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The Drake Passage (referred to as Mar de Hoces ["Hoces Sea"] in Spain and other Spanish speaking countries) is the body of water between South America's Cape Horn, Chile and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. It connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean (Scotia Sea) with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean and extends into the Southern Ocean.
The Drake Passage is considered one of the most treacherous voyages for ships to make. Currents at its latitude meet no resistance from any landmass, and waves top 40 feet, hence its reputation as "the most powerful convergence of seas".
Sailing south from the entrance of the Strait of Magellan, Spanish navigator Francisco de Hoces discovered this passage in 1525.For this reason, it appears as Mar de Hoces in most Spanish and Spanish American maps and sources.
The passage received its English name from the 16th-century privateer Francis Drake during his circumnavigation. Drake's only remaining ship, after having passed through the Strait of Magellan, was blown far south in September 1578. This incident demonstrated to the English that there was open water south of South America.
The first recorded voyage through the passage was that of Eendracht, captained by the Dutch navigator Jacob Le Maire in 1616, naming Cape Horn in the process.
The first human-powered transit (by rowing) across the passage was accomplished on December 25, 2019, by captain Fiann Paul (Iceland), first mate Colin O'Brady (US), Andrew Towne (US), Cameron Bellamy (South Africa), Jamie Douglas-Hamilton (UK) and John Petersen (US).Their accomplishment became the subject of a 2020 documentary, The Impossible Row .
There is much debate about when the Drake Passage was opened, due to deep currents like the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC).This opening could have been a primary cause of changes in global circulation and climate, as well as the rapid expansion of arctic ice sheets. Precise dating of the earliest opening of the Drake Passage is complicated by the existence of plate fragments, which have been reconstructed to show the age of the earliest pathway.
The 800-kilometre (500 mi) wide passage between Cape Horn and Livingston Island is the shortest crossing from Antarctica to another landmass. The boundary between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is sometimes taken to be a line drawn from Cape Horn to Snow Island (130 kilometres (81 mi) north of mainland Antarctica), though the International Hydrographic Organization defines it as the meridian that passes through Cape Horn—67° 16′ W. Both lines lie within the Drake Passage.
The other two passages around the extreme southern part of South America (though not going around Cape Horn as such), the Strait of Magellan and Beagle Channel, are narrow, leaving little maneuvering room for a ship. They can become icebound. Sometimes the wind blows so strongly that no sailing vessel can make headway against it. Most sailing ships thus prefer the Drake Passage, which is open water for hundreds of miles. The small Diego Ramírez Islands lie about 100 kilometres (62 mi) south-southwest of Cape Horn.
No significant land sits at the latitudes of the Drake Passage. That is important to the unimpeded flow eastward of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which carries a huge volume of water through the passage and around Antarctica.
The passage hosts whales, dolphins and seabirds including giant petrels, other petrels, albatrosses and penguins.
Wildlife in the Drake Passage includes the following species:
Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of the main island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, with an area of 48,100 km2 (18,572 sq mi), and a group of many islands, including Cape Horn and Diego Ramírez Islands. Tierra del Fuego is divided between Chile and Argentina, with the latter controlling the eastern half of the main island and the former the western half plus the islands south of Beagle Channel. The southernmost extent of the archipelago is at about latitude 55°S.
The family Procellariidae is a group of seabirds that comprises the fulmarine petrels, the gadfly petrels, the prions, and the shearwaters. This family is part of the bird order Procellariiformes, which also includes the albatrosses, the storm petrels, and the diving petrels.
The Strait of Magellan, also called the Straits of Magellan, is a navigable sea route in southern Chile separating mainland South America to the north and Tierra del Fuego to the south. The strait is considered the most important natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It was discovered and first traversed by the Spanish expedition of Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, after whom it is named.
The hourglass dolphin is a small dolphin in the family Delphinidae that inhabits offshore Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters. It is commonly seen from ships crossing the Drake Passage, but has a circumpolar distribution.
Beagle Channel is a strait in Tierra del Fuego Archipelago on the extreme southern tip of South America between Chile and Argentina. The channel separates the larger main island of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego from various smaller islands including the islands of Picton, Lennox and Nueva; Navarino; Hoste; Londonderry; and Stewart. The channel's eastern area forms part of the border between Chile and Argentina and the western area is entirely within Chile.
The Scotia Sea is a sea located at the northern edge of the Southern Ocean at its boundary with the South Atlantic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the Drake Passage and on the north, east, and south by the Scotia Arc, an undersea ridge and island arc system supporting various islands. The sea sits atop the Scotia Plate. It is named after the expedition ship Scotia. Many icebergs melt there.
The sooty albatross, dark-mantled sooty albatross or dark-mantled albatross,, is a species of bird in the albatross family. They breed on sub-Antarctic islands and range at sea across the Southern Ocean from South America to Australia.
Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island. Although not the most southerly point of South America, Cape Horn marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and marks where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet.
Cabo de Hornos National Park is a protected area in southern Chile that was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005, along with Alberto de Agostini National Park. The world's southernmost national park, it is located 12 hours by boat from Puerto Williams in the Cape Horn Archipelago, which belongs to the Commune of Cabo de Hornos in the Antártica Chilena Province of Magallanes y Antártica Chilena Region.
The Birds of Macquarie Island are, unsurprisingly for an isolated oceanic island, predominantly seabirds. By far the majority of the breeding species are penguins, petrels and albatrosses. However, the bird list includes many vagrants, including passerines, from New Zealand and Australia.
Francisco de Hoces was a Spanish sailor who in 1525 joined the Loaísa Expedition to the Spice Islands as commander of the vessel San Lesmes.
The García de Nodal expedition was chartered in 1619 by King Philip III of Spain to reconnoiter the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, rounding Cape Horn, south of Tierra del Fuego, just discovered by the Dutch merchants Jacob Le Maire and Willem Schouten. It was a successful expedition, as all goals were reached. In addition, neither lives nor ships were lost and the whole was done in a small amount of time.
The Southern Indian Ocean Islands tundra is a tundra ecoregion that includes several subantarctic islands in the southern Indian Ocean.
Farthest South refers to the most southerly latitude reached by explorers before the conquest of the South Pole in 1911. Significant steps on the road to the pole were the discovery of lands south of Cape Horn in 1619, Captain James Cook's crossing of the Antarctic Circle in 1773, and the earliest confirmed sightings of the Antarctic mainland in 1820. From the late 19th century onward, the quest for Farthest South latitudes became in effect a race to reach the pole, which culminated in Roald Amundsen's success in December 1911.
Bouvet Island is an uninhabited subantarctic high island and dependency of Norway located in the South Atlantic Ocean at, thus locating it north of and outside the Antarctic Treaty System. It lies at the southern end of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and is the most remote island in the world, approximately 1,700 kilometres (1,100 mi) north of the Princess Astrid Coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, 1,900 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of the South Sandwich Islands, 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) south of Gough Island, and 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) south-southwest of the coast of South Africa.
The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctica. As such, it is regarded as the second-smallest of the five principal oceanic divisions: smaller than the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans but larger than the Arctic Ocean. Over the past 30 years, the Southern Ocean has been subject to rapid climate change, which has led to changes in the marine ecosystem.
The Burdwood Bank, called Namuncurá in Argentina and other countries, is an undersea bank with a prominence of approximately 200 m, part of the Scotia Arc projecting some 600 km (370 mi) from Cape Horn in the South Atlantic Ocean and located some 200 kilometres (120 mi) south of the Falkland Islands. Argentina claims economic rights over the whole of the bank, while the United Kingdom has designated about half of the bank as part of the Falklands Outer Economic Zone.