Hornos Island

Statistic Data Chilean Navy

1.- General Information.
This island is the southernmost of the Hermite Group and particularly known by the famous Cape that has its name.

The soil of Hornos Island consists mainly of peat, and some granitic areas which makes it possible to reach the peak of Cape Horn, which is erected at 425 meters of height.  It must be taken into account that the climbing is difficult and it requires 4 hours to reach the top. 

2.- Lighthouses.
At the south of the island, there is a lighthouse which was constructed in 1962. Its main characteristics are: white beam sent every 12 seconds, 40 meters of height, 17 miles of geographic range, visible at 249° to 080°, equipped with a RACON.

At the Espolon promontory, in the SE of such island, the MONUMENTAL CABO DE HORNOS lighthouse is located which was built in 1991.  Its main characteristics are: a white beam every 5 seconds, 57 meters high, 20 miles of geographic range, visible from 127° to 056°.  This lighthouse is fitted  with a RACON.

3.- Requirements of the Chilean Pilot.
Ships that are headed to Cape Horn with the intention of disembarking passengers should do so with Chilean Pilots on board.  There is an anchoring berth - called Caleta León - located NE of the Monumental Lighthouse, at 800 meters from the lighthouse.  There is a landing place along the same coast for small crafts and a ladder that allows to go up to the Lookout and Signal Post permanently manned by personnel of the Chilean Navy, whose main mission is to maintain the lighthouses on, exercise Naval Control of Shipping in the area and issue meteorological bulletins every three hours.

4.- Cape Horn’s Current.
The current that flows through the South of the islands located South of Tierra del Fuego is known as the Cape Horn current and flows to the East side reaching the meridian of the Diego Ramirez islands.  From this point, this current takes a more inclined direction to the NE to the Strait of Le Maire and the Estados island, and finally comes to join the Falkland or Malvinas current.

The strength of the Cape Horn current varies and is frequently influenced by the prevailing winds.  From observations made in 1910 and in 1927, it was concluded that this current reaches up to 22 miles per day.

5.- Tidal Currents.
 The tidal wave that moves from the Pacific Ocean rounds Cape Horn and heads to the Atlantic in the area included between the Falkland islands and the continent.

In the Strait of Le Maire, the tide is produced very close to high or low tide time in Buen Suceso Bay.  The flux current heads to the North and the ebb tide to the South reaching a speed of 1 to 3 knots.

6.- Presence  of  Icebergs.
It is rare to see icebergs in Cape Horn.  However, it is common to find them in the austral Atlantic Ocean.  They occasionally emerge at the latitude of the Cape and even further North along the Eastern Patagonian coast eventually reaching latitude 38°S.

7.-  Meteorological  Statistic  Data.
According to statistic information provided by the Meteorological Service of the Chilean Navy for the period of 1982 - 1999 (19 years), the records provide the following yearly average values for the Lookout and Signals Post corresponding to Horn Island

Average barometric pressure of the period 995,14  H.P.A.
Average temperature of the period 5,3°  Celsius
Maximum temperature of the period 20,5° Celsius
(Feb. 1996)
Minimum temperature of the period - 14,5°  Celsius (June 1992)
Average relative humidity of the period 86.4 %
Average wind direction of the period 264°
Average maximum intensity of the period 84 knots
Maximum intensity registered of the period 119 knots
(Aug. 1995)
Precipitation (annual average of the period) 697,5 mm.
Precipitation of the most rainy year 1263.2   (1990)

8.-  Weather.
All explorers and hydrographers that have studied the austral zone, agree in establishing that spring is the season in which the most violent storms take place, while wintertime is relatively calm. The average speed of the wind in spring is actually greater than in winter and its dominant direction corresponds to the 3° and 4
°quadrants.  During a year, the winds of these quadrants have a 75% prevalence.

This fact, nowadays statistically proved, had already been noticed by Captains Philip Parker King and Robert Fitz Roy when stating in the "Sailing Directions for South America of the year 1850" that: "The winds of the west prevail during major part of the year", referring to the Cape Horn area, and furthermore indicating that: "the months of August, September, October and November are the worst of all in rounding Cape Horn", adding that: "the best weather is shown in March, April, May and June, in spite of the fact that daylight is shorter and the average temperatures very low, they it is the best period for vessels to round the Cape in west direction.  Even more, the presence of the east wind in these months is more frequent.

The best months to undergo the crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic, through Cape Horn, are during the months of December and January.  As it is an easy and short crossing, there is no need for a previous planification at the time it is performed.

As an anecdotal fact, it is necessary to state that the crossing that broke a record in the time to cross Cape Horn from East to West belongs to the sailboat SUSANNA in 1905, which took 99 days – from the end of August to the end of November of the aforementioned year.  The opposite record, the fastest one, was established by the frigate "PRIWALL" in 1938 during the first week of November.  This event becomes an exception to what is previously mentioned referring to the worst months in crossing the Cape from East to West.  

Valparaiso, August 2000