Antarctica: Day 3. Cape Horn, lecturing

March 4, 2022 • 10:15 am

Because of rough seas yesterday, we couldn’t launch the Zodiac boats (small rubber outboard-motor boats holding about a dozen passengers) to visit Cape Horn, regarded as the southernmost point of land in South America. I thus refer to you the visit I made there two years ago: this post will show you all there is to see. I’m glad I was able to land on my last visit, so it wasn’t pressing that I visit again.

From Wikipedia:

Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island. It marks both the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet.

Cape Horn was identified by mariners and first rounded in 1616 by the Dutchman Willem Schouten and Belgian Jacob Le Maire, who named it audio speaker iconKaap Hoorn after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands. For decades, Cape Horn was a major milestone on the clipper route, by which sailing ships carried trade around the world. The waters around Cape Horn are particularly hazardous, owing to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and icebergs.

Cape Horn:

A closer view; I’ve circled the Cape:

The southern tip of Hornos is marked by a large mountain that runs down to the sea. At a promontory overlooking the sea the Chilean naval base, consisting of a lighthouse, a house for the lighthouse keeper and his family, a chapel, and a radio tower.

Here’s a picture and caption from Wikipedia; I’ve indicated the lighthouse with an arrow:

My photo of the southern tip with lighthouse, taken from the deck yesterday morning. The weather was dire with wretchedly rough seas.  This was the second time we failed to land at Cape Horn, and, given the rough seas,  I think a 40% success rate is par for the course. Fortunately, on my second trip in 2019 we did land, visited the lighthouse, talked to the isolated lighthouse keeper, and saw the famous albatross sculpture, which is remarkable. See my earlier post for photos of all this.

Below: the complex terrain of Tierra del Fuego, with many islands and channels. It’s no wonder that the Beagle was sent out in 1826 (and then again in 1831, this time with Darwin aboard) to map it all out.

Spot the bird! (Enlarge photo.) If you can identify the species, and support your ID, I’ll give you $10.

My first lecture was yesterday morning, which was part I of the talk, “The Fuegians, the Beagle, and Charles Darwin: How a Collision of Cultures Influenced Evolutionary Biology”. This was half of my former one-hour talk, and is the first zoom lecture I’ve ever given (rather, it was streamed to the guests’ televisions in their rooms). I have no way of knowing how the passengers reacted, which is a big downside of not having an audience. But so it goes in the days of Covid.

Here’s are two slides I showed as an aside when I mentioned about Darwin’s compulsion for making lists to decide questions. It’s from July 1838, and is a list of the pros and cons of Darwin’s getting married. Reasons to “marry” on the left side, reasons to “not marry” on the right (read more about this list here).  Note the part in red, which you can read more clearly in the transcript below.

A transcript is below. The part in red above is seen to be part of a reason to marry—”object to be beloved & played with—better than a dog anyhow.”

At the bottom you see Darwin’s decision: “Marry—Mary—Marry. Q.E.D.” And so he did, wedding his cousin Emma Wedgwood in 1839. They had ten children, with seven making it to adulthood. Emma was from the famous Wedgwood pottery and ceramic family, and her wealth gave Darwin the time and means to put together his thoughts on evolution and to write his many books. He became an independent scholar, though he worked so hard I couldn’t call him a “gentleman of leisure.”

I wonder how Emma would feel if the knew Darwin was at one point deciding between marrying her or getting a dog.

I had a light lunch after the talk. First course, as described, “Potato and Leek Soup”:

Mains: “Linguini, pesto, parmesan and roasted pinenuts”. This was one of the best dishes I’ve had.

Dessert: “Walnut cake & vanilla custard.” These European-style desserts always seem to have a touch of herbs in them: basil, oregano, or the like, which makes them extra good.


30 thoughts on “Antarctica: Day 3. Cape Horn, lecturing

      1. It would be logical to only allow one guess per person, so please disregard my Snow Petrel guess and consider this my “official” guess.

      2. I was reminded of the existence of this bird by your later post, so the bet should now be off, but I would still like to know which of your readers’ guesses were right….

    1. Crew members (of which I am one formally) are not allowed to drink on board, though of course some find a way around it. For some reason, I don’t find alcohol very important when traveling. I had to look up “Sweet Fanny Adams” and found this on Wikipedia:

      In 1869, new rations of tinned mutton were introduced for British seamen. They were unimpressed by it, and suggested it might be the butchered remains of Fanny Adams. “Fanny Adams” became slang for mediocre mutton,[27] stew, scarce leftovers and then anything worthless. The large tins the mutton was delivered in doubled as mess tins. These or cooking pots are still known as Fannys.

      By the mid-20th century, many working class men were pretending to their sons and social superiors that their own favoured expression, “sweet F.A.”, stood for “sweet Fanny Adams” with its commonplace meaning of total inaction or downtime, while they and their peers used that expression among themselves to mean “sweet fuck all”. Sweet Fanny Adams has lingered as a euphemism for that expletive.

      1. I think in ye olden days of wooden ships and iron men, in addition to hardtack, they’d carry salt pork or jerky.

      2. SFA is deeper and much more sinister than that. It refers to a girl who was abducted, killed and cut to pieces. You can guess the connection to tinned mutton. Navvies humour.

      3. Here, and I think in Aussie too, sometimes Sweet Fanny Adams is used by people who don’t want to use the work “Fuck,” and it is therefore an alternative to Sweet Fuck All. We know about the real meaning though.

        Btw Jerry, I was hoping you’d remember to get me a Cape Horn fridge magnet (as discussed last time you went), so I’m disappointed you didn’t get there. However, I’m quite sure you wouldn’t have remembered something as trivial as a fridge magnet after all this time anyway!

  1. These European-style desserts always seem to have a touch of herbs in them

    If they were American-style they’d have ‘erbs rather than herbs. 🙂

  2. When I was in college, there was an engineering student in the apartment next door who drew up a list like Darwin’s when deciding whether or not to break up with his girlfriend. He actually brought the list with him and went over it with her when he met with her to tell her they were breaking up.

    That latter part struck me as weird. I’ve a vague recollection of hearing that it struck her as weird, too.

    1. Bringing the list along and going through it with her was probably an attempt to soften the blow. Breaking up with somebody who has just demonstrated he is a complete arsehole might be a bit easier.

  3. Delightful and thrilling post – but I want to see who gets the ten bucks!

    I mean, its worth a shot :

    Black bellied storm petrel

    BTW TIL there are birds in the Antarctic south seas named “prion”. I read it on Oceanwide Expeditions website. I did not see Hurtigruten as a ship there – maybe different.

  4. That Darwin was a bit of a weird guy. My wife is one that makes lots of lists, things needed at the store, things to be done, that sort of list. I asked her if she would make a list of whether or not to marry. She said no. Apparently with having 10 kids he was not making lists on whether or not to have sex. Certainly not on whether or not he could afford them.

    1. Particularly as I get older, I always make a list before going to the market: to better assure that I get what we need and do not get what we do not need. I plead with my wife to do the same when she goes and the five large mustard containers recently sitting on the pantry shelf are confirming data that she refuses to do it.

      1. In a similar vein, I get sent out with a list and come back with the things on the list, to be berated for not getting the things that “we obviously need” which were somehow never recorded.
        In fairness, your mustard is unlikely to go off before you use it!

        1. That’s funny, Simon….like a punch line from stand up comic Alan King. In fairness to all marketeers though, it has been hard to estimate food consumption rates during pandemic quarantine: just the two of us eating at home for two years now with no children or grandchildren or friends coming by to share a meal or two. Grilling out hot dogs and hamburgers for a dozen family a couple of times a month can likely go through a good supply of mustard. I have really missed the social contact and good cheer of sharing drinks and meals with family and friends.

        2. In the 70’s when I was a teenager my mother gave me a $20 bill and told me to go get chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken. That’s all she said. So I bought what chicken I could for that amount of money. It was quite a bit of chicken I thought at the time. But then there were four boys in the house, and we certainly would be able to easily finish it off by the next day. When I returned she berated me for not also getting some combination of baked beans, cole slaw and potato salad. For all I knew she had something else in mind for “the fixin’s.” I was not then nor am I now a bloody mind reader. I suppose I could have easily enough asked about the fixin’s, just as it just as easily could have occurred to her. A simple specific list would have been nice.

      2. Jim said: “The five large mustard containers recently sitting on the pantry shelf….”

        In Idaho, we just call that being prepared! (Trying to resist urge to make reference to “prepared mustard”… the containers still say that????)

        Randall said: “My wife is one that makes lots of lists, things needed at the store, things to be done, that sort of list. I asked her if she would make a list of whether or not to marry.”

        My hubby is the list maker in our house…and the absent-minded list loser! Oftentimes the family is recruited to help him find that ever elusive list. Most times, 3 or 4 are recovered….none of which are the right one!
        Back when we were just lab partners and not yet dating….(but interested)….he made a list rating me on quite a number of criteria as a possible dating and marriage partner. He didn’t know i played the piano…..that must have tipped the scales. We’ve been married 40 years so far! <3

        1. I always make a list (of things a don’t buy every week) before I go to the supermarket, but I still regularly manage to forget stuff. I suspect it’s a subconscious desire to reduce the cost!

  5. Lunch sure looks and sounds superb. This would be two meals for me: the potatoe and leek soup with some bread or a roll and a bite of that wonderful walnut cake with vanilla custard for lunch; and the linguine with the rest of the cake for dinner…particularly after that continuum of a buffet for breakfast. As I get older, I seem unable to eat a regular full meal at lunchtime, often enjoying a good bowl of soup and a crusty roll or a half deli sandwich, taking the other half sandwich home for dinner with a vegetable or bowl of soup on the side or for the next day’s lunch. I look forward to seeing the crew’s mess. I would think they get fed well also. A point of pride for chef and kitchen staff maybe?

    1. “As I get older, I seem unable to eat a regular full meal at lunchtime…” I envy you, Jim. As I get older, I certainly know that I *shouldn’t* eat such a meal for lunch, but the knowing doesn’t seem to stop me.

  6. My, my…..I am keeping the webcam open on my browser. You know when you can see the waves heaved up with that camera that you have mighty rough seas. Feeling a bit queasy myself now….. 😮

  7. I have seen some Antarctic birds on a pelagic trip off South Africa, and some seabirds off the coast of Long Island and North Carolina. But this one has a very wide wingspan and possibly longer neck, not near the size of appearance of a petrel. I vote for an albatross but alas I cant guess at the species!

  8. Large and dark; I’m going for Giant Petrel, hoping that a generic attribution will be sufficient; I doubt that our photographer noticed whether the tip of the bill was reddish or greenish to confirm species!

  9. Your food pics are making me hungry. Keep them up! You’re really looked after on that trip.

    Would you be able to put your lectures up online if they’re recorded, say, after the trip?

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