Returning from the Antarctic Continent, we sailed around Cape Horn, legendary site of innumerable shipwrecks and disasters. In the days of sailing vessels, before steam and mechanization, ships at sea were at the mercy of the wind. Often, as they rounded the Cape, these ships would be driven into the shallow water and onto the rocks by fierce storms and winds they could not control. Countless sailors lost their lives off Cape Horn.
This particular day, the seas were calm; we even had a rainbow across the left side of the fearsome Cape.
The ship anchored a little off the coast, and a landing party was sent out. Ordinarily, I abide by an unspoken agreement Nancy and I have- that where the two of us cannot go together, neither of us will go alone. There was something about this place, however, that compelled me to leave her asleep on the ship, and land on the Cape.
We climbed out of the Zodiacs, which dropped us off at a small clearing on the shore. From this tiny “beach”, we were able to climb a set of rickety, icy stairs to the plateau above, where the only structures were a small sanctuary and a house in which lived the lighthouse keeper, his wife and daughter.
What a strange existence! Certainly it is not your typical tourist place. Forlorn and outwardly devoid of anything appealing or interesting, very few people "come calling" throughout the year, and I cannot imagine how someone handles such isolation. I thought perhaps it was O.K. for the keeper and his wife- their choice. But it seemed unfair to the daughter. I suppose the only saving factor was that she knew next to nothing about world outside the one in which she lived.
Just below the house is a small chapel, named Stella Maris, "Star of the Sea," dedicated to those captains and crews from all over the world, who have lost their lives in the process of their passage.
Some distance above the house is the Cape Horn Memorial, (pictured above), dedicated to the men who died in shipwrecks along that coastline. It is a sculpture of two metal plates, depicting the waves on the left and and the rocks on the right. The space between them forms the shape of a single albatross in flight across an endless sky. There is a plaque which reads:
I, the albatross that awaits at the end of the world...
I am the forgotten soul of the sailors lost,
rounding Cape Horn from all the seas of the world.
But die they did not in the fierce waves,
for today towards eternity, in my wings they soar,
in the last crevice of the Antarctic winds.
I was overwhelmed with the understanding of how blessed I was to be at that place- safe and secure, thousands of miles from home. I sat down and cried for the souls of those fate was so much less fortunate.
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