CAPE HORN is at the southernmost tip of South America, on Horn Island, one of Chile's Wollaston Islands, which are part of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Storms, strong currents, and icebergs make passage of the cape extremely dangerous. The Dutch navigators Jakob Le Maire and Willem Schouten were the first to sail through Cape Horn, in 1616. Schouten named the point "Cape Hoorn" after the town of Hoorn in Holland, where he was born.
The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, California, in 1848, stimulated the use of the cape as a passageway from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. Because of the rigors of Cape Horn on coast-to-coast voyages, American shipbuilders
were compelled to produce fast, weatherly, and immensely strong vessels. The rapid growth of California trade stimulated production of American square-rigged ships. Famous Cape Horn ships of this period include the Andrew Jackson, which shared the record of eighty-nine days from New York to San Francisco, and the James Baines, which logged twenty-one knots, the fastest speed ever recorded under sail.
By the early 1900s, the rigors of the Horn passage, the growth of intercontinental trade, the greater development of the U.S. Navy, and the difficulty of adequately protecting the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts focused U.S. attention on the building of the Panama Canal, which opened in 1914. From that time, the importance of the route around Cape Horn, used previously only by freight ships, rapidly declined. The last American sailing ship to round Cape Horn was probably the schooner Wanderbird in 1936. Since that time, travel around the cape has mostly been limited to daring crews or individual sailors participating in races around the world.
Knox-Johnston, Robin. Cape Horn: A Maritime History. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1994.
Rydell, Raymond A. Cape Horn to the Pacific: The Rise and Decline of an Ocean Highway. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952.
The Cabo de Hornos is a promontory located on the Isla Hornos in Chile at 55 degrees south and 67 degrees west latitudes, considered the southernmost tip of the continent. Discovered by the Dutch corsairs W. C. Schouten and J. Le Maire on 29 January 1611, it was named Hoorn, for the birthplace of Schouten. The discovery dispelled the belief that Tierra Del Fuego was the northern margin of a large southern continent, Terra Australis, and established a second passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Sailing ships preferred the open oceanic passage to the narrow and treacherous Strait of Magellan, although heavy storms and the strong westerlies would sometimes paralyze vessels for weeks. Steam navigation dealt a blow to the Cape Horn route by making navigation along the Strait of Magellan safer.
See alsoMagellan, Strait of; Tierra del Fuego.
Webb Chiles, Storm Passage: Alone Around Cape Horn (1977).
Erroll Bruce, Cape Horn to Port (1978).
Hal Roth, Two Against Cape Horn (1978).
Catalán Labarías, Rodrigo. Bosques y comunidades del sur de Chile. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 2006.
Coloane, Francisco. Cabo de Hornos. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Andrés Bello, 1998.
Davis, Charles G. Around Cape Horn: A Maritime Artist/Historian's Account of His 1982 Voyage, edited by Captain Neal Parker. Camden, ME: Down East Books, 2004.
Inda, Enrique S. El náufrago del Cabo de Hornos. Buenos Aires: Cefomar Editora, 2005.
Riesenberg, Felix and Briesemeister, William. Cape Horn: The Story of the Cape Horn Region. Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press, 1994.
CÉsar N. Caviedes