Home
Antarctica Discounts
Home I Antarctic I Cape Horn I Arctic I Our Products I Contact
cu


Expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia,
Cape Horn, Falklands & Tierra Del Fuego


CAPE HORN HISTORY


THE CAPE HORNERS' CLUB:


The AICH, or Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au long cours
Cap- Horniers Saint-Malo, has an Åland Islands Section which
is one of the most flourishing in the world. One reason is that the
last "real" Cape Horners sailed in Gustaf Erikson's ships as late
as after World War II. To become a full member of the Cape Horn
Club, a person must have sailed round Cape Horn, the southernmost
tip of South America, on board a cargo-carrying sailing-ship without
an auxiliary engine. The absolutely last "Grain Race" took place in
1948-49, and the last sailing-ship without an auxiliary engine to
round Cape Horn with a cargo was the PAMIR. The Cape Horn Club
was founded by some sea-captains in Saint-Malo, France, and the
Åland Islands Section has its own corner in the Åland Maritime
Museum. On the first Thursday of every month members gather
to have a seafarers' lunch in the Restaurant Nautical, above the
Maritime Museum, looking out over the museum- ship POMMERN.
Many salty stories are told at these lunches.

http://www.maritime-museum.aland.fi/plan1/aich_eng.htm

Photo of the Last Square rigger without an
engine to go around Cape Horn:

The absolutely last "Grain Race" took place in 1948-49,
and the last sailing-ship without an auxiliary engine to
round Cape Horn with a cargo was the PAMIR.
http://www.maritime-museum.aland.fi/plan1/pamir_eng.htm


Panama Canal and Cape Horn

A ship leaving New York and heading to San
Francisco would travel an extra 12,700
kilometers or about 7,900 miles out of its
way if it passed around Cape Horn. A shorter
way such as the Panama Canal would save
months, and is much less dangerous than
facing possible severe weather at Cape Horn.

In 1524, King Charles I of Spain ordered a
survey to see if the construction of a canal
was possible. Although the idea never
materialized, the Spaniards built roads paved
with stone that were used to transport, by
mules, tons of gold and silver coming from
Peru and bound for Spain. Traces of these
roads still remain today and can be visited.

It wasn't until three centuries later, in
1878, that steps were taken in it's
development when the then Republic of
Colombia awarded the contract to Lucien N B
Wyse, who sold the concession to Ferdinand de
Lesseps. De Lesseps had had success with
Egypt's Suez Canal and he was confident that
this project would be the same. In 1880, work
began on the canal which was more difficult
than anyone expected, plagued by financial
mismanagement, disease, construction
problems. De Lesseps,an old man, returned
home various times to raise funds. Yellow
fever and malaria killed thousands of
workers, and placed thousands in hospitals.
The French steam shovels and dredges were no
made for the tough rock. De Lesseps wanted to
build the canal at sea level, like the Suez
Canal, even though a lock canal was cheaper
and had more chance of success.

Plans for the sea-level canal were abandoned
in 1885, and changed to include a lock, but
it was too late. In 1889 the de Lesseps'
company was bankrupt and its liquidated to
repay loans. De Lesseps went to trial but was
never jailed of fined.

A new company was formed in 1894 but
eventually France found that it could not
complete the canal. A buyer was sought for a
price of US$100 million. The United States
was considering construction of a canal
through Nicaragua and sent a military team to
survey the new site. J.P Morgan's company,
the Maritime Canal Company, was hired to
build a new canal in Nicaragua. Work began
but the stock panic of 1893 canceled the
funding.

The United States considered construction
again in 1897, and recommended resuming the
route through Nicaragua. A second commission
in 1899 gave the same reply. Senator J.T.
Morgan introduced a bill funding resumption
of the works, but the assassination of
President McKinley stopped the bill's
passage.

1903, the province of Panama declared its
independence from Colombia and immediately
signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty which
authorized the United States to start
construction of the Canal in 1904. It was
completed and started operations on August
15, 1914 when the U.S. cargo ship Ancon made
a historic first transit while the war was
raging in Europe.


EXCERPT FROM DIARY OF A VOYAGE FROM MADEIRA
TO THE SANDWICH ISLANDS (Hawaii) VIA CAPE
HORN ABOARD AN ENGLISH SAILING VESSEL:

Dec. 31. At dawn we had a forewind
accompanied by such intensely cold weather
that no one could go up the hatchway. After
breakfast, the tossing increased, and it was
difficult to stand even though you held on to
the ropes firmly. At ten o'clock they put up
an awning as the wind was growing stronger.
When lunch was ready, we asked some friends
to go for ours, since we knew that we would
never be able to balance ourselves or the
food. By now the crew was forced to continue
working, but they had to be tied with ropes
to prevent them from being thrown into the
sea. At times the ship would be on a sharp
incline and would miss the wave, but the
result was a severe blow which felt as if the
ship were being torn in two. It continued
this way throughout the day.

At 3 p.m. the twentieth death aboard occurred
when one of the young boys who had stowed
away left this life. He was Manoel dos Reis,
a native of São Jorge, and had been
accompanied by his brother Francisco. The
ship's doctor reported that his death had
been the result of a fall he had received
while carrying two buckets of water. But
there were rumors to the effect that one of
the sailors had been responsible, for he had
squeezed Manoel and that Manoel had felt a
severe pain in his back on that occasion. We
were now at Cape Horn, 120 miles from land,
in 56' 48" S. Lat., 66' 24" W. Long.

At 5 p.m. the wind became stronger and the
sea ugly. This was one storm we would never
survive, so we thought. Our dishes and our
food rolled with the ship; our trunks and
boxes were scattered about. There wasn't a
passenger aboard who wasn't crying or singing
the Bemdito or the Terço. The air was heavy
with the odors of alecrim and other herbs.
Luiz Madeira, one of our passengers who had
been in the Portuguese Navy, kept trying to
hearten us. He went up on deck to observe the
weather conditions, and returned to us with
this message: "Boys, I see that the storm is
bad, and we may all be lost.

Let us get our Virgem da Nossa Senhora do Monte
and ask her to pray to her blessed Son that this storm
will be appeased, and that we may arrive
safely at our destination." Some began to cry
again, but those who were more courageous
sang the Terco and the Bemdito. Others
brought blessed branches for us to toss into
the angry sea. As midnight was approaching,
the first mate, who was a good friend of
ours, rang in the New Year with a little
bell, but he did it so suddenly that we
mistook it for a danger signal. Sleep was
fitful that night, for we had little hope of
seeing the light of the first day of the new
year.

Jan. 1, 1888. There was no change in the
storm at daybreak. Three sails could be seen
opposite us, so we knew that they too had
weathered the storm. At two o'clock in the
afternoon, the young men and women came
together to see our Lapinha, and then they
all sang the Bemdito. One of them picked up
the image of the Christ-Child and ran about
the ship to give all the passengers an
opportunity to kiss Him. Many wept, thinking
of the happiness they had left behind them in
Madeira; others because they feared that at
any moment they would be swallowed up by
these angry waves, wept bitterly. One of them
said through her tears, "Who better than I
could be on land, eating the best of food?
Why, the water with which I washed my pots at
home would taste better than this dish of
macaroni! But, after all, there is nothing I
can do but live with this distress." And the
storm continued, with the wind blowing as
violently by nightfall.

Jan. 2. We had two ships ahead of us, and a
sailing vessel far behind. We were forced to
clew our sails, there being only four
unfurled. The wind was now blowing forcefully
and seemed to carry with it everything that
got in its way. It was rainy and cold, and we
remained below the decks, with the sensation
of having neither fingers nor toes nor noses.
By five o'clock the weather had not changed;
it was obvious that we had ahead of us
another night of torment, bitterness, cold
and hunger.

Jan. 3. The storm was still with us. The
hatchways were all closed because of the
large waves which had tossed our ship from
side to side. Our food had been reduced to
half the amount we had been receiving, but it
still was difficult to get. Early to bed that
night for there was nothing else to do.

Jan. 4. We have little to say today. The
weather was the same, except that the cold
had increased. At two o'clock we saw a large
four-masted sailing ship but we did not know
to what country it belonged. We went to bed
at 8 p.m. and spent a miserably cold night.
The clothes we had brought with us were not
heavy enough to keep us warm.

Jan. 5. We were awakened by the confusion
which sailors cause when they wash the decks,
So up we got and approached the first mate to
inquire about the weather. He informed us
that it was a little better now The ocean was
still a bit choppy and the wind strong enough
to be damaging. At 3 p.m., however, they
unfurled the sails. We were all happy as we
went to bed, for this night would be more
favorable than the preceding ones.

Jan. 6. When dawn broke, we were in a calm.
but it was stilt very cold. As we went up on
deck, some one said. "Thanks be to God for
this good weather. Now those days are passed
when we remained all day in our bunks. Let's
take an airing." It was sad to see some of
the young men and women. Those who were
thirty years old or less looked like old
people They had lost much weight , and their
color was poor.

After breakfast we all congregated near the
capstan of the ship to make up for many lost
moments. Some of us played dominoes, and
others sang to the accompaniment of rajöes
and guitars. We enjoyed ourselves immensely
and completely forgot about eating.

Early in the afternoon we saw a huge whale
accompanied by, a great number of tuna fish
To the east, far off in the distance, was a
steamer; to the south, we saw a yacht; to the
north, a bark was visible. Later in the
afternoon there was more of the same type of
entertainment.

The first mate called out to us, "You should
be happy now for we have crossed Cape Horn."

We were even happier because we knew we were
five sailing days away from the Horn. So we
thanked God for having given us the good
fortune of passing the Horn so quickly, for
some ships have been delayed from forty to
sixty days because of the storms in this
region.

Part of the time we traveled at a speed of
four miles per hour; sometimes we could sail
only half a mile per hour. 57' 59" S. Lat.,
70' 10" W. Long.

Jan. 7. We had a favorable wind at dawn, with
a calm sea, but it was still bitterly cold.
So this day passed, leaving us bitter and
depressed. We traveled ten miles today.

Jan. 8. We had a fairly strong wind on the
quarter. At 2 p.m. the wind increased
followed by darkness and rain two hours
later. Now the sails were nearly all furled,
and fortunately so, for by six o'clock the
sea was very rough. When night fell at 10:30,
the ship rocked like a cradle. The tossing of
the ship and the clatter of the dishes as
they fell made the night a sleepless one for
us.

Jan. 9. The wind was gentler at dawn, but the
sea angrier. By noon, no one was allowed on
deck. Some pots had fallen off the stove and
had hit some of the men and two of the women
passengers who happened to be nearby. One
woman was so badly cut that she was taken to
the ship's hospital and was treated by the
doctor.

Jan. 10. Today the wind kept changing its
direction. The few who went to get their food
had to hold on to the ropes and cables. Most
of us were content to remain in our bunks
cold and hungry.

Jan. 11. The wind was calmer but the sea was
still ugly. At 10 a.m. we saw an English bark
far ahead of us, sailing south. At noon there
was rain with a rough sea. The wind increased
and was strong by the time we retired at
11:30. Today we traveled six miles per hour.
55' 34" S. Lat., 79' 8" W Long.

Jan. 12. When we arose our first thoughts
were of the distance we had covered during
the night. The report that we had sailed at a
rate of two miles per hour was disheartening.
The wind was against us at 8 a.m., the sea
rough and the fog exceedingly dense. The wind
increased that evening, and during the night
the tossing of the ship kept us awake This
was another night of torment. 54' 39" S.
Lat., 78' 7" W. Long.



For log of whole trip:



Getting to the Cape Horn Monument

At the Chilean station, Cabo de Hornos there
is a beach made up of smooth stones, many
covered with algae. From there you may climb
a steep wooden staircase o the top of the 40
meter cliff to the Chilean naval station
which is manned by three sailors sent from
Puerto Williams, 70 miles North. The Chilean
sailors there will welcome you, ask you to
sign the guest book and will stamp your
passport "Cabo de Hornos".

There is a small chapel there called Stella Maris,
"Star of the Sea," dedicated to those sailors who had
been lost at sea going around the Horn. A
monument was erected in 1989 to commemorate
those passages. The monument is dedicated to
all the captains and crews from all over the
world, who have made the long journey around
Cape Horn, and to those who have lost their
lives in the process. There is also a newer,
large metal monument where one can
distinguish that the Rorschach abstract
cut-out in the shape of a flying Albatros
with it's wings outstretched above the jagged
cliff edge and the wave swept sea.


"There is always a cape waiting for you in
life, but if it is Cape Horn, the cape at the
southern tip of the American continent and if
you are lucky enough to round it, then you
will never forget it."
Paolo Venanzangeli

There are four or five places all over the
world in the presence of which man feels
perturbed, surrounded as they are by a
perennial mystical aura of spirituality. One
is Cape Horn. Its location at 55°56' south
and 67°19' west between two oceans and the
intensity of atmospheric phenomena which
surround it make Cape Horn unique and
matchless.

Passages round the cape were more frequent
during the century following after Willem Schouten
discovered the Horn.
This is when the real nature of Cape Horn
revealed itself. In 1741, the crew of the English
Admiral Anson, in order to take by surprise the
Spanish colonies on the Pacific coast, rounded
the Cape and lost five of the eight vessels under
his command.

While Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe,
sailing along a more southern course, James
Cook and his "Resolution" safely rounded the
cape and continued its journey to explore
Oceania. The stretch of water around Cape
Horn became really crowded from the start of
the Gold Rush in California until the
completion of the railway lines.

The clippers sailed one after the other along the New
York-San Francisco route, the same route
followed by the best sailors today.
That was the era of the "cap horners", of
those who had rounded the terrible Cape Horn.

Many vessels have rounded the cape, but many
others have failed. William Bligh, who later
demonstrated to be an able seaman when
captain of the Bounty, failed to round the
cape in 1788. He reached Polynesia by
rounding the Cape of Good Hope.

The four-masted vessel "Edward Sewall"
rounding of the cape lasted from March 10th to
May 8th in 1904.

"Cambronne" took 92 days to go from one to
the other ocean. The rounding of this Cape
has not been more perilous than other
well-known capes around the world, yet the
passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Ocean is complete only after having sailed
the 1,000 miles or so that separate the
Falkland Islands from Wellington, along the
Chilean coast. Whoever arrived from
the Pacific Ocean had to overcome the danger
represented by the false Cabo de Hornos as
the Chileans, who own the area, call it.

This cape is sighted twenty miles ahead and, when
surrounded by big breakers and foamy waves that
carry powered snow along their crests, it may
confuse the helmsman who may choose the
tragically wrong route.

Joshua Slocum onboard "Spray" was not
the first sailor to round the cape,
he preferred to go through the Magellan's Strait
despite the difficulties and the hostile natives. The
first sailor who really tried circumnavigation
was the Australian Clio Smenton who, as a
prize after the wreckage of his "Pandora",
received a copy of Slocum's boat.

The first sailor who really conquered the
great Cape Horn was Connor O'Brien, who
rounded it with three friends on board the 42
footer "Saoirse", during the circumnavigation
between 1923 and 1925 becoming the first
cap-horner in history .


Magellan and Cape Horn



cd