Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bending the Horn

Gander Mountain

After a really early morning breakfast, we arrived at Cape Horn.  The sailing ships that traveled these waters going from coast to coast sailing around the horn called it "bending the horn."  We would get to bend the horn today.  

The weather was not what we expected.  The ocean was calm and there was little wind, which was a surprise as we had learned that this was one of the rougher places on earth dreaded by sailors.  There was a high overcast and the day was pleasant.  We changed into our rain gear, grabbed our walking sticks, donned our rubber boots, all items needed to make the quick trip to land.  The crew of the Australis then gave us excellent instruction on how to climb down the ship's back ladder and how to grab hold of the arm of the person helping us into the zodiac boat.  In addition, they gave specific instructions right down to where to put your feet, sit down and slide along the sides of the zodiac boat.  This was a thrill, and one of many to come.
Zodiac Boat pulling up to the back of the ship.  Notice the calmness of the water.
There were crew members everywhere since this was our first experience.  Life jackets were checked and we rehearsed how to go down the back of the ship and into the Zodiac Boats. 
A loaded Zodiac Boat on its way to the cape

The ride could not have been more smooth.  Off in the distance we could see the Cape Horn Monument.  It was erected as an initiative of the Chilean chapter of the Chilean Association of Cape Horniers, in memory of the seamen from every nation who perished in the battle against inclemency of nature in the southern seas around the legendary Cape Horn.

It is estimated that between the 16th and the 20th centuries more than 900 ships were lost in the stormy waters of Cape horn, burying no fewer that 10,000 men of all walks of life and nationalities at sea.
The structure stands seven meters high and is constructed to withstand 125 mph winds.

This symbol was inspired by an old tradition of the sailors of yesteryear.  These sailors would capture the immense birds, known as the albatross, to play with them simulating a kite.  To do this, they tied a piece of salted pork to a hook which was lowered down to the surface of the ocean on a light rigging line.  When the albatross took the bait, the hook would lodge in the curve of the bird's beak.  With the line tight, the bird could not escape and the sailors would play with it from the ship until it landed on the deck.  It was then released.  No sailor was willing to kill an albatross since superstition had it that these beautiful and wandering birds embodied the spirits of sailors lost at sea.

Once you get to the shore there is a nice surprise of 150 steps to climb to the cape. 
The climb to the top.  Note the calm water. 

Once on the cape, there is a board path over the ground and it allows good walking up to the Cape Horn Monument.  Living on the cape in a lighthouse is a family that is rotated each year.  They must have the ability to home school their children.  Their job is to make daily weather observations.  People that do this work are members of the military and it is a volunteered position for the year.

Home and offices for the family that lives at the cape. 
The tip of the cape.  To the right is the pacific to the left is the Atlantic.  Notice the calmness of the water.
Flag of Chile on the cape.

Please notice the dark clouds.  If you look beyond the flag pole you can see rain showers.  We started back down to the zodiac boats and the short trip back to the boat.  The wind started to pick up and the ocean began to rock and roll. 

Pam waiting for me on a landing.  She is ready to head back to the boat. 

"I am the albatross that awaits you
at the end of the earth.
I am the forgotten soul
of the dead sailors
who sailed around Cape Horn
from all the seas of the world
But they did not die
in furious waves, 
today they fly on my wings,
towards eternity,
in the last crevice
of the Antarctic winds"

Gander Mountain


Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank


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