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Today is Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Captain's Log: Rounding Cape Horn

31 December, 1969

Capt Ajit Balaram,
Master, Eagle Vermont


The southernmost tip of South America, Cape Horn, is one of the most dangerous seafaring routes in the world. Many vessels have rounded the cape, but many others have failed. For centuries, European explorers attempted to find shortcuts via the Northwest Passage through the archipelago north of Canada and via southerly routes around the continents.

The Horn, 1,391 feet high, was discovered as a direct result of the Dutch East India Company's restriction on any other Dutch trading company using the Cape of Good Hope or the Straits of Magellan, some 200 miles north of Cape Horn. Seeking a different, legal route, a Dutch navigator, Willem Schouten, sailed around the Horn in 1616. Unfortunately, when he arrived in the East Indies, no one believed he had used an alternate passage, and he was thrown in jail until the new route was confirmed. Named after Schouten's hometown of Hoorn in the Netherlands, the promontory was anglicized to "Horn."

Whatever the name, it is the most feared spot on earth for those who sail. The weather forecast of the area announces an average of 200 days of gale and 130 days of cloudy sky and for the rest of the year the wind is strong and the sea is rough. So great is its legendary status that, even today, it is a magnet for adventurous sailors, and some still die in the attempt.

According to sailors' lore, anyone who "rounds the Horn" is permitted to wear a gold hoop earring in the left ear to let the world know of the feat. In this modern age, visitors who sail these treacherous waters still feel a sense of accomplishment at having met the challenge of these turbulent seas. Today, sailors may be more knowledgeable about navigating the waters around the promontory than in years past, but they are still respectful and fearful when they sail around Cape Horn.


  • 13Jul05 0900LT (13/0800Z)
  • DTG: 10,923Nm
  • Speed: 14.5Kn
  • Draft: 20.1M EK
  • Displ: 317,250MT (Winter Dr: 21.45M)
  • Draft for passage: F/19.65M A/20.3M
  • 24 Jul 05
    Ice reports from Inm-C - ice edge limits and icebergs (4 Nos)
    Navtex messages received in Spanish and English.
  • 25 Jul 05
    Fog due to a warm front. About 8 hours.
    Fishing vessels on approach to Falklands, well lit & radar conspicuous.
  • 26Jul05
    Good weather in high pressure area.
    Passing flurries of snow - weather changing from clear to overcast and snow in succession.
    Weather news advice - no ice on intended track past Cape Horn.
    Navy aircraft low over vessel. Looked like a Hercules transport.
  • 27Jul05
    Passed the Horn at 1400.
    Weather: 25knots wind, passing snow.
    Otherwise no large swell.
    Chilean navy called from the station at Cape Horn asking for details - then advised to keep minimum 5 miles off land.
    Chartco weather broadcast fairly good.
    3 day predictions can be a bit off as weather changes rapidly.
    Inm-C and Navtex weather, reports comprehensive.
  • 28Jul05
    Passing Cape Pilar - west entrance to Megallen Straits.
    High snow capped peaks visible. Weather still okay, some swell.

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