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суббота, 17 сентября 2016 г.

Cape Horn, 400 years of legend

IMAGES - There are four centuries a Dutch ship passed the southernmost cape of the world and gave him a name became symbol. Since the discovery of Cape Horn, the wind and the sea have hatched in the extreme south of Tierra del Fuego marine history, grandiose and tragic. Journey to a mythical rock.

Magellanic forest is a dangerous sorceress. Her singing it attracts travelers from around the world and the potion administered is able to change their hell in paradise. But the illusion did not usually effect only a short time, for nature, in these parts, is singularly reluctant to the charms of enchanting.
Thus, having landed in the Ainsworth Bay, at the foot of the glacier Marinelli, a thousand cold monsters, flowing from the Cordillera Darwin, bathe the icy waters of channels of Patagonia, 55 ° south latitude, in the heart of this jumble of islands by which the American continent crumbles into the Pacific ocean, a group of modern travelers had the feeling of having set foot in paradise: it was fine, chirping birds in the sun.
Deep in the woods, a mossy cliff let flow, drip, water from the last rain in a puddle that had formed at its base. That gave music of absolute purity, as a first song of the world. Thereupon, the tiny leaves of coigües the Patagonian trees let through enough light for the heated soil rises to the nostrils a scent of humus.
Born of these cliffs, a river crossing the plain separating the short strike the forest: its banks were growing shrubs whose fruits resemble miniature apples, so small it would take to Adam and Eve in chewable much before be expelled from this Eden. The spell lasted the time of a walk: in the afternoon, everything changed. In Tierra del Fuego, just a cloud that this primitive beauty of the land gives way to a landscape of gloom perfect: a few hours later, when the Stella Australis leaving the Ainsworth Bay, the sky was became an unfathomable gray, icy wind was rising.
The ship, only expedition ship spawn in these waters, sank into a sticky fog, between two sets of dark mountains, sticky humidity, housing a compact forest that stretched up to the green water of the canal and, falling when the slope became too steep, faded on rocks covered with foam orange, streaked with waterfalls similar to bridal veils blown away.




Until recently, the mere mention of this dreary landscape shuddered at the most experienced sailors: the countless travelogues in this hostile region are full of all descriptions more catastrophic than each other. But the aesthetic canons have singularly changed in an overpopulated world in the process of overheating, desolation, loneliness and ice have become beautiful in the eyes of men. The hundred passengers on board had therefore ceased to admire this fatal and gigantic landscape. They had embarked two days earlier to Punta Arenas, Chile, in this comfortable ship of the Chilean company Australis. Purpose of the trip at the end of the world: Cape Horn, formidable place which is this year celebrating the 400th anniversary of the discovery.
Discovery is indeed a big word because it never really left approach and sailors since 1616 intersect generally can not wait is to leave far behind them and faster. Miracle of technology, we can now land on Horn Island: this was the purpose of the trip. In recent years, an officer of the Chilean Navy saw with his wife and two children, the courageous hermit with the noble task of monitoring the last stone of America. How can we live here? The meeting with the American southernmost of the world promised to be exciting.
Embouquant the Magdalena channel, the Stella Australis was about to sail through the night in the water maze and rocks that make up the channels of Patagonia. High ice-covered mountains, deep fjords, reefs and shoals, whirlwinds: more south in these waterways that Chilean sailors know as pocket. The solid ship tossed by the long Pacific swell when coming out of the Cockburn Channel, he left for a few hours before the shelter of the islands to sneak again between two walls towards the Beagle Channel, which leads to Ushuaia and the bay Nassau, the last step before the ultimate confetti mountains rising from the sea. There is the Cape Horn. 



The austral summer leaves little time for the night. In the morning, while a pale sun was already shining in a big sky faded by the wind, the boat was at the foot of Horn Island. Much larger than the drawing imagination, it was covered with a kind of emerald green grass singularly shone in the light.
The grass swayed smoothly, shaken by the terrible wind blowing 130 kilometers per hour, strength 12, the highest on the Beaufort scale, which equates to a hurricane "beyond the 40th parallel": this side, this is common, just enough to carry the giant petrels, albatrosses and Arctic terns playing shaving cliffs. To the west, the horizon was blocked by a formidable dark gray wall that finger touched a rainbow sky planted in the sea. Short, harsh waves battering the ship's hull.
The wind deprived them of foam clouds: they mingled with the hail that lashed suddenly the deck. A security guard of the island on the horizon could just guess his little house nestled at the foot of the lighthouse, imagine the man with his wife and children standing behind the window of his kitchen, a steaming cup of coffee in hand, watching the heavy boat spinning in circles in front of his stone. Lest they be returned by the wind, the captain decided not to put the boats into the sea. In keeping with its terrible legend, the Horn refused to visitors.
After having admired the breakfast we went to take.
Astonishing contrast between the travel comfort and rigor of the environment, there are a few decades already left pensive Stefan Zweig. In the preface to the beautiful biography he devoted to Magellan, the Viennese writer tells that it is in trouble and the luxury of a long Atlantic crossing aboard a ship that's him the idea to tell the life of the famous sailor. "Remember, he wrote, in what conditions we traveled past.
Compare this passage with those daring navigators who discovered the immense seas. "The book tells how the quest for a shorter route to the Spice Islands pushed the Portuguese navigator to convince the future Charles V to give him a fleet of five vessels. Convinced that there was a passage somewhere south of the American continent, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific, Magellan left Seville August 10, 1519 in the company of 265 men with few knew the real purpose of the trip, otherwise it last very long ...


His feat accomplished, Magellan went to die somewhere in the Philippine archipelago. Only 18 sailors aboard a nearby ship sinking succeed in linking Seville, September 6, 1522. The fate forbade Magellan to receive the tribute of Europe winner. The time has repaired the injustice: the name of the illustrious sailor remained attached to the strait he discovered. The maritime history of Tierra del Fuego could begin. It would surely plume, because here intersect the most intrepid navigators.
But the difficulty of navigation conditions would dramatically slow the exploration work in the region: it will be several centuries before the Patagonian channels are correctly mapped. In 1578, the English pirate Francis Drake will sail around.
Discovering that there was no continuation of land between Tierra del Fuego and the southern lands, he crosses first the passage that separates the American and Antarctic continents. Some years later, June 14, 1615, two Dutch ships left the harbor of Texel. Chartered by the Southern Company, based in the town of Hoorn, they were commanded by Jacob Le Maire, the son of the company founder and Willem Schouten.
Marine mission was to open a new sea route that avoids the Strait of Magellan, then subjected to a restriction imposed by their biggest competitor: the omnipotent Dutch East India Company. Eight months later, Willem Schouten crossed the Drake Passage. Cruising off the last island of Tierra del Fuego, he gave him the name of Hoorn, double tribute to the city where his expedition had been conceived and the boat that had accompanied him until then, the patache Hoorn who disappeared in flames a few days earlier.



Among the hundreds of expeditions which was to continue for centuries, it must be remembered that of Fitz Roy. British Captain was going to go twice in Tierra del Fuego on board of the Beagle. In 1826, then in 1832, in company of naturalist Charles Darwin, who was found in the observation of Indians yaghans confirmation of his theory of evolution. In 1882, it is the French frigate La Romanche who went there as part of a scientific expedition in the Southern Ocean. Meanwhile, the Drake Passage was required as one of the first trade routes of the world. In 1892, more than 1200 yachts crossed Cape Horn: To their speed race, the great clippers avoided the tortuous channels of Patagonia. But navigation remains particularly dangerous: in 1905, there were 53 shipwrecks off the dark rock. That is, if the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 was greeted with relief. In 1949, the Pamir, a German vessel, was the last commercial sailboat to cross Cape Horn. End of the story. After a brief eclipse that had placed at the crossroads of the world, Patagonia could resume his rightful place in the natural order of things away from everything.
Another story, literary one, could begin. Writers often bring up the rear of the explorers. In the 50s, while sailing in the Strait of Magellan, Jean Raspail was a meeting which, he said, would determine its existence: a wooden canoe with, basically, a few silhouettes massed around three embers shimmering in mist.
They were probably the ultimate Kaweskars: "men", as they called themselves, the last canoe Indians. Got stuck in the Stone Age, they did not survive the encounter of modern man. Raspail has delivered them a masterful tribute in his book Who remembers the men ... Today, men have disappeared. Some descendants, mestizo Indian and European sailors, vaguely trying to reclaim a culture whose fate was sealed when one of their ancestors saw pass from his rock, the Magellan boats. And for travelers who now end up in the ancient kingdom of the shadows, it remains only to consider, contemplating the dark water of the fjords and pebble beaches where they once lived, to the strange destiny this people. These places it particularly suitable.



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