Antarctica

Drake Passage

In 1578, Sir Francis Drake was blown by Northerly gales off the Magellan Strait into open waters South of Tierra del Fuego and discovered this as a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Today it is named after him the Drake Passage and it reaches from Cape Horn towards the Antarctic Peninsula. Passing Cape Horn has the most hazardous reputation and with the development global trading routes, it is often referred to as the "sailor's graveyard". In good weather it can be very calm - and the sailors joke calling it the "Drake Lake". What amazed me is that there is no marine weather forecast available here. The only thing you get is a fax showing the isobars and a few temperatures. The rest you have to do yourself. I remember that when I studied in 1987 in the Meteorological Institute in Cologne University, this was already used as an exercise to show us students how weather forecasts were done in the past. Our depression (this is how low pressure fields are called scientifically) system moved North and then struck us with a number 10 storm just South of Cape Horn. That's then called the "Drake Shake" and when there are icebergs you call it "Drake Shake on the Rocks".

When passing the horn, Dave who was historian on board, took the PA system to recite the English translation of Sara Vial's poem that is beside an albatross statue on the Cape to remember the sailors who died here:

 

I, the albatross that awaits for you at the end of the world...

I, the forgotten soul of the sailors lost that crossed Cape Horn from all the seas of the world.

But die they did not

in the fierce waves,
for today towards eternity
in my wings they soar
in the last crevice
of the Antarctic winds

Sara Vial, Cape Horn 1992

The beginning of this journey is "The End of the World"

What calls itself the end of the world, is the beginning of a journey to the seventh continent. Ushuaia is the world's most Southern urban settlement, which has an Indian history before it was a jail for re-offenders and dangerous prisoners. Today it is a friendly and quiet little place having an existence between the port, a national park and a little airport. The main street is full of souvenir and outdoor gear shops, which are well priced because this is a tax free zone. In the port a bunch of lazy guys hang around which have the monopoly of any work done here and at the gate you have to get off and see the customs from time to time to justify that they get a salary. What is striking is that when you look at the landscape, it looks like the Swiss Alps meet the seaside. When I saw this it was absolutely clear that what ever comes South of here, must be as bizarre as landing on the moon.