(Learn about) Cape Horn & Drake Passage

Trip Start Jun 10, 2012
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Trip End Aug 17, 2013


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Flag of Antarctica  ,
Friday, January 18, 2013

The Drake Passage is the waterway between the southern tip of South America (Cape Horn) and Antarctica. It is also right where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. It is named by the famous early explorer Sir Francis Drake, even though he didn't actually cross it. The first person to travel the Drake Passage was Willem Schouten in 1616. It used to be a very important part of trade, being the only way to get around the Americas, until the Panama Canal was built in 1914. The Strait of Magellan was also available for early sailors, however the narrow sides and high winds make it a danger for ships traveling there. Therefore, the Drake Passage was mainly used because there was no danger of blowing into land. It was not only for ships to transport cargo, but it was many sailors' dreams to complete it alive. It is a very challenging task for all sailors to round Cape Horn through the Drake Passage. If they should complete it, they are allowed to wear a gold hoop in one ear and sit with one foot on the dinner table. I don't think going in a cruise ship counts, though.
The Drake Passage is 600 miles wide, and the average depth is about 11,000 feet. The Drake Passage is considered the most dangerous waters of the world. The waves can be 45-65 feet tall, and the winds reach to 180mph. The Antarctic summer is December-March and the winter is June-September. During the summer, there isn't much ice in the Drake Passage (that's why it was the only time available for cruising).
Around all of Antarctica, there is something called the Circumpolar Current. This is a huge current that flows continuously around the continent. Because there is no land to block it, it goes very fast. The estimated rate of flow is between 3,400 and 5,300 million cubic feet. When it flows through the Drake Passage, it is constricted into the gap, making the water and winds higher. After you get past the Circumpolar Current and into the Southern Ocean, the waters are more calm. You can actually feel it instantly.
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