Cape Horn – yikes

Sea Day 2 of 3 – Cape Horn – Welcome to February

This has been a quite bizarre day. Not content with sailing us around Cape Horn once, we have actually done it three times. No, really. The first time it was misty, so we went again, and it was sunny, so we got better photos, and then they turned the ship around and did it again, so the people sitting on the other side could have a look. There are no words for my bemusement. They managed to find us an island to go around, so we weren’t just shuttling back and forth, but it was still pretty odd.

Luckily, it has been relatively calm – Force 6, and pitching, but not much rolling, with only a few white horses and a little spray now and then. We have all heard the stories of the Roaring Forties (where there is no land, and the seas and winds circulate around the planet unimpeded, and therefore run MUCH faster than elsewhere), and this is also the point where the Atlantic meets the Pacific. So we were expecting it to be rough. They even put out the “Motion Discomfort Bag” dispensers. But we haven’t really experienced much rough weather at all – no one I saw was ill or even queasy – and bearing in mind we have been tootling around here all day, we have been pushing our luck to its absolute limits on the bumpiness front.

Today, I have particularly enjoyed listening to the creaking of the ship. When you can get away from the clattering of cutlery and the banging of plates and the nattering of people and the piped music and muzak and the screech of the coffee makers and the bings and bongs of the lifts (bing means going up, and bing bong means going down), you have the chance to hear the ship creaking, as the movement of the water pulls the vessel in different directions. If you close your eyes, you can imagine yourself on something much smaller, like the Grand Turk (used in the Hornblower series) or the small ships that the original explorers came here in. The creaking sound is the same, only the size of the waves needed to cause it differs.  And although those old ships were wood, and we are made of metal, even metal creaks under these sorts of stresses. Magellan was here for months, tootling about mapping things, finding the passage through from the Atlantic to the Pacific that he had been sent to find, and exterminating his crew in the process. He arrived with 250+ men in six ships, and when he got home, about three years later, I think, he had one ship and about 18 crew left.  Darwin came by here on the Beagle, as well. I doubt their time here was as relaxed and calm as ours. I did notice that there were a lot of small rocks sticking their heads out of the water, not far from land. I think I am not making too much of an intellectual leap to say I know precisely what happened to a lot of the ships that came this way, particularly in the dark…

But driving around in circles looking at precisely the same view several times over is a very uninteresting way to spend a day. Whilst the scenery is pretty breathtaking, it doesn’t get more so with a second viewing, or a third, come to that. We took some photos of the chapel on the southernmost tip of the southernmost landmass on Earth, if you exclude Antarctica, and the flagpole next to it, and the beacon for shipping. And that’s it. Apart from a few birds (much less than yesterday – they’re not dumb enough to fly this far south if they don’t have to), there is nothing else here but sea and rocks and the one crashing (rather prettily, I’ll grant you) into the other. Worth doing? Definitely. Nice to be able to say I’ve done it? Definitely? Worth doing three times? Nope, definitely not.

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