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 Cape Horn, Wulaia and the Murray Channel from the February, 2003 ISSUE OF THE PATAGONIAN NEWS

Four men realize their lifelong dream in the world’s most terrifying and awe-inspiring waters.

by Fraser Heston,
 (Feb 1990)

There is something magnificent about Cape Horn. It is a place of elemental power, of primordial energy; wind, sea, rock, ice, rain, sun. All in perpetual motion and conflict, and also in perfect balance. To navigate a small craft around the Cape and through the islands of the archipelago immediately to the north of it is one of the most challenging and exciting experiences a yachtsman can ask for. Cape Horn. Cabo de Hornos. Cape Stiff. The name resonates with legend.

A year ago my friend and colleague Billy Graham (the film director, not the evangelist) phoned with a mad idea: Billy and film producer Roger Gimbel had formed a society for the stated purpose of sailing around Cape Horn. It would be called, for some reason, Sociedad de Cabo de Hornos. There were two founding members: Roger and Billy -- a couple of very salty and experienced sailors. I thought it was the finest idea I had ever heard of and instantly became a third member. Yacht broker Carlos Echeverria (those who have studied the Mexican revolution will remember his grandmother) was the fourth.

We researched and planned and bought Sailing Directions, books, and the entire Patagonia catalog. For a year we schemed, and Carlos found us the perfect vessel. The steel-hulled sloop Pelagic would be available for a one-time charter in the Tierra del Fuego/Cape Horn area in January/February of '89. Her co-owner, Skip Novak, had just handed her over to partner Phil Wade in South Africa after an expedition to the Antarctic (see YACHTING, Jan.'89).

Pelagic had been hatched from the dreams of Phil and Skip while they were bashing their way around the world in the last Whitbread Race on Drum. An ideal boat for the Southern Ocean, Pelagic was carefully designed by Patrick Banfield with a heavy lifting keel for shoal waters and ice; simple ultra-strong sloop rig; fuji-battened main; clean, flush decks with a small permanent deckhouse over the hatchway; and a double main hatch. We agreed to leave from Ushuaia and our route would be determined by the weather and the vagaries of the Chilean Navy, which (owing to the on-going cold war with Argentina) controls the movements of all maritime traffic in these waters.

Phil Wade and first mate Yosie Katalan met us at the Albatross Hotel in Ushuaia. You can tell that these men are serious bluewater sailors as soon as they walk in the room. Their hands are thick and every finger a marlin-spike, their oceanic tans deep and their manners quiet, confident, full of wit and grace. Phil has sailed more than three hundred thousand miles (this figure staggers me). Yosie, a submariner in the Israeli Navy, had taken a holiday from his job as captain of a 75' sailing yacht in Turkey. I wondered if these guys ever did anything mundane, like golf or tennis, on their day off. Probably not.

With this ship's company, we cast off our mooring lines at Ushuaia and weighed our anchors and set sail for Cape Horn. Phil's standard anchoring system uses two, 100-meter warps, shackled to wire strops on bollards ashore and three anchors: a big CQR shackled in line with a bigger Danforth on 100 meters of one-inch hawser. It took about an hour for us green hands to get all this gear stowed and something less to rig it each night but it served us well. We had all read the stories by Slocum, Roth, Bjelke, et al, of getting blown out of anchorages.

Our first port of call was Puerto Williams, Chile, about 25 miles down the Beagle Channel. We had 30 knots of westerly to push us down there under full sail and pleasant sunny skies. This amount of wind proved to be about the average, though on occasion we would have plenty more. The Beagle Channel cuts through the tip of South America on an east-west line, cutting the main island of Tierra del Fuego off from the smaller group of islands. It is one of the most spectacular stretches of water in the world. Great jagged peaks rise right up out of the slate-gray sea on either side of the fjord, serious dark pinnacles of black rock stark against the white of permanent snowfields. The highest peaks are 8,000 feet above the sea; lenticular clouds were flying like banners off these, testament to the howling winds that perpetually blow at that altitude, stratospheric gales which, occasionally, stoop to touch the sea.

Puerto Williams is a checkpoint for Customs and Immigration and a Chilean naval base, although aside from a few gunboats and an old World War II frigate sunk at her moorings you would hardly know it. Pastel-colored houses straggle up from the shore toward the dark, timbered flank of the mountains of Isla Navarino.

Naval responsibilities are taken very seriously here in Chile and they are twofold: the security of the country and the security of the yachtsmen who are welcome to sail here. Yachts are required to report in daily to various control points in the islands and also whenever they pass any port. Certain bodies of water are prohibited, such as Canal Cockburn and Murray Channel, as is anchoring in certain coves. Commandant of the port, Teijente Jordan explained to me that they are genuinely concerned for the safety of the yachts that cruise Chile's treacherous waters. "Last year there were more than 80 yachts... even un loco windsurfer!" Given the truly awful weather the region is famous for, it is amazing that they let anybody down there at all. As it is, you must pass inspecion before you are given el permiso for the Cape.

Our departure from Puerto Williams was delayed by the arrival of Howard Rice, the first American to kayak around the Horn alone, who came cheerfully paddling over to us for breakfast. He had been battered by 90-knot winds and huge waves, had capsized off Wollaston Island and crashed on a rocky beach.

We left later that afternoon and motored down the eastern edge of Isla Navarino toward Caleta Yawl in a flat calm and a cold rain. The temperature was usually cool, averaging in the low forties and fifties during the day. We were well prepared with synthetic long underwear, layers of pile pants and synchilla sweaters, wet-suit gloves, ski goggles, seaboots and heavy-duty foul weather gear. During the cruise we wore various combinations of the basic trousseau but most of the time when we were on deck we shamelessly donned the whole shooting match. After a day or so, we got used to dressing like polar explorers and perhaps we also got used to the cold. In any event, it never dampened our enjoyment.

Since it was calm, we were able to observe an amazing variety of birds and mammals in the eastern end of the Beagle Channel: Blackbrowed albatross soared effortlessly, gliding on the face of the waves, then turning and wheeling up into the steely sky. Brown skuas and black and white cormorants dove, squawking, into the sea. Small, timid Magellan penguins ducked under the water at our approach and swam off, appalled. Antarctic terns spun overhead. A big bull fur seal bellowed on a rock in mid-channel. Phil served an elegant lunch below, replete with salad, cheeses, sausages, chilled South African wine and a rich heady brew he optimistically termed "goose soup."

The day we rounded Cape Horn dawned crystal clear, calm and cold. We motored through Paso Goree, past Isla Picton and into the infamous Bahia Nassau in warming sunshine. If you stayed out of the wind you could sunbathe with your shirt off. We had been warned about Bahia Nassau, but it was smooth and glassy, with only a hint of ominous rolling swell coming off the Southern Ocean to remind us where we were.

Having heard all the stories of the most fearsome cape in the world and read all the books about the ghosts of Cape Horn we were so full of Cape Horn legend that I, for one, simply did not know what to expect. I remembered Sir Francis Chichester's quote from Gypsy Moth Circles the Horn: "The seas around Cape Horn had a reputation unique among all oceans of the world . . . . Off the Horn there are gales Force 8 or more one day in four in spring, and one day in eight in summer . . . the waves are likely to be 60 feet high."

What we did not expect was flat calm. As the day went on in eerie calm, we all became apprehensive that either we were in for an almighty blow or, ignominy of ignominies, the Sociedad de Cabo de Hornos would have to motor around Cape Stiff. Fortunately, we were spared this disgrace. A brisk 25-knot westerly sprang up as we sailed into the desolate Wollaston group, through Paso Bravo, past the tall mossy pinnacles looming over the channels, barren and windswept and devoid of any vegetation higher than a shrub. We hoisted all plain sail and sailed close-hauled out between Isla Herschel and Isla Deceit and there, fine on the starboard bow, lay Cape Horn.

My heart began to pound with excitement as the castellated pinnacles of that mysterious island came into view. It looked like an island out of a fantasy, something painted by Frazetta. It was astounding. I had read some disgruntled accounts by mariners who sailed past this fabled cape well out to sea, who were disappointed by the appearance of the actual item. Well, either they were too far off or they had hearts of stone. Nothing I had read could have prepared me for the grandeur of it, both in myth and reality.

Great winged albatross flew wheeling over the rocks and booming surf, screaming and crying out in the wind, turning and soaring past us in exaltation, fully at home and happy in this awesome place. We tacked along the southern flank of the island, closing within a hundred yards or so of the rocks, and then sailed easily past the looming bulk of the Cape itself, which towered darkly above the bright heaving sea, the official end of the earth.

Roger stood on the foredeck and whooped ecstatically. Phil popped the champagne. We cheered and drank in the cold heady wine, taking turns at the helm as we beat our way around the Horn.

As we rounded the windward shore, sailing between dragon's teeth rocks breaking with surf, a black squall began to fill the northwestern horizon. We anchored in a little no-name bight on the eastern side, in blinding rain and 35 knots of wind. As we sipped single-malt whisky and glacier ice that Phil had picked up at the far end of the Beagle Channel, a gigantic, complete double rainbow appeared to leeward. Snug in the heated cabin below we tucked in to a feast of risotto parmesan (prepared by guest-chef Billy), Phil's Fish Pie and a rich, red Argentinean wine. Roger strung his bipole antenna to the spreaders. "This is KB6AVR, KB6AVR... C-Q, C-Q," he intoned into the crackling ether, then proudly, "KB6AVR, Cape Horn, Chile!." and was pleased to contact a ham in Los Angeles who kindly patched him in to his young son, Barney.

The next morning we shifted anchorages and took the Zodiac ashore on Isla Hornos. We were met by two of the lightkeepers, who seemed glad to see us. We had coffee and freshly baked biscuits with the lightkeepers and gave these friendly fellows a bottle of wine, a New York Yacht Club burgee and a Sociedad polo shirt. After lunch we signed their log and they stamped ours with the postal stamp. They took us on a tour through the swampy wilds of the island, inhabited largely by tuxedo-clad penguins.

That afternoon we had a long fast reach in boisterous winds back to Wollaston and a long beat up to and through Bravo Channel. We sailed into the long deep inlet called Bahia Scourfield, which is entirely surrounded by great green peaks and looks more like Bora Bora than Cape Horn. We hiked up through the dinosaur land in wind and sun and rain and hail, climbing past a waterfall to a fantastic lake at the head of the valley. At the lake we all lay exhausted on the spongy ground and watched the williwaws blast the surface of the water into white foam. One bowled me over, then gusted down the valley to knock Pelagic over 10-15 degrees and continued on to Antarctica. I had no idea how strong these winds were.

Over the next few days we beat our way westward up the Beagle Channel against the howling prevailing wind to see the glaciers at the western end. We stood short watches and I had a wild stint at the helm, steering under quadruple-reefed main and storm jib and, later, just jib. The anemometer was touching fifty. At the time, I saw an albatross soaring along the top of a wave, perfectly at ease with the elements, at home in the gale. It occurred to me that this creature was devised to be at one with wind and sea, made expressly to thrive in conditions that man finds, at the least, somewhat appalling. The albatross soars effortlessly over waves that sweep our decks, the perfect synergism of design and environment, to which, as sailors, we can only aspire.

Fifty-five miles (and almost as many tacks) from Puerto Williams, we pulled into Caleta Olla, a snug cove at the foot of Hollandia glacier. Phil led us on another of "Phil Wade's Tierra del Fuego Survival Hikes" to the lake at the foot of the glacier - what became an overland, hell-in-the-swamp epic. But that night we were rewarded with a barbecue on the beach: freshly gathered mussels steamed over the fire in their own shells with butter and garlic sauce, an entire sheep that Phil had thoughtfully stowed in his deep freeze, and a huge jug of Chilean rotgut wine.

The glaciers slid past us, more spectacular and more frequent the farther west we sailed up the Brazo Noroeste, the northeast arm of the Beagle Channel. They all had international names: Espania, Francia, Hollandia, Romanch, Italia. Big unnamed and unclimbed peaks loomed up higher and higher on either side, plastered with snow. We shoved off Romanch, the most spectacular so far in front of an astounding river of blue-green ice, which tumbled chaotically out of the sky and down the slick rock face.

That night we anchored snug with lines ashore in Seno Garibaldi, a huge fjord with a startling gigantic glacier at its head. It revealed itself before us in the last fading pink alpenglow filling up the entire sky with its big imposing peaks and guarded flanks, cloud banners streaming off its summit. In the morning, the entire sound was choked with ice, the wind having changed direction.

Pelagic's steel hull broke through the pack ice and we motored on, stopping to photograph a sea lion rookery where four or five big slug-like bulls roared dominance over their harems of 30 or 40 females and little wet black nursing pups - all barking and honking away happily and making a terrific stench. Three separate glaciers joined here, calving icebergs into the bay with a booming resonance every ten minutes or so and sending a low swell across the sound. Pelagic made her way dead slow through the bergy bits right up to the blue face of the biggest glacier, nudging flows out of the way with her resounding steel hull.

That night I fell asleep to the sound of my old friend the wind rising in the rigging, and woke to the sound of icebergs grating softly against the hull.

On the way back to Ushuaia we were rewarded with more glaciers, more mussels (steamed and eaten in the sunny cockpit and washed down with cold white wine and Mozart on the deck speaker). We found another beautiful anchorage (Awaikhirr, one of the forbidden coves, but we were kindly given permission to spend the night there) and had a speedy spinnaker run down the Beagle Channel to Puerto Williams, where we had to clear customs for Argentina.

The last trick at the helm fell to me. We were beating against the westerly gale, making the final leg up the channel toward Ushuaia. The wind freshened and backed northerly, which allowed us to scrape by the rocks at the entrance to Ushuaia Bay. We slanted in on a long board, Pelagic blasting along close-hauled in 45 knots of wind and spray with two reefs in the main and the full staysail stiff, stable and fast, like the albatross, at home in her element.

I have never been so happy reveling in the pure joy of sail. It was a proper end to the first Sociedad de Cabo de Hornos cruise.   


Fraser Heston

Survival tales: murder at Wulaia

By Pablo Edronkin.

In 1857, about the time when Orellie Antoine de Tounens had himself crowned King of Araucania and Patagonia, the Allen Gardiner, a british ship sailed off from England. Its destination was Tierra del Fuego, where the Andes reach the Antarctic sea.

After going thorough the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) in order to prepare a strategic base for future settlements, its occupants, all missionaries, reached Tierra del Fuego. Their mission was to civilise the Yaghan Indians, and after a while, they began building a settlement on Wulaia Bay, on Navarino Island and near what is now Ushuaia, the southernmost city of the world.

On November 6, 1859, Rev. Garland Philips decided to invite local Indians to their Sunday mass celebration in order to integrate them with the missionaries and other Europeans.

Due to these 'political' reasons, all settlers and crew members except the cook, a man named Alfred Coles, disembarked from the Allen Gardiner and meet a significant number of Yaghans inside the new chapel near the shore. There was no armed guard on duty, despite the fact that the ship even had two cannons.

Coles later said that suddenly he heard a lot of shouting inside the chapel and saw the settlers running out to the boats, which the Indians had already seized or destroyed. All Europeans were then killed with stones.

Then, the Yaghans began approaching the unprotected ship, and so Coles jumped into a boat without any clothing or gun, and began rowing away as fast as he could. He reached the shore and lost his pursuers in the woods


Magellan area Photos

The abandoned mission at Wulaia, Navarino Island. Charles Darwin and the H.M.S. Beagle arrived at this site in 1833, making contact with the Yagan, one of the indigenous tribes of Tierra del Fuego   
Ezio Firmani, our Chief of Logistics, with the beginnings of a fresh crab lunch
 Berberis ilicifolia, the Hollyleaf Barberry, with its dark purple fruits   
Luzuriaga marginata, a small herb of moist Southern Beech forests
 Randall collecting herbarium specimens near Puerto Williams, Navarino Island   
The lonely and beautiful locality of Bahia Inutil was the most southerly and final study area on our trip
Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, Washington.


New Historic Route to Cape Horn and
The Beagle Channel opens up in Tierra Del Fuego

By Presidential decree to develop tourism in Tierra Del Fuego, the
historic route that Fitzroy and Darwin followed around Navarino
Island in the 1830 in the H.M.S. Beagle has been opened up only to
Chilean flag vessels.

The route takes you through the history packed Murray Channel &
Wulaia to Cape Horn sailing from Puerto Williams, the world's most
Southern town which lies on the Beagle Channel.

 The Beagle Channel is indeed named after H.M.S. Beagle, but
not in honor of Darwin's voyage. FitzRoy, the captain of
H.M.S. Beagle had named the channel after his ship on a
previous charting voyage in 1830.

Darwin describes it:

"This channel, which was discovered by Captain FitzRoy during
the last voyage, is a most remarkable feature in the geography
of this, or indeed of any other country. Its length is about
120 miles with an average breadth, not subject to any great
variations, of about 2 miles.

It is throughout the greater part so extremely straight that the view,
bounded on either side by a line of mountains, gradually becomes
indistinct in perspective."

He goes on to compare it to the area of Lochness in Scotland.


 The HMS BEAGLE was under the command of Captain
Robert FitzRoy, an aristocratic career officer, son of Lord
Charles FitzRoy and a strong Christian believer.

Robert was something of a martinet on the quarter- deck,
intolerant of speculation and devoutly religious. He went on
to gain the rank of Vice-Admiral and to become an authority on
weather . (the barometer that bears his name was of his
invention) He also introduced the system of storm warnings
from which our system of daily weather forecasting evolved.

 The purpose of this second cruise of the BEAGLE was to
chart the coasts of South America and to secure accurate
fixing of longitude by chronological measurements around the
world. For this purpose FitzRoy's cabin, to be shared with the
unpaid resident naturalist, contained no fewer than 24
chronometers. Captain FitzRoy made no secret of the fact that
he held another purpose for the cruise - to substantiate the
Bible, particularly the Book of Genesis and the story of the

 In the 1830 voyage, Captain Fitzroy at the command of the first
expedition of the famous "Beagle", landed in Wulaia.
Captain Robert FitzRoy was young to be a captain, yet
seasoned and very able. When he was only 23, he had assumed
the command of the Beagle. FitzRoy was devoutly religious,
and he planned some missionary activities for this voyage
along with setting up a mission in Tierra Del Fuego.

Just before his return to England on his first voyage,
he decided to take four young Fuegians (Yagan Indians) from Wulaia
as hostages in return for a stolen boat.
(see story about Jimmy Button)

They ended up sailing all the way back to England "to
become useful as interpreters, and be the means of
establishing a friendly disposition towards Englishmen on
the part of their countrymen."

The names given to them by the crew were: York Minster,
Jemmy Button, Fuegia Basket and Boat Memory. Their original
names were, respectively: el'leparu, o'run-del'lico and
yok'cushly. boat memory died of smallpox shortly after his
arrival to England, and so his name is lost in the history
to come. In London, Fuegia Basket got a bonnet from Queen
Adelaide herself.

 In December 27, 1831, H.M.S. BEAGLE, a 240 ton, ten-gun
brig left Plymouth, England, on a survey voyage to chart the
coastline of South America. It was a journey that would last
almost five years, and would carry the ship around the
world. It was also a voyage that would change the history of
human thought. The BEAGLE was under the command again of
Captain Robert Fitzroy, and carried seventy-four people,
including its unpaid naturalist, Charles Darwin, recently
graduated from Cambridge.

Two years after the first voyage, the "Beagle" returned the
three Fuegians to their home in Wulaia, along with Charles
Darwin. Here, on Navarino island at the tip of the South
American continent, Captain Fitzroy wanted to set up a mission.
Darwin was therefore able to spend considerable time ashore
and discovered things which would intrigue him.
It is debateble whether Darwin later became a Christian.

When he returned to England, Darwin wrote of the
Fuegians: "The perfect equality among the individuals
composing the Fuegian tribes must for a long time retard
their civilization. ...In Tierra Del Fuego, until some chief
shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired
advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems
scarcely possible that the political state of the country
can be improved.

At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is torn into shreds
and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than
another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand
how a chief can arise till there is property of some sort
by which he might manifest his superiority and increase
his power."

Following is what Darwin wrote about the Indians he found in Wulaia:

...painted devils... ...a measure of happiness...

Dec 17, 1832 - "It was without exception the most curious and
interesting spectacle I ever beheld: I could not have believed
how wide was the difference between savage and civilized man: it
is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, inasmuch
as in man there is a greater power of improvement."

" Their only garment consists of a mantle thrown over their
shoulders, leaving their persons as often exposed as covered.
[They were painted like] devils which come on stage in plays.
They are excellent mimics ...they could repeat with perfect
correctness each word in any sentence we addressed them...
Yet we Europeans all know how difficult it is to distinguish apart the
sounds in a foreign language. Is it a consequence of the more
practised habits of perception and keener senses, common to all
men in a savage state?"

"During the former voyage, [1826-30] Captain Fitz Roy seized on a
party of natives as hostages for the loss of a boat which had
been stolen ...; some of these natives, as well as a child whom
he bought for a pearl-button, he took with him to England ...
to educate and instruct them in religion at his own expense.
To settle these natives in their own country, was one chief
inducement to Captain Fitz Roy to undertake our present voyage."

" Although all three could both speak and understand a
good deal of English, it was singularly difficult to obtain much
information from them ... partly owing to their apparent
difficulty in understanding the simplest alternative. It is
certainly true that when pressed in winter by hunger, they kill
and devour their own women before they kill their dogs:
'Doggies catch otters, old women, no'." Not so. Fuegians were not
cannibals. (Bridges suggests, in The Uttermost Part of the Earth,
that reports of Fuegian cannibalism were "no more than agreement
with suggestions made by their questioners." )

" They sometimes bury their dead... Jeremy Button would not eat
land-birds because ' [they] eat dead men': they are unwilling to
mention their dead friends. [It is unclear if] they perform any
sort of religious worship. Each family or tribe has a wizard or
conjuring doctor. Jeremy believed in dreams, though not in the
devil: I do not think that our Feugians were much more
superstitious than some of the sailors."

"Whence have they come ...to one of the most inhospitable
countries within the limits of the globe? There is no reason to
believe that the Fuegians decrease in number; therefore we must
suppose that they enjoy a sufficient share of happiness, of
whatever kind it may be, to render life worth having. Nature, by
making habit omnipotent, and its effects hereditary, has fitted
the Fuegian to the climate and the productions of his miserable

Missionary work in Wulaia started after Captain Fitzroy brought
Jimmy Button back from his 1830 voyage to live here again among
the Yagan Indians and to help Rev. Richard Mathews.

However, it was the English Anglican missionary, martyr and
sailing vessel captain, Allen Gardiner, a successor to Mathews
who continued this work:

Allen had arrived on Picton island not far from Puerto Williams in
the summer of 1850 with six other Anglican missionaries.
His sole mission was to bring the word of God to the Yagan Indians
of Tierra Del Fuego. He had known about the Yagans from the four
of them which were brought to England by Captain Fitzroy of the

Gardiner wanted to go to Wulaia to find the Yagan, Jemmy
Button who spoke English, for a translater.

He had not raised enough money to buy a Schooner, so they bought
two small steel sailboats named the "Speedwell" and "Pioneer".

With these two small sailboats Gardiner took off again for an
evangelizing trip along with a surgeon by the name of Richard
Williams, a young Bible teacher named John Maidmant, carpenter
Joseph Erwin and three strong fishermen from Cornwall: Badcok,
Pearce y Bryant.

The 5th of December, 1850, after 3 months of voyage aboard
the "Ocean Queen", the boats and Gardiner arrived in Tierra
Del Fuego at the island Picton where the goats were still at
pasture which he had left a year before.

As the OCEAN QUEEN sailed away from them, they were left
only to depend on their two small boats.

Serious problems began to overcome these Anglican missionaries
and they had accidentally left their gun powder aboard the ship
on which they had arrived.

Then they could not locate the Yagan Indian, Jimmy Button who had been
brought back to Tierra Del Fuego from England.

They needed him to be their interpreter of the Gospel
to the other Yagans. They did find some Yagan Indians who only
wanted to take everything they saw and were very threatening.
As they couldn't detain them or combat them ( their mission
was to evangelize), so they re-loaded their boats, saved what they
could and sailed away from Picton Island.

The Yagans chased Gardiner constantly with their canoes which
were lighter than the heavy missionary boats. Finally they found
protection in Spanish Harbor (Bahía Aguirre) on the island of
Tierra Del Fuego some 50 miles distant.

It was not a favorable coast and the "Pioneer" was destroyed on
landing, and the men started to have problems with their health.
The sea invaded the cave where they were living taking everything
with it including their Bibles.
So they decided to go back to Picton with the "Speedwell",
where they painted a large message on the rocks of Banner Cove
for a passing rescue boat to see: "Dig here below- Go to Spanish
Harbor -March 1851" and there they buried a bottle containing
a message.
Late was already playing it's role in their lives. A very
hard Patagonian winter (which can reach 20 degrees below
zero Celsius) set in and they started dying one by one of
sickness, starvation and cold.

The last notation in the diary of Williams is on 22 of
June. His last words: "The will of the Lord be done".
Bradcock is the first to die. In July, Gardiner writes that
they have been on reduced rations for 7 weeks. In August
Edwin and Bryant died.

In the 29th of August, 1851 at age 57, with winter
coming to an end, he said good-bye to his wife and children
and included these words: "If a wish was given to me for the
good of my neighbor it would be that the Mission in Tierra
Del Fuego be pursued with vigor. But the Lord will direct
and do everything because time and reason are His, our
hearts are in His hands...". His last lines written in his
diary on the 6th of September were: "By God's Grace this
blessed group was able to sing praises for eternity. I am
not hungry or thirsty in spite of 5 days without eating;
Wonderful Grace and Love to me, a sinner..."

Upon learning of Allen Gardiner's death the still
existing South American Missionary Society which Allen had
founded, constructed a 65 foot missionary schooner
(almost a twin of the VICTORY) , the ALLEN GARDINER,
and launched her in 1855.

A party of 9 missionaries aboard the schooner arrived again at
Wulaia on Navarino Island (close to Puerto Williams on the Murray
Channel) in 1856.

There they finally found Jimmy Button to help them to translate.

5 days later, while attending a Sunday service onshore all
except the ship's cook who had stayed aboard the ALLEN
GARDINER were viciously attacked and killed with sticks
and rocks without motive or warning. Jimmy Button was
said to have been one of the rabble rousers.

By this time a total of fifteen missionaries had been
martyred with the intention of saving some of the Yagan's
souls, but there still were no results! This last attack put
a halt to all missions in the area for 6 years until a young
English missionary, Thomas Bridges built a house in Wulaia.
He had previously mastered the Yagan Language in the
Falkland islands where some of the Yagans had been taken and
was able to make friends with them. (A Chilean Navy house
and other original constructions are still standing at
Wulaia which is now serving as a cattle ranch.)

Bridges returned to Wulaia a year later and found the
house burned and everything destroyed. The missionaries then
moved farther North to Leuaia on the Beagle channel and then
directly across the Beagle Channel to where is the now bustling
tourist city of Ushuaia. The islands in the Channel in front of
Ushuaia are named after Bridges and his family.

Bridges later founded what is now another Tierra Del Fuego
tourist attraction, the "Harborton Ranch" and wrote a complete
dictionary of the Yagan language.


From Falkland Islands Church History:

In 1841 Captain Allen Gardiner, a retired Naval Officer, came from England with his family to Port Louis in East Falkland. A marginal note in the Statistical Table of the census, showing the names, occupations, etc., of the Inhabitants of the Falkland Islands, reads "Captain Allen Gardiner is residing among the Patagonians and only waits at these islands for a passage". The records show that he arrived on 24th Dedember 1841, and in 1842 was 50 years old. He is described as a ‘lay missionary’. He was a man of strong Christian conviction with a desire to reach remote peoples with the gospel, having already worked with Indians elsewhere in South America and with the Zulus of South Africa. Allen Gardiner's vocation was now the setting up of a mission to the Patagonian Indians of Tierra del Fuego. In order to raise funds for his work he returned to England to arouse interest and recruit suitable missionaries. In 1844 the Patagonian Missionary Society was launched, which in January 1868 became the South American Missionary Society (Now known as the South American Mission Society)..

A number of men volunteered to accompany Gardiner and they set sail from Liverpool on board the Ocean Queen on 7th September 1850. They brought with them two twenty-six-foot boats and had provisions for six months including sufficient ammunition which they were going to rely upon to hunt for food. Sadly, their voyage, was marred by logistical mistakes. After being put ashore in what was then one of the remotest corners of the earth, with no regular shipping or means of communicating with England or the Falkland Islands they realised, too late, that they had left most of their ammunition on board the Ocean Queen. This meant that they quickly ran short of food. Delays in the dispatch of supplies from England proved fatal, and although George Despard, the secretary of the Patagonian Mission, did his utmost to enlist the help of the Admiralty and the Government, this help came too late. Allen Gardiner and his companions perished through malnutrition and disease. However, in spite of this setback, George Despard decided that, with God's help, the Mission ought to be maintained.

Allen Gardiner’s death re-kindled interest in the work of the Patagonian Missionary Society. In his diary, Gardiner left instructions about how the mission was to continue. This included the establishing of a Mission Station on one of the islands in the Falklands and the acquisition of a ship of suitable size to cross between the Falklands and Tierra del Fuego. It was hoped that communication could be properly made between the missionaries and the natives through contact with Jemmy Button, a Fuegian Indian whom Captain Fitzroy had brought to England in the 1820s and who now lived at Wulaia on Navarin Island south of the Beagle Channel.
So a Mission Station was set up on Keppel Island, West Falkland in 1855 when permission was granted by the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the missionaries to purchase unoccupied land on Keppel Island at 8 shillings per acre. Some of the Indian natives would be brought to Keppel to be taught about the Christian faith and trained in farming and the rudiments of civilised behaviour. Over the years many Indian natives were brought to Keppel and trained, although the hope was always that the missionaries would eventually be able to live among them in their own land and speaking their language.
This didn’t happen until 1869.

At Wulaia the Indians considered these missionaries as a good source of things they needed and wanted. But misunderstandings grew and in 1859 eight mission people were killed by the Indians with clubs, stones and spears. Their deaths weighed heavily on George Despard and in 1861 he resigned and returned to England with most of those who had come out with him. Thomas Bridges, Despard’s adopted son who was then eighteen, remained, and in the ensuing years he mastered the Indian native language.

By the time the Revd Stirling arrived a year later with his wife, two daughters and a working team Thomas Bridges was able to speak the language, and soon after his arrival in Keppel, Waite Stirling set off for Tierra del Fuego taking with him Thomas Bridges and an Indian family who had lived happily and to good effect in Keppel. Their presence, and the ability of Thomas Bridges to speak their language, were sufficient to convince the Indians that they had come as friends and not to take revenge. So an effective bridge of goodwill was built and confidence grew between the Indians and the missionaries.

In 1869 a log-house was erected in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, and Stirling decided to live there. He was accompanied by Thomas Bridges and others, for in the Christ Church Cathedral register are recorded two baptisms which took place in Ushuaia, one on 8th May and the other on 11th June 1871, both conducted by Thomas Bridges.

Whilst at the log house Waite Stirling received the news that he was to return to England to be made Bishop of the new Diocese of the Falkland Islands and he was given the task of welding the chaplaincy and the missionary work of the entire South American continent (with the exception of British Guiana) into a cohesive whole.

Later Bishop Cyril Tucker aptly commented, 'Measured by the limits implied by his title [Bishop of the Falkland Islands], his diocese was the smallest in the world; measured by the real circumstances, it was the largest.'

Waite Stirling was consecrated Bishop on 21st December 1869 in Westminster Abbey. He remained in England for some time to create interest and gain support for this great missionary enterprise, but in January 1872 he returned to the Falkland Islands. He was enthroned as the Bishop of his diocese by the colonial chaplain, the Reverend Charles Bull, in Holy Trinity Church, Stanley.

Five years later, in 1877, another key personality, Lowther E. Brandon, arrived in the Falkland Islands. As the Colonial Chaplain from 1877, and as Dean of the Cathedral from the day it was consecrated in 1892 until 1907, he was much loved and respected. For thirty years he was destined to win the hearts and affection of the people of the Falklands. From the time of his arrival he sensed that Holy Trinity Church was not satisfactory as a parish church. It remained a part of the Exchange Building but was never consecrated. It was certainly not satisfactory as the Cathedral Church of this vast new diocese. Bishop Stirling wouldn’t consecrate Holy Trinity church because it was in a shared building, but both he and Brandon were keen for a new church to be built, so in 1882 a Church Building Committee was formed and in 1884 the Government granted it some land near the stone jetty.


Captain Fitzroy at Wulaia

In 1830 Captain James Fitzroy, at the command of the first expedition of the famous Beagle, decided to take four young fuegian hostages all the way to England "to become useful as interpreters, and be the means of establishing a friendly disposition towards Englishmen on the part of their countrymen." [4] The names given to them by the crew were: York Minster, Jemmy Button, Fuegia Basket and Boat Memory. Their original names were, respectively: el'leparu, o'run-del'lico and yok'cushly. boat memory died of smallpox shortly after his arrival to England, and so his name is lost. In London, Fuegia Basket got a bonnet from Queen Adelaide herself. One year later the Beagle returned the three fuegians home, along with a young naturalist, Charles Darwin. Once in Tierra del Fuego, Darwin was appalled at Jemmy's reticence to returning to England, and prefered to relate that to the presence of his "young and nice looking wife". Some years later a group of Christian missionaries was massacred at Wulaia Bay by the indians, supposedly lead by Jemmy and his family.

When he returned to England, Darwin wrote of the fuegians:

"The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian tribes must for a long time retard their civilization. ...In Tierra del Fuego, until some chief shall arise with power sufficient to secure any acquired advantage, such as the domesticated animals, it seems scarcely possible that the political state of the country can be improved. At present, even a piece of cloth given to one is torn into shreds and distributed; and no one individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how a chief can arise till there is property of some sort by which he might manifest his superiority and increase his power."[4]


A Tierra del Fuego Sportsman's description:

That evening in the fading southern ocean light we made landfall on the snow clad summits of high mountains in ;the hinterland of Tierra del Fuego. Moments later another squall ripped through and they disappeared. At once the seed of future travel had been planted. We rounded Cape Horn at night running hard in forty knots of wind with a poled out jib and saw nothing more than a weak light flashing when five miles off.

At dawn we were surprised to find "33 Export" on our stern surfing up to us quickly. As they pulled abeam (close enough to exchange fusillades of beer cans with the French) we broke out the storm chute with reckless bravado and surged ahead half underwater. We rounded the eastern tip of Staten Island that afternoon and I remember it was like deflating a balloon, the pressure, anxiety and all that goes with a Southern Ocean run had gone out of it. We were "safely" back in the Atlantic, a metaphorical millpond. Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego slipped astern - the mystery was left in tact.

Mystery goes part and parcel with Cape Horn. The coast of Tierra del Fuego (defined by all land south of the Straits of (Magellan) appeared on Ptolomy's map and many others subsequently, but all were certainly apocryphal prior to Magellan's documented discovery in 1520 of the passage that bears his name. By 1540 a rumor in Spain had circulated that the Straits in fact did not exist because out of 21 ships dispatched there only one had returned to Europe. Later in the 16th century when the conquest of Peru and Chile and attendant privateering were in full swing, Drake, de Gamboa, Camargo, Ladrilleros, Hawkins, Cavendish and John Davis (recognized as the first scientific navigator) ran the gauntlet of the Straits of Magellan preoccupied not with exploration further south byt with riches around the corner to the north. It was left as late as 1616 when the Dutch men Jacques Le Maire and Willem Schouten in the Unity plied successfully further south (there were many prior failures) and discovered the Straits of Le Maire, Staten Island, Isla Barnaveldt and of course, Cape Horn, which they named after their ship the "Hoorn" which had burned in Port Desire on the Patagonian coast. Soon after in 1624 another Dutch expedition, the "Nassau Fleet," under there command of Jacques L'Hermite found the passage he named Nassau Bay which by-passed the Cape Horn archipelago to the north. On this voyage they were the first to encounter the nomadic Yaghan Indians who lived as far south as Wollaston Island and traveled nearly naked in bark canoes.

By mid morning the thick weather began to lift over the Beagle channel and what had been a wet blanket of cloud rolled back and uncovered puffy white cumulus flying along with a fresh southwesterly. A small front had passed and by noon Frank and I had decided to give Mt Francais a go. We had only two days to spare in the attempt so our rucsacs were light with only sleeping bags and bivy sacs, a cooker, minimum food and the most basic of climbing gear.

A half miles walk on carpets of spongy sphagnum bog, typical to all of the region, brought us to a steep forested ridge. Grappling for holds By mid morning the thick weather began to lift over the Beagle Channel and what had been a wet blanket of cloud rolled back and uncovered puffy white cumulus flying along with fresh southwesterly. A small front had passed and by noon Frank and I had decided to give Mt. Francais a go. We had only two days to spare in the attempt so our rucsacs were light with only sleeping bags and bivy sacs, a cooker, minimum food and the most basicof climbing gear. We waved good-by to Hamish and Jan on Pelagic who would be standing by our mobile base camp. Her stern was securely tied to the trees behind a gravel beach with a bow anchor out in a turquoise pool of glacier on branches of the indigenous nothofagus (beech) and drimys winteri (winter bark) we levered ourselves up through the glorious, but scratchy undergrowth of barberry and faschine, all in full flower. An hour and a half later we broke out into the open, on the exposed top where more sphagnum and some grasses held down a fragile ground cover where fewer and fewer trees, known as "bandera arboles" (flag trees) were now stunted and bent horizontal by an incessant westerly wind. Higher still, these same beeches, majestic and upright in the valleys, are forced down into a crouch and can only creep inches from the ground. Below, Pelagic had been reduced to a toy boat in an extraordinary green bathtub.

At 2,000 feet we were clear of the tree line and began to scramble on mosses and than rock decorated with lichens in ;shades of orange, green and brown. The south face of Mt. Francais, an imposing wall of ice flutings, hanging glaciers and vertical rock slabs towered above us. We kept to a subsidiary ridge that we hoped would link up with the main southeast ridge, first climbed (and possibly never since) by Eric Shipton in 1963.

While balancing precariously on a ledge we heard a swoosh behind our backs in space and just caught the wingtip of an Andean Condor, a master of these high places, disappearing around the buttress. Later, this scout was joined by six others who circled us close overhead for the entire afternoon. From our perch we gazed out over the Beagle channel far below. Fjords branched off north and south, and beyond to the southeast still hidden behind Isla Navarino would be the Wollaston Archipelago with Cape Horn at its southern apex.

The 18th and 19th centuries brought attempts at colonization form Spain, exploitation for seals and whales by all interested countries, missions to save the souls of the aboriginal "canoe Indians," and most important of all expeditions for science. James Cook with the botonist Banks and Solander made collections from the region during two expeditions in 1769 and again in 1774/75. In 1787 William Bligh in ;the Bounty tried for twenty nine days to round Cape Horn and was forced to circumnavigate via the Cape of Good Hope to reach Polynesia.

It was left to a British expedition to accomplish the first significant hydrography of the area. In 1829 William Parker King in the Adventure and Robert Fitzroy in the Beagle brought their two ships into the archipelago for five months and discovered what is now the Beagle Channel, which in addition to the Straits of Magellan and Nassau Bay offer the only alternatives for the mariner wishing to forego the Cape when passing from one ocean to another. His surveys of small coves and bays are still current on British Admiralty charts!

In 1982 Fitzroy returned in the Beagle for more surveying, this time with a young Charles Darwin whose somewhat unkind observations on the aboriginals helped formulate his theories of natural selection. Fitzroy, who believed in devine providence rather than Darwin's environmental determinism had collected his won specimens for investigation on the first voyage. ..The four Indians he brought back to England for an education and spiritual indoctrination were supposed to be the vanguard of another mission. The idea back fired; one quickly died and then when his protege Jemmy Button fled into the bush after he was returned to Tierra del Fuego on this second voyage. Fitzroys hopes of Jemmy setting an example to his savage brethren were shattered. The already famous Jemmy was later implicated and stood trial for the massacre of the Wulaia missionaries on Navarino Island some twenty years later.

In 1839 the American Wilkes based in Orange Bay just west of Cape Horn did further exploration in southern Tierra del Fuego and in 1842 Captain James Ross accompanied by the scientist Joseph Hooker wintered on Hermite Island. A succession of lesser known, but equally significant explorations of discovery continued into the 20th century. Sadly, the Fuegan Indians, fragile in numbers from the outset quickly succumbed to European diseases and were reduced to below sustainable levels by the end of the 19th century.

Although Tierra del Fuego never had an intrinsic commercial worth it quickly became the crossroads of commerce; Clipper ships doubled the Horn regularly in the middle of the 19th century supplying the California Goldrush. As political conflicts deepened in a post industrial revolutionary Europe, nitrate clippers, then windjammers loading in Chile and Peru made the passage back around the Horn with the ingredients for world wars. When steam began to erode the windjammers predominance on the high seas, the relatively sheltered waters of the Straits of Magellan was the preferred route and Cape Horn would see less traffic. In 1914 when they opened the Panama Canal even the Straits took a dive, and the port of Punta Arenas just west of the First Narrows and already famous for its seaman's brothels slipped into decline. It wasn't until very recently when the advent of super tankers and cargo ships too big for the canal began to ply the oceans that the route around the Horn was used once again.


A fiction book review about Wulaia:

The picture she paints is alive with the adventures and excitement of two very different youths, Jemmy Button and Jack Guevara, who are equally comrades and competitors, and it is dense with a descriptive power often cinematic in its nature: the hot, yawning pampa, the houses and inns of Buenos Aires beyond belief to Jack's young eyes, the thrilling port of Montevideo with its tall ships and bustling docks, London's raucous, filthy streets, the swirling, tumultuous seas in the midst of storm, the black waters of Wulaia with the fires which give the area its name flickering along its shores: Land of Fire. At the same time, the book is dramatic, like a mystery story, and actually concludes with a long trial scene derived from actual records, in which Button's true role in terrible massacre on Cape Horn of missionaries from Keppel Island is exposed. Filled with interesting, believable, and identifiable characters, Tierra del Fuego is a book that readers will find difficult to put out of their minds



The missions in Chile were private attempts of persons instilled with an evangelical fervor.

Although until 1925 the Anglican missions in Chile did not have in reality an authorization, the greater obstacles did not come from the authorities, but of the environment.

In 1827  the "Beagle" arrived at the Strait of Magellan, commanded by Capt. Fitz Roy.  Three years later, a whale boat of the ship was stolen by the yámanas on the island Navarino.  To try recuperate, the English took to 4 natives as hostages; after a confused situation these were taken to England.  One it died of smallpox; the others lived a year in the house of an Anglican Pastor, where they studied English, Christian doctrine, manual jobs, horse shoeing, carpentry and horticulture.

The "Beagle" returned to South America in 1832 with the three yámanas and a young missionary to initiate   evangelical work together.

Fitz Roy visited the place where he had left them, Wulaia, and saw that the work had not turned out, for which he decided that the pastor return to England.

Before this failure, the Church of England refused to be involved in another intent missionary in South America.

A fundamental figure was Allen Francis Gardiner, who in 1821 arrived at Chile as sailor, but with no religious designs.  Barbara Bazley tells that here he felt touched by the state of the natives.  Back in England he failed to convince to the Missionary Society of London to support a mission among them.

When its first wife died he promised to dedicate himself to preaching of the Gospel.  After various problems and failed attempts in Chile, South Africa, New Guinea, the straits of Magellan and Bolivia - he created the Missionary Society of  Patagonia  and Gardiner embarked in 1850 and landed in Spanish Port, near the Strait of Magellan, together with six men.  It had organized the arrival of provisions frome England and Montevideo, but both strategies failed.  Spanish port was out of the routes of navigation and they never left there again, and therefore they were defeated by sickness, cold and starvation.

After his death, Gardiner was transformed into hero and, in 1854, a schooner sailed with the name  ALLEN GARDINER bound for the Malvinas.  Donations to the Patagonian Missionary Society permitted the leasing of Keppel island in the Falklands, where a base was established to supply provisions to the missionaries.  There groups from six to eight yámanas were taken, where they received instruction.  At the same time, the missionaries tried to learn their language.

The work failed again, after that the yámanas killed to a group of missionaries that had begun a religious service.

In spite of this, Waite Hockin Stirling, who from youth had listened to teachings of the Patagonian Missionary Society, sailede in 1862 with his wife and other daring men toward Keppel.  They found it was well cared for and a young English man already dominated the language yámana.

After that, in 1868, a Christian settlement in Navarino prospered, Stirling decided to live among the Indians.  He then elected Ushuaia, where a base was installed in 1869.  He achieved a beginning of friendship with the yámanas, among who lived seven months, when he knew that he should return to England to be ordered bishop of the Falklands, a diocese that all of South America would depend.

With the arrival of Argentines and Chileans to Patagonia, illnesses propagated among the yámanas.  In little time half died and the other was so weak that not even could bury their dead.

According to the historian Gonzalo Vial, in The Extermination of the Fueguinos "had good intentions, although it was murder: that of civilizing them.  Missionaries and officials competed in having them live like Europeans.  They congregated them, dressed them, gave them western customs and food.  But, by this there  arrived, also the unknown vices and illnesses of the white man".  The last English missionaries and their descendants tried to protect them, but in vain their end was inevitable.

(Translated from Spanish)

Editor's comment: Sadly, the last leader and speaker of the Yagans, Ursula Calderon, a devout Christian, died of a heart attack on 16 January, 2003 at 79 years of age. The only other Yagan remaining is her younger sister, Cristina, age 70 who lives in the Ukika Indian village,Puerto Williams, Chile.


Another Challenge for Cape Horn

Captain Freeman Hatch, of the "Northern Light" set out from San Francisco on the 13th of March 1853; 38 days later he had already rounded Cape Horn, day 52 he was outside Rio de Janeiro and finally brought Boston Light in sight on the 29th of May. Northern Light reached her destination in 76 days and 5 hours, while the "Contest" arrived within 79 days and the "Trade Wind" reached New York within 84 days. With this, the "Northern Light" set a new record, which also set a new record for a days run, managing 355 miles in 24 hours, is an average speed of 14,8 knots. That under any circumstances is impressive for a 1,021 ton sail ship with a length of 171 ft. and a width of 36 ft. (approximately 52 and 11 metres)

It is said that the vessels’ Logs reflect, while rounding the legendary Cape Horn and passing near the "Contest", Captain Hatch sent a message informing them that, "he felt he had to depart from their side since he could no longer restrain his horse", obviously referring to the splendid performance of his vessel.

Whether this story is true or not, the fact is that until this very day the extraordinary and lucky performance of the "Northern Light" has not been bettered; no other sailing vessel has been able to beat the time between San Francisco and Boston via Cape Horn.

Thus, the challenge remains open to other daring mariners, with a spirit of adventure and with all of today’s technological advances: to try and break the record of "Northern Light". This was set by the tough mariners of a century and a half ago, they were brave and true Cape Horners, ancestors of the proud fellows who continue the tradition today.


Gold made Cape Horn even more famous

Gold was discovered in California in 1849 and the great stampede from the eastern shores reached across the broad American continent. This sudden migration westward made it immediately imperative for the United States Navy to establish a base on the West Coast from which ships of the Pacific Squadron could operate and at which they could be repaired.

Some random search results for "Cape Horn" 1850


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