Tag: Slope Point

Beagle Channel and Magellan Straits Jan 2020

Let’s start with a trivia quiz question. What is the southernmost point of the South American continent land mass? We all know that to sail around the bottom of South America one needs to pass Cape Horn. But Cape Horn is on an island, Isla Hornos, one of many islands south of the large island of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). There are two navigable sea routes through the islands between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Beagle Channel (named after the British ship) is 240km long and 5km wide at its narrowest and has the Argentinian city of Ushuaia on its northern shore, which is on Tierra del Fuego. The Beagle Channel is also a border between Argentina and Chile with Cape Horn in Chile. The Magellan Strait (named after the Spanish explorer) is 570km long and 2km wide at its narrowest and has the Chilean city of Punta Arenas on its northern shore. Ships that travel along these waterways need to have local pilots on board. Punta Arenas had its heyday in the early 1900s before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.

We sailed the full length of the Beagle Channel, with the captain diverting up the cul de sac of the Garibaldi Fjiord to show us the spectacular Garibaldi Glacier. Large pieces of ice, that had broken off the glacier, floated past us. We then entered the Pacific Ocean for a short while, before turning north to zig zag between islands to enter the Magellan Strait near Punta Arenas.

Punta Arenas is a run down city with all the interesting buildings and the cemetery dating back more than a hundred years. We did a walk in the morning.

In the afternoon we left the city and travelled south for 50km to the Strait of Magellan Park. There we had greats views of the Strait and saw the replica of Fort Bulnes, built there in 1843 when the Chileans staked their claim to the land.

When we were there we learnt the answer to the question posed above. A little further south from where we were is the southernmost point of the South American continent land mass, with the curious name of Cape Froward. It is located at 53.9⁰ S.

Other southern extremes are Cape Aghulhas, South Africa at 34.8° S; South East Cape, Tasmania at 43.6° S and Slope Point on the South Island of New Zealand at 46.7° S. We feel that we are very far from the equator and yet York in the UK is slightly further from the equator than Cape Froward.