which we all wanted to do … we weren’t sure if the captain planned to do so. We found out from one of the staff that the captain intended to try, and we headed out to open water away from the rocks of the island – the ride becoming increasingly rough as we left the shelter of the island. Suddenly, the boat took on an alarming lean to the side as we executed a sharp turn … it continued for quite some time and it became obvious that we had turned around – the capital decided not to risk the open ocean around Cape Horn. Disappointing, but I’m sure it was the best decision given the changing conditions.
We decided to try going up to the top deck and watching from there – but they had closed that off as well … it was deemed too dangerous with the very strong wind. We sat in the forward lounge instead and watched the waves break over the bow of the ship and the birds struggle in the wind (except the albatrosses, who seemed to relish it!). It was a rough couple of hours – and many people ended up sleeping through it (it was quite hot in the lounge and the chairs were very comfortable).
At 10am they put on a documentary – Shackleton, which was fascinating and told the story of his failed attempt to cross Antarctica by foot and the daring trip he made to find help for his men stranded for months. It kind of put things in perspective given the weather we were experiencing and the comfort we were in.
Lunch was at 1pm, and we spent time up on deck in the afternoon as the wind dropped off slightly – it was still very windy, but we were able to get up and enjoy the scenery and the albatrosses and petrels flying around the boat.
We spent more time in the lounge in the afternoon before our final excursion at Wulaia Bay, where we took the zodiacs to the beach for a hike up the hill and a magnificent view out over the channels. There is a lot of history in this area – this is the place where Capital Fitz Roy on board the HMS Beagle had close encounters with the Yamana aborigines in the 19th century.
As we returned to the beach where the zodiacs were loading passengers for the return to the boat, we were delighted by a pod of dolphins playing in the water around the zodiacs – leaping fully out of the water and chasing the boats as they sped back to the boat.
We returned in time for dinner and afterwards we headed up to the pub for the captains farewell speech and the auction of the navigation chart we used when travelling to Cape Horn (it fetched US$500!) before heading back to our cabin to pack – disembarking would be early the next morning.
We actually arrived close to our destination well before midnight and moored while the Chilean immigration processed our departure from “Chile” and then we berthed at Ushuaia around 11pm – although we spent the night on board.
Tweets from today
- moored near Ushuaia – we walked on Cape Horn today!
- 23rd February, 2008 10:36 PM from web