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The End of the World is Where Life Begins

Basalt Formation, Cape Horn

Basalt Formation, Cape Horn

Cape Horn is the Southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago off of southern Chile.  When we arrived there by zodiac, it was a blustery day.  Rain and wind interspersed and I was astonished to see how many plants could survive under such seemingly hostile conditions.  

Cape Horn Rocky Coastline with Vegetation

Cape Horn Rocky Coastline with Vegetation

This is where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet.  I had hoped to kayak here, but the seas were too rough.  Ferdinand Magellan even dreaded rounding the horn and the Spanish were so concerned they sent their gold by land.  Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as rough as it could have been, as we were able to take zodiacs from the ship to Hornos Island when we got closer.

Seas Around Cape Horn

Seas Around Cape Horn

The Cape itself appears barren and moor-like, since all the plants are at ground level.

Cape Horn 

Cape Horn 

Cape Horn Bryophytes

Cape Horn Bryophytes

Cape Horn is actually a site of biodiverse richness, with many endemic species that are critical in preventing soil erosion and in supporting the life cycles of other vegetation.  Though it would seem unlikely at first glance, the Cape has a great deal of biodiversity, more so in many areas that are threatened my pollution and human development.  UNESCO and Fundacio Omora are working to design and implement strategies for sustainable conservation of the biodiversity found here.  (https://sites.google.com/site/capehornbryophytes/Home

Caracara Acting as a Sentinel 

Caracara Acting as a Sentinel 

The striated caracara is the southernmost breeding raptor in the world and is near threatened.  The white tail band is a distinguishing feature.  Charles Darwin was one of the first to become enamored with this curious bird, which shows little fear of humans.  

Lighthouse Keeper and His Girlfriend

Lighthouse Keeper and His Girlfriend

Last year was the 400th anniversary of Cape Horn.  This lighthouse is a Chilean Navy Station.  Many sailors have lost their lives rounding the horn and there is a large sculptor by Chilean sculptor Jose Balcells of an albatross, which was erected in memory of these sailors.  

Cape Horn Islands

Cape Horn Islands

You can see how formidable the rocky coastline is near Cape Horn and why sailors would have perished. 

Albatross Statue, Cape Horn

Albatross Statue, Cape Horn

Niche in the Cliffside with Madonna and Child Statue

Niche in the Cliffside with Madonna and Child Statue

Given the bleak conditions, I understood why there would be a statue like in the cliffside the stairway was erected alongside, to take people from the beach below to the towering cape above.