After leaving Ushuaia we sailed through the night towards the southernmost part of the journey - Cape Horn. Cape Horn is located in southern Chile at Hornos Island where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet and is considered the northern boundary of the Drake Passage. It is significant because, prior to the building of the Panama Canal, it was the major marine trade route around South America for sailing ships carrying goods from the Far East, Australia and New Zealand to the Western World, taking advantage of the strong westerly winds. Unfortunately, the waters through the Drake Passage are often quite hazardous due to the strong winds, buffeting waves and occasional icebergs.
Cape Horn is approximately 600 kilometers from the coast of Antarctica. We arrived at the Cape Horn Memorial which is on the southwestern tip of Hornos Island at 7:15 AM. The skies were heavily overcast with a heavy mist being driven by gusty winds. It took a bit of skillful navigation for the Captain of the Eclipse to position the ship so that we could get a relatively close view of the memorial. We stayed in our stateroom and viewed the site from our balcony, bundled up in our coats and scarves. We were able to make out the monument which commemorates the countless sailors who perished attempting the voyage around the Horn. A short distance from the memorial is a very small Chilean Naval station that consists of a residence, a chapel and a lighthouse. The lighthouse is maintained by a keeper who spends six consecutive months here before being replaced for six months by a fellow keeper. In total we spent just over an hour with the Captain maneuvering the ship so that passengers on both sides of the ship would get a view.
Below is a video with some details about Cape Horn and also footage of what the island looks like.
After 7 days of sailing south on the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Chile, we were about to begin our journey north on the Atlantic. Our next port of call, Puerto Madryn in Argentina, approximately 1500 kilometers from Cape Horn, would take us a full 2 days and nights of sailing. Since we had spent more than an hour in the frigid winds and driving mist on our balcony as we circled Hornos Island, we were happy to come back into our stateroom to change and enjoy a hot breakfast at the buffet restaurant.
We spent most of the rest of the morning just resting and relaxing then went to the Tuscan Grille which was having a special lunch event to commemorate “rounding the Horn”. We had booked a window table a couple of days ahead of time so that we could take in the views of our sail through the Drake Passage. Due to the overcast skies and heavy seas, there really was not a lot to see. On the other hand, the surf and turf offered for lunch was spectacular, featuring mouthwatering filet mignon, lobster tail and jumbo shrimp.
In the afternoon, we had reserved spots to do a backstage tour of the main theatre. This was a surprisingly interesting tour for me. Considering how elaborate the sets and performances are, it was a revelation to see how little there is to work with back-stage. There is a tiny, common dressing room for each group of performers, and in some cases, they are doing costume changes in closet sized storage rooms. Personal effects for the performers are stored in wall mounted cubby holes. Costumes are recycled and retrofitted by a seamstress (and sometimes, by the performers themselves). It is amazing that despite the limitations of the backstage area, the challenges of performing on a bobbing vessel in a variety of sea conditions and the restrictions of being confined on a ship for months at a time, that these professionals are able to excel at their craft.
In keeping with the surf and turf lunch that we enjoyed earlier in the day at the Tuscan Grille, we chose more sea and land fare for dinner. The appetizers and salad menu featured Lobster Bisque, Caesar Salad and Steak Tartar, so that is what we opted for and decided to forego the heartier choices on the entre menu.
After a good night’s sleep and our usual breakfast fare, we settled in for another sea day. Celebrity had engaged Alan Riles, a noted geologist and earth scientist, to provide timely lectures based on our current locations on various topics that included Plate Tectonics (the theory describing large-scale motion of rocky plates that make up the earth’s continents), Glaciers of South America, the Falklands and today’s topic, Super Continents - their formation and break-up. I had attended all of the previous lectures and decided to take this one in as well.
We met up after the lecture and decided to try out the Oceanview Cafe, a market-style, casual restaurant that offers an international cuisine. We both opted for Italian and selected a combination of made-to order pasta and oven made pizza and capped that off with refreshing gelato. We finished just in time for the start of the afternoon game show - Latin America versus the Rest of the World - hosted by the Cruise Director, Alejandro. Latin America won (but this might have been slightly rigged).
Our evening meal in the main dining room was Beef Brochette, Spring Rolls, Lobster Ravioli and Veal. Needless to say, after 2 full days at sea we were looking forward to getting to a sea port so that we could walk off the countless calories that we had been storing. We were really looking forward to getting to our first Argentinean destination - Puerto Madryn.
Continue to Day 11 - click here
After 3 days at sea, we were excited to be finally getting into a port of call. We woke up early and headed up to the top deck with our cameras at 4:30am. We were sailing through the calm waters of the Beagle Channel on our way to Ushuaia and the pre-dawn twilight cast an eerie glow on the snow-capped mountains and glaciers on our starboard side. We stayed out on the deck for about half an hour watching the landscape slide by and then decided to get a few more hours of sleep as our arrival in Ushuaia was not scheduled until 10:30am.
After a hearty breakfast, we disembarked the Eclipse which had docked at the base of the town. We found our driver at the entrance to the pier who introduced himself and then we drove into the town to pick up our guide.
Ushuaia is a quaint little town with a population of approximately 60,000 people that is located on the southern shores of Isle Grande de Tierra del Fuego and overlooking the Beagle Channel to the south. It claims to be the southernmost city in the world and is situated just 1,100 kilometers from the Antarctic coast. Being a principle stopover for tourists rounding Cape Horn or heading to Antarctica, it thrives from tourism but also generates much of its economy from fishing and natural gas. Recently, it has generated a considerable income from manufacturing electronic products and has the largest electronics factory in Patagonia.
Following a quick tour of Ushuaia, we drove westward along the Pan American highway for 30 minutes towards the Chilean border and eventually arrived at the End of the World Post Office, a small metal structure that sits on stilts overlooking the Beagle Channel. People from all over the world stop in at this post office to mail postcards back to themselves that are postmarked “End of the World Post Office. We walked along the beach by the post office where the skies were bright blue with billowing clouds hanging over the mountains and the brisk breeze was creating frothy caps on the water that was lapping against the shoreline.
We left the Post Office and drove a short distance westward to the end of the Pan American highway, which covers a distance of 17,000 kilometers from its starting point in Alaska. The road ends at the tip of Lapataia Bay where we exited the car and walked around to take pictures of the breathtaking landscape.
Driving back towards Ushuaia, we stopped briefly at the Tierra Del Fuego National Park Information Centre to use the facilities and have a light lunch.
Upon arriving back in Ushuaia, we pre-purchased tickets for a catamaran cruise on the Beagle Channel and then walked around the picturesque downtown for an hour before the cruise was scheduled to depart.
We boarded the catamaran and found an empty table by the window on the upper deck. I purchased a glass of wine for each of us to enjoy as we sailed away from Ushuaia and into the Beagle Channel.
Our first stop was at a small island that was covered in hundreds of cormorants. We paused long enough to get some pictures and then continued sailing to another small island where we docked and disembarked. We had a chance to walk around this great rock that was remarkable for the extensive fauna that covered its surface. After reboarding the catamaran, we continued sailing further into the channel and stopped beside a small, flat island to view the sea lions that rested on the cold rock at the edge of the water.
A short distance from the sea lions was another small island that is totally barren except for the red and white brick lighthouse that protrudes skyward from its base. This is Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse otherwise known as “The End of the World” Lighthouse, which was built in 1920 and is still functional today. Although it is uninhabited, it is fully automated and remote controlled and generates electricity for its light via solar panels. After visiting the lighthouse, our catamaran made the return journey to Ushuaia which took about 45 minutes. We took one final, brief walk around the plaza by the pier then made our way back to the Eclipse.
We boarded our ship and then returned to our stateroom for a quick change before going to the dining room for dinner. After dinner we went to the main theatre to enjoy a concert that featured a skillful pianist and a variety of accompanying singers. We then retired to our stateroom to relax on the balcony and chatted about our day. We did not stay up too late as tomorrow at 6:00am we would be passing one of the key points on our South American cruise - Cape Horn!
Continue to Day 9 & 10 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.