The Route of Sunken Ships

Clippers and the New Navigation Routes
Rescue Companies
Beagle Channel
Isla de los Estados and "Le Maire" Strait
Mitre Peninsula
Cape Horn
Health Aboard


There are several key routes and passages all over the world where ships necessarily meet. Up to the last century, they were the natural passages that enabled sailing around the Earth. We are speaking about Cape of Good Hope, Cape of Storms and, the most feared known as “The Cape” with capitals, the stormy Cape Horn. As time went by, man tried to shorten routes and make them less risky to sail, so the Suez and the Panama Canals appeared. The first objective was achieved by far, but the second is still latent, not because of weather factors but because of political problems with constant war threats.

The routes that doubled South America had variants; all of them worth examining. The first sailing ships that tried to reach the Pacific sailed through the Strait of Magellan but, after Jacob Schouten’s and Le Maire’s discovery, verified by the Nodal brothers (1619), captains found it safer to double Cape Horn. With no coasts under the lee, scudding a storm opposite Cape Horn was faster and easier than in the Strait of Magellan.

This situation remained unchanged until the appearance of the steamer. The first steamer crossed the Atlantic in 1819. Many years of technical innovations would pass by as from this first crossing up to the moment the steamer was really in use. The first steamers in passing the Strait of Magellan were the Peru and the Chile (1840) that belonged to a company from London.

The Strait regained importance and Chile understood this fact while Buenos Aires was immersed in continual civil wars. The Chilean government took possession of the Strait of Magellan founding Fuerte Bulnes in 1843. In that same year the Phaeton, a French steamer frigate, and the whaler Fleury, also French, visited the place. In 1846, an English warship, the Salamandre, arrived and his commander pointed out that it was convenient to establish trade relationships with the colony on Malvinas. The islands could provide cattle and the strait, wood.

In 1849, the settlement is moved to a milder place and Sandy Point (Punta Arenas), situated to the east, is chosen. In December that same year, José de los Santos Mardones founds the village.

The Argentine government’s protests claiming that they were in Argentine territory –since the natural boundary was the cordillera— were practically useless.



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