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Vacation Day 8
Friday , January 30th
At Sea (Beagle Channel & Cape Horn)

The plan for today was to sail to Ushuaia, Argentina arriving there at around 1:00PM and departing at 7:00PM. There are number of Penguin Rookeries there and many people were going to see them. Early in the morning before arriving in Ushuaia we were sailing down the Canal Beagle or the Beagle Channel. This is named after Charles Darwin's ship the Beagle. There are five glaciers along this channel. Some pictures follow.

Beagle Channel Glacier 1
Beagle Channel Glacier 2
This is the first of five glaciers that are visible along the north side of the Beagle Channel. They all have names of countries but I cannot remember which one is which.
The Second of the five glaciers.
Beagle Channel Glacier 3
This is a good example of what happens when glacial fresh water, full of glacier debris, meets ocean salt water. The fresh water is lighter (both in density and colour in this picture) and floats on top the salt water. Eventually it mixes but it takes time.
Glacier number 3.
Beagle Channel Glacier 4
Beagle Channel Glacier 5 Full
Glacier number 4.
Glacier number 5. I think this one is called Italy.
Beagle Channel Glacier 5 Front
Beagle Channel Scenery 1
A close up of the bottom of number 5.
Some scenery along the Beagle Channel.

After the glaciers my plan, along with many others was to attend a talk about the planned program in Antarctica by the Ice Pilot who is the person who acts as the pilot anywhere where ice is expected. One of those places of course is Antarctica. Later many people were to go on shore excursions to see penguins or what ever else in Ushuaia.

The talk began at 10:00AM and had been under way for 10 or 15 minutes when it was interrupted by a ship wide announcement from the bridge by the captain. The gist of the announcement was this. The longshoremen men in Ushuaia had gone on strike yesterday and blockaded the only pier. They had allowed several Antarctic expedition ships to dock and disembark passengers but would not allow any new passengers to get on. Negotiations had gone on long into the night and the issues (whatever they were) had not been resolved. As of 10:00AM nothing had changed. There was a real possibility that if the ship docked they would let the passengers off to do their shore excursions but would not allow them back on the pier to get back on the ship. So, after much consideration, and I am sure much consultation, the decision was made to cancel the stop in Ushuaia and head on to Cape Horn. The stop in Ushuaia was only to be 6 hours anyway so it was no big deal to the ship. I bet that there were a bunch of people in Ushuaia that were none to happy that a cruise ship with 1300 passengers on it was not going to stop. A lot of people were disappointed but there did not seem to be anyone who disagreed with the decision (not that it would have made any difference anyway). All the shore excursions would be refunded and the Ushuaia portion of the port taxes ($13.07US) would be credited to each passengers onboard account.

After all this was stated, the decision on how to proceed was to continue on to Cape Horn (Cabo De Hornos) early and to start out across the Drake Passage for Antarctica tonight instead of early tomorrow morning which was the original plan. As things turned out this may have been a blessing in disguise as you will see shortly. We had to stop first at Puerto Williams (a Chilean naval station) to get permission to sail near Cape Horn. Apparently Chile is rather possessive of this rock, and since it is in their territory they can do what they want. Apparently some Chilean pilots are required as well if you are planning to sail in the group of islands that contains Cape Horn island (Isla Hornos).

So, after all this was said, and repeated twice almost word for word by the captain (he had obviously taken great care to word it properly) , the Antarctica talk continued. Back to the Ice Pilot....

I believe that someone who is certified to do ice piloting is required under the Antarctic Treaty that controls access to Antarctica. The person we have was a captain (now retired) of Canadian Coast Guard ice breakers for 9 or 10 years and is certified to take any ship anywhere in the world by the groups that certify such things. He lives in Kingston, Ontario and with the new power boat licence issued by the Ontario Government he is not allowed to take a 10 foot power boat out on Lake Ontario but could sail (or captain) one of the lake freighters. Strange, is it not?

Ice Pilot Captain Patrick Toomey presented the plan they hoped to follow with all the caveat that could prevent it from happening. They never really know what they can actually do until they get there and look.

Just a note here. Having just finished Antarctica yesterday, it seems that the plan presented and the plan executed probably tracked pretty close to each other. Apparently we had some very good luck. We will know more in a few days when they tell us all about it.

Sometime around 11:00AM we passed Ushuaia. Below in the distance is Ushuaia, Argentina, I think. It was not pointed out to us.

Ushuaia Argentina

Around 12:30PM we arrived at Puerto Williams and spent about an hour getting the paperwork in order. Below is Puerto Williams.

Puerto Williams

So, around 1:30PM we started out for Cape Horn. The captain in his earlier message had warned us that the weather in the Drake Passage and around the Horn might be a problem. Strong winds were expected and with those you also get high seas. Without the stop in Ushuaia we would actually get a major head start on the crossing and could do it at a much slower speed which is a very good thing in rough weather and sea conditions. It would make it much more tolerable for us, the passengers.

We arrived in the area of Cape Horn around 5:30PM. The captain decided to do a circle navigation of Isla Hornos, something that had never been done by a Holland America ship before (as far as anyone here new anyway). We had some spare time and because we missed a stop the captain decided to give us something extra. We went counter clockwise around the island starting in the east, then north, then west, and finally the infamous south side and back to the east side. Here are the pictures to prove it.

The first of the group of islands in the area of Cape Horn. This was taken through the fairly dirty window of my cabin on deck 1.
Another one of the islands from the same window.
The first view of Cape Horn now from the open Promenade Deck 3.
A second view from the east side as we turned to the north. Here the ship is in the Atlantic Ocean.
Here is the north side of the island as we passed it. For a brief minute or so the ship was in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the same time.
An idea of the weather at the stern of the ship.
It was really windy on the north east side of the island. Here you can see spray being blown in from the ocean onto deck 3. At one point, about here, the wind, which was coming from the west, was measured at 68 knots which is close to 78 miles an hour or approximately 130 KPH. Nobody wanted to brave that. Luckily there were some protected spots on the deck.
Here is the view from the south west side of the island showing the horn itself. Here the ship is in the Pacific Ocean.
Here is the famous or infamous if you prefer south face of Cape Horn. The peak is 1391 feet high. This is generally considered to be the southern most place in continental South America. Here the ship is in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and the Drake Passage all at the same time. Here is the Chilean lighthouse and the memorial to all those sailors that have lost there lives trying to "round the horn". It is on the southeastern end of the island.

After completing the circumnavigation of Ilsa Hornos we headed back north a short ways to drop of the Chilean pilots we picked up earlier and probably sometime around 8:30PM we started across the Drake Channel south towards Antarctica. That is probably close to 12 hours earlier than we would have as originally planned.

It was an exciting crossing with the Horn living up to its reputation as a very rough place even at this time of year when it is at its calmest. There was lots of tilting, and thumping, and swaying and the like. I am sure it was a lot less than it would have been if we had been on the original schedule have to go the original speed. All day tomorrow was also taken up with crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica as well. More about the crossing then.

Created: February 4, 2009 on the MS Amsterdam on the way from Antarctica to the Falkland Islands.
Last updated: March 16, 2009 2:12 PM