Sir Ernst Expedition

Friday 28th January 2022. It’s 22:00 and I’m on watch. Today Cape Horn let us pass by in particularly clement conditions.

We left at 05:00 from Caleta Delegada on the Argentine coast of the Beagle Channel near Estancia Haberton, a farm founded in 1887 by the ex-missionary Thomas Bridges who had held office in Ushuaia before. Thomas Bridges and his family got to know the Yaghan Indians and to appreciate the nuances of their language and the way they had adapted to an environment so hostile to civilised man.

Thomas respected them and produced the first Yaghan dictionary. Today the Estancia is a historic site which welcomes visitors and serves lunch and dinner. Lucas, one of his sons, wrote a wonderful book with all the details of their history entitled “Uttermost Part of the Earth: The First History of Tierra del Fuego and the Fuegian Indians”.

Lucas grew up among the Yaghans, then developed the family farm employing Indians. In the book he talks about how their family lived alongside the Yaghans and other tribes in the area.

It was a gloomy day, drizzling most of the time, but we saw lots of petrels and albatrosses resting on the water due to lack of wind. Some of them demonstrated how laborious it is for them to take-off. We were aware that we were forcing them to escape our path, but cannot keep changing course to avoid every bird.


We also glimpsed a whale at several hundred metres and heard it blow. We can’t wait to find them in Antarctica.


In the evening, we approached Cape Horn from the north through the Wollaston Islands archipelago to get as close as possible. The lighthouse on the eastern flank of the island was first to appear. It’s one of the last lighthouses to be guarded all year round by representatives of the Chilian Navy who are assigned, with their family, to this mission for one year. The rain stopped and the sun came out allowing us to admire Cape Horn’s rock which rises to a height of 426m against a backdrop of clouds and half-light so characteristic of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. As if to salute the start of our crossing towards the White Continent, a pod of dolphins arrived and performed a series of pirouettes. They escorted us for a while as if to say here you are guys – it’s over there!


What a gift Mother Nature gave us tonight!

With some 15 knots of wind early this morning, larger albatrosses appeared. In their characteristic ballet, they swoop majestically down a few metres from Sir Ernst. Is it out of curiosity? Or are they expecting bits of rejected fish from a fisherman? After a while, they move away and disappear over the horizon.

We are approaching this crossing under all the best signs. Sir Ernst is perfectly adapted to this voyage as she has already done it twice. The boat is in perfect condition.
The crew, François, Hervé, Philippe and I are all in good shape and getting on very well.

Our next report will be when we reach the ice.