Drake Passage Travel Guide

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Drake Passage Overview

The Drake Passage or Mar de Hoces is the body of water between the southern tip of South America at 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. It is named after 16th century English privateer Sir Francis Drake, although he never sailed the Passage, opting instead for the less turbulent Strait of Magellan. It was the Spanish navigator Francisco de Hoces who discovered and first sailed this passage in 1525.

For this reason, some Spanish, Mexican, Argentinean and Chilean historians and sources call it Mar de Hoces (Sea of Sickles) after Francisco de Hoces. The second recorded European voyage through the passage was that of the Eendracht, captained by Willem Schouten in 1616. (He named Cape Horn after his home town of Hoorn)

The 800 km (500 miles) wide passage between Cape Horn and Greenwich Island is the shortest crossing from Antarctica to the rest of the world's land.

The passage is open water, except for the very small Diego Ramirez Islands about 50 km (30 mi) south of Cape Horn. There is no significant land anywhere around the world at the latitudes of the Drake Passage, which is important to the unimpeded flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which carries a huge volume of water (about 600 times the flow of the Amazon) through the Passage and around Antarctica.