Cape Horn

Przylądek Horn

Cape Horn is located in the very south of Cape Horn Island and is the southernmost point of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Cape Horn is known for its unpredictable and harsh marine climate, making it one of the most dangerous sea points.


In Rudyard Kipling’s (1865-1936) poem, Cape Horn is not coincidentally mentioned in connection with Britain’s emergence as the “ruler of the seas”. Europeans could only truly “rule the seas” after they had found and mastered the route from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The first expedition that was able to reach these places was Fernan Magellan’s circumnavigation expedition to the strait that opened the way to the Pacific Ocean, his ships entered in 1520. Magellan gave his name to the strait between the continent and the archipelago in the extreme south of South America, which he named Tierra del Fuego.

In 1578, the English navigator and pirate Francis Drake reached Cape Horn on the sailing ship “Golden Doe”. The sailing ship anchored near a group of islands located between 56 and 57 degrees south latitude, and the records of the famous Englishman mention a northern cape, south of which was a vast sea. This sea eventually came to be called Drake’s Strait.

The next time Europeans reached these places in 1616, it was a Dutch expedition led by Isaac le Maire and Willem Schouten. It was Schouten who named the southernmost cape of the archipelago “Cape Horn”, in honor of his native Dutch town of Hoorn. The development and permanent use of the new sea route began, and it became increasingly important, despite all the dangers of the route.

Cape Horn itself was first explored by the British circumnavigation expedition (1831-1836) on the ship “Beagle” under the command of Robert Fitzroy. It was on this expedition that the scientific career of the young Charles Darwin began.

Ship graveyard on Tierra del Fuego

Until 1914, when the first ships passed through the Panama Canal (it was officially opened in 1920), the Drake Passage remained the only way from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and vice versa. Therefore, despite abysmal weather conditions, fierce storms and the danger of encountering icebergs, there was a busy trade line near Cape Horn for hundreds of years.

As a result, Cape Horn gained the “fame” of the largest graveyard of ships – according to different data, almost a thousand of them were sunk in these waters. That is why these parallels are called “furious fifties”, and they, perhaps, will not yield to “roaring forties” in anything.

Among mariners during the hundreds of years of the existence of the route through Drake’s Strait, many myths and customs connected with Cape Horn have been born. Those who sailed around the cape once were allowed to put a silver earring in their left ear. After the third passage through Drake’s Strait, “sea wolves” changed the silver earring for a gold one. And now all tourists who have rounded Cape Horn on cruise liners are given certificates. To this day, many self-travelers test themselves by sailing around Cape Horn.

Cape Horn lighthouse

General Information

  • Cape Horn, the southernmost point of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago on Horn Island, in the extreme south of South America.
  • It is part of: Wollaston Islands.
  • Country where the cape is located: Chile.
  • Administrative subordination: Region Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, province Antarctica-Chilena, municipality Cabo de Ornos.
  • Nearest settlement: Puerto Toro (Chile).
  • Seaport, airport: Port Williams.
  • Date of discovery: 1616.
  • Coordinates: 55º 59º S latitude and 67º 16º W longitude.

Climate and weather

  • Temperate maritime.
  • Average annual temperature variation: from -2ºC to +14ºC.
  • It is characterized by constant winds and abundant precipitation – more than 1000 mm per year.


  • Tourism.
  • Meteorological observations.


  • Lighthouse on Horn Island;
  • Cape Horn National Park.

Fun Facts

  • Contrary to popular belief, Cape Horn is not the southernmost point of South America – 100 km southwest of Cape Horn are the Diego Ramirez Islands. The island of Aguila in this archipelago is the southernmost point of Chile and South America.
  • Sometimes the climate in the Cape Horn area is called the worst on Earth. For all tourists trying to circumnavigate Cape Horn on their own, rather than on ocean liners, guidebooks strongly advise to do so only between November and March, when the weather is relatively good. During the rest of the time, cold, continuous rain and terrible winds are assured.
  • In the famous series of books “The Great Hour of the Oceans” by the French writer Georges Blon wrote about overcoming Cape Horn: “To go around Cape Horn from west to east is less difficult than in the opposite direction, because always, especially in winter, blowing tailwinds, but they drive us kicking in the ass and batons on the neck, pouring in addition tons of ice water. The fierce “fifties” of Cape Horn are as implacable as the “roaring forties.” A few hours of gloomy day with leaden clouds hiding the horizon, and then an endless night when the thermometer drops to fifteen to twenty degrees below zero. In this gloomy chaos glide huge icebergs that have broken away from the Antarctic ice”.
  • Cape Horn is also associated with various myths and legends created around its wild and impregnable nature and the difficulties faced by mariners.
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