here are few places in the world in which man feels as vulnerable and surrounded by a mystic aura of spirituality as Cape Horn. Its location between two oceans at 55°56’ South latitude and 67°19’ West longitude, along with the intensity of the climatic phenomena that occur there, make its passage a unique and incomparable experience.
Entire books have been written about the difficulties that the sailing ships of yesteryear had in traveling around Cape Horn. The extraordinary feats and countless dramas that took place there can be illustrated by three pieces of information:
European eyes first set sight on Cape Horn at the beginning of the 17th century. In the small port of Höorn, the French merchant, Isaac Le Maire, and the sailors, Guillermo Cornelio and Juan Schouten, signed the constitution of the Southern Company and outfitted two ships: the 360-ton Endracht (Unity) and the 110-ton Höorn, which sailed from Texel, Netherlands on June 14, 1615.
On January 24, 1616 they crossed the strait, which they called Le Maire and gave the name of Statenlant (Land of the States) to the island they sighted to the east. They called it “Land” believing it to be a peninsula of Terra Australis Incognita, and “of the States” in honor of the provinces in the Netherlands that were fighting for their independence (Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, Utrecht, Drenthe, Gelderland and Groningen). Five days later, on January 29, 1616, they rounded the cape that they named Höorn, thus opening a new route between the Atlantic and the Pacific. They sailed through the Pacific with no clear idea of their course until they arrived at Java and the Moluccas. Here they were captured by another Dutch expedition commanded by Admiral Spielberg of the East India Company, which possessed exclusive rights to the only passage known until that moment. They were indicted for breaking the law governing the crossing of the Strait of Magellan, and argued in their defense that they had used a new passage. The jury was scandalized and did not believe them, since it was supposed that to the south of the Strait lay Terra Incognita, an impassable continent. They were found guilty in the first instance and were sent back to Holland on the Zeeland, the ship on which Jacobo Le Maire died two weeks later at high sea.
It is estimated that between the 16th and the 20th centuries more than 800 ships were lost in the stormy waters of Cape Horn, burying no fewer than 10,000 men of all walks of life and nationalities at sea.
The fastest known passage around Cape Horn was made by the Priwall in five days in 1938, while the inverse record is held by the sailing ship Susana, which took 94 days in 1905!