September 2013
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Travel – Drake Passage – Antarctica

The Drake Passage which is also known as Mar de Hoces – Sea of Hoces is a stretch of water that falls in between the southern tip of South America which is at Cape Horn in Chile and the South Shetland Islands that belong to Antarctica.

Overview of The Drake Passage

• It links the Atlantic Ocean’s south western part with Pacific Ocean’s southeastern part.
• It then expands into the Southern Ocean.
• During 16th century, an English privateer named Sir Francis Drake ship when passed through the Strait of Magellan, was dragged far to the South.
• This happened in September 1578.
• This lead to revelation of an open connection that existed in between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
• Five decades earlier, Francisco de Hoces, a Spanish navigator along with his crew thought they saw end of land.
• They possibly inferred it as a passage in 1525.
• Hence, it came to be known as Mar de Hoces by some Spanish and Latin American historians.
• It was named after Francisco de Hoces.
• Through this passage, the first voyage was recorded by Eendracht.
• This was captained by the Dutch navigator Willem Schouten around 1616.
• It was named Cape Horn in the process.
• The passage was eight hundred kms wide which was between Cape Horn and Livingston Island.
• It is also known as the shortest crossing to the rest of the world from Antarctica.
• The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans has a marked boundary as the imaginary line that can be drawn from Cape Horn to Snow Island which is north of mainland.
• Alternatively, the meridian that passes through Cape Horn could be taken as the boundary.
• Thus both these boundaries formed are known to lie within the Drake Passage.
• There are other two passages which fall around Cape Horn, Beagle Channel and Magellan Strait.
• They are known to be very narrow.
• It leaves a very small space for a ship especially for a sailing ship to maneuver.
• This passage is filled with ice.
• The wind is sometimes very strong, so much that the vessel for sailing cannot move forward.
• This is the reason why many sailing ships take the Drake Passage where there is enough space for the ship and favors even in stormy and rough environment.
• The Diego Ramirez Islands which are pretty small are located approximately 50 kms to the south of Cape Horn.
• There is no land near Drake Passage latitudes.
• This passage has the flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current .
• The volume is very high which can be estimated to be about 600 times the flow of the passage and around Antarctica.

One can sight from the ships in the passage the following:
– whales
– dolphins
– plentiful seabirds
– giant petrels
– petrels
– albatrosses
– penguins
• According to the study, this passage was unknown and has been closed for about forty one million years.
• This is found from the fish teeth that were found in oceanic sedimentary rock.
• Prior to the opening of this passage, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were distinct entirely.
• Antarctica being much warmer and having no icecap.
• The conjunction of these two great oceans began with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and subsequently cooled the continent significantly.

About Antarctica

• Antarctica is a continent which has extreme weather conditions.
• It is considered to be the coldest and also the driest land mass on Earth.
• The average elevation is highest of this continent.
• This is known to be the 5th largest continent on the Earth.
• This continent is known to be the Southernmost end point which overlies the South Pole.
• It is hardly inhabited with humans.
• This land has beautiful scenery with land that is filled with ice and few scientific bases.

Best time to visit/climate

• For tourists, Antarctica offers suitable climate throughout the summer time which is from November to March.
• This is when sea ice melts enough allowing access.
• The coastal temperatures can surface to highs of 14°C where there is certainly one day of daylight.
• In the winter the ocean is not passable.
• Temperatures can fall to -40°C/F there are 1 day of darkness.

Location on Google Maps

View Larger Map

Or click and paste the URL below on the browser:

How to get there?

1. By plane
• Major landing fields include:
Teniente Rodolfo Marsh Martin Aerodrome serves
– Frei Base
– Bellingshausen Station
– Great Wall Base
– General Artigas Station
– King Sejong Station
– Jubany Base
– Commandante Ferraz Base
– Henryk Arctowski Base
– Machu Picchu Base
• Williams Field – Serves McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
• Pegasus Blue-Ice Runway – Serves McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
• Annual Sea-Ice Runway – Serves McMurdo Station and Scott Base.
• Union Glacier Blue-Ice Runway – Operated by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions LLC

2. By Cruise Ship
Cruise is offered by the following:
• Heritage Expeditions
• Intrepid Travel
• Lindblad Expeditions
• Oceanwide Expeditions
• One Ocean Expeditions
• Orion Expedition Cruises
• Quark Expeditions
• Rock-jumper Birding tours
• Steppes Travel

Most cruise ships depart from the following ports:
– Ushuaia in Argentina.
– Punta Arenas in Chile.
– Bluff in New Zealand.
– Hobart in Australia.

3. By Sailboat
About a dozen charter yachts regularly offer voyages to Antarctica like:
• Ocean Expeditions
• Expedition Sail
• Spirit of Sydney
Antarctic Stations
Coastal stations include
– McMurdo
– Palmer
– Arctowski
– St. Kliment Ohridski, Port Lockroy
– Baia Terranova
– Mawson
– Davis
– Casey
– Aboa

Some Travel Books on Dark Passage – Antarctica

Ushuaia to Antarctica – Drake Passage Map Antarctica Cruising Guide Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica

Places to stay in Antarctica

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Blogs / Sites about Antarctica

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Images and photos about Antarctica

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Video of Antarctica

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