Islote Montesi

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  • Day26

    Cape Horn, Chile

    January 28, 2018 in Chile ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    This morning at 08:00 we arrive at the Cape Horn National Park. The Wollaston Islands, which together make up this protected area, are the southern-most tip of South America.

    The islands are imposing and weather-beaten. Save for a few lighthouses, there’s little evidence of human impact here. Yet there is still plenty of life—the lone albatross from yesterday has been joined by a whole host of friends. More than 20 are now circling the boat and resting on the sea surface. Imperial Shags (stop laughing) are a frequent sight too, along with a host of other seabirds. A pod of whales has been spotted, but sadly we’re not quick enough to see them.

    The weather changes very quickly here. Sun one minute, pounding rain the next. Even so, the captain informs us that our crossing here has been unusually calm, so one can only imagine how bad it gets.

    Our route this morning was an odd one, mainly for the purpose of giving us all a view of Cape Horn. We approached around the north coast of Horn Island, then headed south, before performing a figure of eight movement, then headed north-east. The red line shows our route until now, and from here we will head north (the green line), passing between the islands of Lennox and Nueva, then we will enter the Beagle Channel later this evening for the west-bound transit back out to the Pacific Ocean.

    This evening we’re booked into the Sindhu restaurant for the tasting menu again. Which I suspect will be much like the last one, except this time we won’t be dressed like idiots.

    At 18:07 (Dad was late) we are seated for the 5-course tasting menu. It promises to be just as good as the last one, and this time maybe I’ll get around to taking some pictures. We begin with hot and spicy prawns, garlic and ginger chicken served with Vietnamese pork satay and a stir-fried pepper and asparagus salad. Mine is served without the satay, as a slow death would put quite a crimp in the evening. It’s absolutely delicious, very delicate flavours from south-east Asia, all rounded off with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce.

    Next up is a spiced chicken and coconut laksa soup. We had this last time, and it’s highly anticipated tonight too. The flavours in this soup are staggering. When they say spiced they mean it—it’s a very fiery soup. But it’s simultaneously creamy, with a sour note that gives it a strong aroma, yet which is entirely absent in the flavour.

    By now our mouths are ablaze. Mum is a red wine drinker, so has been recommended to try an Indian red wine from their selection. Now, maybe we’re uncultured in the world of wine, but we weren’t aware that India has much of a reputation in winemaking. However, this particular variety, made from Zinfandel grapes, marries very well with the spicy flavours we’re getting tonight (well, so I’m told - I hate red wine) Dad’s so taken with it that he’s planning to order a case of it when we get home.

    Our third course is seafood: lobster tail and scallops, served with peppers, onions and a black bean sauce. I’m no huge fan of seafood, especially if the damn thing still has a face on it, but even I have to admit that this is delicious.

    After a requested 15 minute pause for Mum to retrieve her wrap from the cabin (she’s gone cold, lord knows how, as my mouth and body are presently on fire), we get to the main event: slow cooked lamb rendang. It’s all phenomenal. And then to close the meal, a dark chocolate sphere, containing white chocolate mousse, covered in a warm chocolate sauce. This, dear reader, is why I’m fat. And why I am likely to lose a foot to diabetes.

    As I retire to my cabin, the bridge announces that there’s a pod of dolphins following the ship, so I drag my curry-infused bulk up to the top deck as fast as my overburdened legs will carry me. Not the best picture, as they were quite far off the port side of the ship, but I’m still delighted to have seen them.

    Sunset down here is late, as it’s summer, and the scenery is just as spectacular by twilight.

    All in all, a pretty much perfect rounding of Cape Horn. Tonight, we continue westwards, before entering the Pacific Ocean briefly, then turning north-east into the Straits of Magellan.

    Goodnight from the Beagle Channel!
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  • Dec13

    Enroute to Cape Horn

    December 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 bed
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Islote Montesi