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Marine Places

Strait of Magellan

The first European known to have sailed from the Atlantic into the Pacific was Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, and the strait he used between the South American mainland and Tierra del Fuego is named after him. The route is sheltered from the full might of the Southern Ocean, although it has some narrow passages that can be hazardous to navigate. It was the preferred route for Atlantic–Pacific sea trade until the confirmation of an open ocean route around Cape Horn in 1616.

Another sheltered route through the Tierra del Fuego archipelago is the Beagle Channel, named after the survey ship that carried British naturalist Charles Darwin on his scientific voyage of 1831–1836. Cape Horn is the southernmost point of South America, situated on Hoorn Island, one of the Hermite Islands to the south of Tierra del Fuego. The most southerly passage between the major oceans, Cape Horn was discovered and named Kaap Hoorn in 1616 by a merchant navigator, in honor of his sponsors in the Dutch town of Hoorn. However, most commercial traffic between the Atlantic and the Pacific now travels via the Panama Canal.

Strait of Magellanzoom image
  • Length 330 miles (530 km)
  • Minimum Width 2 1/2 miles (4 km)
The Scotia Sea - Strait of Magellanzoom image