The Drake Passage

The Drake Passage flows around the southernmost tip of which continent?

And the answer: South America.

Photo Courtesy: Bernard Neal / antarctica, Drake Passage, Polar, Stories

The Drake Passage is a sometimes turbulent body of water that connects the South Atlantic Ocean with the South Pacific Ocean. As it flows between Cape Horn of South America, and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica, it's often the only way to travel between the two continents.

Contrary to its name, Sir Francis Drake was not actually the first to sail these rough waters. The passage earned its title in 1578, when one of his ships drifted far south after passing through the Strait of Magellan, the route that Drake had chosen. Having realized there might be a connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, Drake and his crew inadvertently discovered what would become named Drake Passage.

Half a century earlier, sailing south from the entrance of the Strait of Magellan, Spanish navigator Francisco de Hoces made similar discoveries, though they went largely unrecognized by the British explorers. For this reason, it appears as Mar de Hoces in most Spanish and Spanish American maps and sources.

Though, not even he was brave enough to rough the waters. The first recorded trip across the Drake Passage was in 1616 by Dutchman Willem Schouten. Schouten made his away across the passage in 1616, almost forty years after Drake’s Antarctic exploration. Following the discovery, trips to Antartica began to become more widely known– but with a cost. The perilous route has been the site of shipwrecks, injury, and even death.

Though, if you're looking to travel across this infamous passage in the 21st century, modern technology has paved a new way. Though some report the two-day trip to be uncomfortable and nauseating, often reporting sea-sickness to which they have never previously been prone, there's no need to fear for your life in these intense waters. Boats often come equipped with stabilizers to absorb the intense currents, and are always led by an extremely qualified guide to the waters.

If you're feeling brave, check out the video below to see the Drake in a storm.


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