Posted by drclintcornellpac on June 3rd, 2015

Since the early days of sailing ships Cape Horn storms have made the area adjacent to Cape Horn Island famous. The island is the southernmost of many at the extreme southern tip of Chile in a region called the Tierra del Fuego (“Land of Fire”) due to its numerous volcanoes. Until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, the main route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was past Cape Horn Island. The route is called the Strait of Magellan. Now, with the canal, only ships too large for the canal and vessels there for sightseeing or recreational purposes use that route.

The island that gave this hellish region its name was on the port beam. Cape Horn Island is four miles long and a bit under 1,400 feet high. Its menacing, steep-sided rocks give it an appearance as bleak and barren as any place on earth.

The Strait of Magellan is about 500 miles wide and is considered by many to be the most dangerous shipping lane in the world. The reason is a combination of weather and water depth. The wind blows from west to east; as it passes between Cape Horn Island and Antarctica it is funneled between the Andes Mountains and Antarctica and can reach hurricane force. Those winds, combined with an ocean bottom that rises steeply and becomes relatively shallow near the island that can create enormous waves. On occasion the waves can become 100 feet high. In addition to the waves and high winds, the area is prone to ice bergs from Antarctica. Cape Horn storms can be terrible and have resulted in many lost ships and the deaths of many seamen.

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