Enroute to Cape HornDecember 13, 2019 in Chile ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C
Viking Jupiter. Day at sea . Cape Horn
When we woke this morning at 8:00am, we were just drifting in the ocean off Puerto Williams where we were being cleared through Chilean Customs and immigration. No action was required on our part as the ship has all our passports. The process was supposed to take an hour, but I think it took 2 hours.
We are now in Chilean waters and have a Chilean navigator on board. We were advised that we won’t make it to Cape Horn until 4:30 or later this afternoon. The weather is cloudy and temperature between zero and 5 degrees. We had a leisurely breakfast and went back to our room to catch up on notes, laundry, and watched some of the previous lectures on television.
Discovering Cape Horn
An old maritime saying claims that: “Below 40 degrees latitude, there is no law. Below 50 degrees, there is no God”. Cape Horn, which lies at 55°56’ south latitude and 67°19’ west longitude, certainly fits the sentiments of this adage. Sudden, violent squalls called williwaw winds are common: gusts resulting from the cold, dense air from ice fields of coastal mountains in Patagonia being forced down by gravity to the sea. These winds can strike ships with little warning and are one of the reasons why it is notoriously difficult to round the horn. Waves can also reach heights of over 30 m. while an average of 270 days of rainfall per year, including 70 days of snow, can restrict visibility.
Explorers had been navigating the southern seas around the South American continent for over a century before Cape Horn was officially discovered. Further north, the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego had been discovered by Portuguese Captain Ferdinand Magellan in 1520.
Later in the century, Francis Drake and his crew were blown off course in 1578 and discovered the Drake Passage, refuting the belief that Tierra del Fuego was part of the great, impassable continent of Terra Australis Incognita that was believed to stretch to the South Pole. However, until the early 1600s, no ships had yet sailed the entire Drake Passage or encountered Hornos Island and the Hermite Islands where Cape Horn is located.
The Dutch East India Company held the monopoly on all Dutch trade through the only known routes to the Indies: The Straits of Magellan and the Cape of Good Hope. A previous shareholder in the company, a Belgian-born Amsterdam merchant, Isaac Le Maire and veteran Dutch sailor, Willem Cornelis Schouten financed a voyage to find another route to the Pacific Ocean and thus end the Dutch East India Company’s trade monopoly.
On January 24, 1616 the crews crossed and named the Strait of Le Maire before rounding the horn on January 29, 1616 and calling it “Kaap Höorn” after Schouten’s town of birth.
Well we were so lucky as we had completely clear sailing the night before and the day of our visit. I am glad I didn’t know about the possible size of the waves, or I would have been totally freaked out. We approached Cape Horn in completely calm seas and were excited that we were here, seeing it rising like a pillar above the point where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans converge. It is part of the Hermit Islands archipelago. This remote stark and treeless place is often considered the continent’s southernmost point, though the lesser-known Diego Ramirez Islands are father south. The highest point of the Cape soars from the Hornos island a massive prehistoric -looking volcanic rock dating back to the Jurassic period. We sailed right into the bay and around the area and then turned around and sailed slowly back out. The commentary from the bridge advised that this was one of the very best days to see the Horn because of the weather. Many times, the cruise ships can’t even get here.
Lecture on Antarctica
-Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent in terms of total area.
-There is 800 KM between Cape Horn and Antarctica via Drake Passage.
The continent of Antarctica makes up most of the Antarctic region. The Southern Hemisphere encompassed by the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic Convergence is an uneven line of latitude where cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the warmer waters of the world’s oceans. The Antarctic covers approximately 20 percent of the Southern Hemisphere.
The ice surface grows dramatically in size from about 3 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles) at the end of summer to about 19 million square kilometers (7.3 million square miles) by winter. Ice sheet growth mainly occurs at the coastal ice shelves, primarily the Ross Ice Shelf and the Ronne Ice Shelf. Ice shelves are floating sheets of ice that are connected to the continent. Glacial ice moves from the continent’s interior to these lower-elevation ice shelves at rates of 10 to 1,000 meters per year.
-If all the ice covering Antarctica, Greenland, and the mountain glaciers around the world were to melt, sea level would rise about 70 meters (230 feet). The ocean would cover all the coastal cities and land area would shrink significantly.
-There are seven sovereign states that have territorial claims in Antarctica: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom.
-The Antarctic Treaty puts aside the potential for conflict over sovereignty. It entered into force in 1961 and has since been acceded to by many other nations, but the provisions of the Treaty do not allow them to make their claims while it is in force. They are Brazil, Peru, Russia, South Africa and the United States.
Some important provisions of the Treaty
-Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only.
-Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end.
-Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available.
-The Australian Antarctic Territory covers nearly 5.9 million square kilometers; about 42% of Antarctica. Norway’s territory is next in size and the rest of the countries have smaller territories. There is still a small section not designated to any country.
After this lecture Lee went up and made a plate of sushi at the World Café and brought it down to the Theatre.
The next lecture was by our resident Astronomer; Aurora -Lights in the Sky.
Our sun is 93 million miles away. But its effects extend far beyond its visible surface. Great storms on the sun send gusts of charged solar particles hurtling across space. If Earth is in the path of the particle stream, our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere react.
When the charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, they excite those atoms, causing them to light up.
-What does it mean for an atom to be excited? Atoms consist of a central nucleus and a surrounding cloud of electrons encircling the nucleus in an orbit. When charged particles from the sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, electrons move to higher-energy orbits, further away from the nucleus. Then when an electron moves back to a lower-energy orbit, it releases a particle of light or photon.
-What happens in an aurora is similar to what happens in the neon lights we see on many business signs. Electricity is used to excite the atoms in the neon gas within the glass tubes of a neon sign. That’s why these signs give off their brilliant colors. The aurora works on the same principle – but at a vaster scale.
This was another fascinating lecture that added the overwhelming information we are trying to absorb about space.
We went for dinner at Manfredi’s and sat next to and chatted with a lovely couple.
As we were quite late eating dinner we decided to just wander around the Atrium and then headed off to bedRead more