National Geographic : 1897 May
130 WINTER VOYAGE THROUGH STRAITS OF MAGELLAN see it under most favorable circumstances of wind and weather, I incline to the belief that the popular idea in regard to the dreariness and forbidding character of the shores of Patagonia is a delusion which the commerce of the future will dispel. The day after we made Mount Wood the weather became thick and the wind squally, and, not being able to see the land, we ran by the lead. When near Cape Virgins by our reckoning the barom eter commenced to rise. Now a rise in the glass in this lati tude (50° south), the barometer having previously stood low, is an almost certain indication of a change of wind, if not bad weather; so all hands were called to reef topsails. Scarcely had the second reef been taken in when the wind shifted in a moment from the north landward (N.N.E. to W.S.W.) and blew in furious gusts, the horizon suddenly cleared, the mists were dispelled, the air became cold and raw, and by the rays of the setting sun (it was now 3 o'clock of a June day) we saw in the distance Cape Virgins, with its abrupt, cliff-like shore, 16 miles dead to windward of us. Thus far we had made the voyage from New York entirely under sail, ships of war not being ex pected to steam unless necessary. We managed, with the aid of fore-and-aft canvas, to crawl slowly to windward, and, there being a bright, full moon, crossed the great Sarmiento bank, south of Cape Virgins, where the rise of the tide is 43 feet, and by 11 o'clock that night were safely at anchor in the straits, some four miles west of Magellan's landfall. To make our voyage intelligible it will here be necessary to describe the general character of the strait. It is safe to say that there is no other part of the world where, as a rule, the weather is so tempestuous and dangerous as it is off Cape Horn. There old Ocean exerts his full sovereignty, and the winds and the waves are almost ceaselessly raging and surging in wild tumult against a bleak, forbidding, iron-bound coast. The climate of Cape Horn is the most wretched on earth. Fierce storms of rain, hail, and snow drift in from the Atlantic, Antarctic, and Pacific oceans in everlasting succession, broken only by the furious willi waws or Cape Horn squalls. The real difficulties of the voyage commence at Cape Froward, the southern extremity of our continent, which is 175 miles from Cape Virgins. Here the weather undergoes an entire change, and no matter how pleasant it has been before, the mariner may ex pect to don his " sou'wester " the moment he doubles this pre cipitous headland, worthy of terminating so grand a continent.