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Definition: Horn, Cape from Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

Cape, at S extremity of South America, 56°S, 67°16′W, on Horn Island of Wollaston group, S Tierra del Fuego Archipelago (q.v.), projecting S into Drake Passage; named Hoorn for the birthplace of Dutch mariner Willem C. Schouten who rounded it in 1616.


Summary Article: Cape Horn from The Encyclopedia of Tourism and Recreation in Marine Environments

Cape Horn is the southernmost tip of South America within Chilean territorial waters and is located in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago. The Drake Passage, a narrow stretch of ocean, separates Cape Horn from Antarctica. Its positioning of 55° 56’S and 67° 19’W, the particular orographic formation and the intensity of the atmospheric phenomena which surround it turn Cape Horn into a unique and matchless location. It is a 424 m-high harsh rock and the terrain is entirely treeless. This cape can be sighted 30 km ahead and is surrounded by big breakers and foamy waves. Cape Horn lies where the continental shelf rises from the 4375 m-deep Pacific bed. Violent weather conditions are found in the area: there is an average of 200 days of gale winds, 130 days of cloudy sky and, for rest of the year, the wind is strong and the sea is rough. The waves can be more than 20 m high.

Rounding Cape Horn is considered the sailing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest: the supreme test of seamanship. The Cape was first rounded by a Dutch expedition led by William Schouten on 26 January 1616, and named as Kaap Hoom after the city of Schouten’s birthplace. Cape Horn played a major role in seafaring history until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Its great days came in the mid-19th century, when clipper ships carrying gold-rush emigrants raced from New York to San Francisco. This ocean highway is not much used nowadays except for adventurous sailing and around the world yacht races, and ships too large to pass through the Panama Canal.

Prabha Shastri Ranade
© CAB International 2008.

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