Joining the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, the Straight of Magellan offers a short cut through South America rather than around the tip otherwise known as Cape Horn. Long feared by the most intrepid maritime navigators, the icy and windy route around Cape Horn was known for wrecking even the most agile of ships. The Straight even though it was a narrow and jagged passage, provided a safer route though this area of the world.
Since its discovery by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, it was the obligatory route for captains before the opening of the Panama Canal. Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, was the first to sail around the earth and cross all the meridians of the globe. While at sea Magellan and his crew experienced many new sights and strange wildlife including "a black goose that had to be skinned instead of plucked" which was the Antarctic Penguin. The international date line was established because when the ship returned they realized they were one day off, even though they had meticulously recorded each day in the ship's log. Although Magellan successfully completed the mission set forth by the King and Queen of Spain, about 232 Spanish, Portuguese, French, English and Greek sailors died while sailing with him around the world.
Even though the area's history is laced with seafaring stories about the Straight's mythic and vicious ability to wreck ships, today it can be navigated with modern technology and ease. Most of the boat trips that travel the passage leave from Puntas Arenas, Chile and travel through Patagonia, and the island of Tierra del Fuego via the Beagle Channel, and arrive in Tierra del Fuego's capital, Ushuaia.
The tip of South America has an extreme southern latitude of 56° south, compared to the southern tip of Africa at 35° south, and the southern tip of New Zealand at 47° degrees south. Because of this and its relative distance to Antarctica (about 4,000km from Cape Horn to the South Pole), the trip can get rather cold-- so prepare to bundle up.
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