Frosty meeting place between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, the harsh weather conditions and the bravery of the sea have transformed it into one of the most dangerous corners of the world for navigation.
At first there was talk of “disappearance”, then, when the maximum flight time was fulfilled with the fuel it carried, without having arrived at the President Eduardo Frei Montalva Base on the white continent, it began to speak of “sinister.”
Hours later, the same Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, spoke of an “accident”.
Although the treacherous nature of the Drake Passage is legendary, Chilean authorities said the weather conditions for Monday’s flight were good.
Although everything can always change there, as can be seen on the windy.com weather site, which shows strong cross winds (between 50 and 110 kilometers per hour) in the area at the time of publication of this note.
Chilean authorities confirmed hours later that conditions had become “adverse” during rescue operations, before a low pressure front that “generates a lot of waves there, a very rough sea, even with rainfall in that area and with abundant clouds” and with temperatures around 0 degrees, Emol reported.
In fact, it is normal for flights and maritime navigation through the Drake Passage, to and from Antarctica, to be canceled or delayed in the face of the recurring threat of storms that can cause waves of 10 meters and winds of 150 kilometers per hour.
When trying to make the crossing, the planes offer more flexibility to delay their departure or deviate and thus avoid storms and winds.
But ships, on the other hand, often find these phenomena when they are already at sea and in the middle of the crossing.
The distance of the open sea that must be crossed between the two coasts (Hornos Island, in South America, and the South Shetland Islands, on the white continent) is about 800 kilometers, the shortest that exists between Antarctica and any continent of the world.
Taking the most direct route, ships and airplanes must cross Chilean and Argentine jurisdictional waters before reaching international waters.
It is currently believed that the first explorer to cross the passage was the Spaniard Francisco de Hoces aboard the San Lesmes caravel in 1526.
It is for this reason that in Spain and several parts of Latin America the place is known as Mar de Hoces.
Its most usual name of Drake Passage is the one used in the Anglo-Saxon world and attributed to the expedition of Sir Francis Drake that crossed the Strait of Magellan, but not the passage, in 1578.
It is said that Drake lost one of the ships that formed their fleet by the harsh conditions of the region, an advance of what would come.
In the Drake Passage the currents of the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic converge, without any land mass offering resistance, in an area also very prone to strong winds that has caused numerous shipwrecks at medium depths of 3,400 meters.
Like that of San Telmo, a ship that went down in 1819 with its 644 crew members while trying to cross the pass in the middle of a storm, according to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition organization.
Or the cruise explorer M / S Silver Explorer, seriously damaged in 2013, to name just two extreme examples in time.
Although it is difficult to measure thoroughly, it is believed that between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries there were 800 shipwrecks in the Drake Passage, causing the death of 10,000 and 20,000 sailors.
On Isla Hornos, part of Chile and its extreme part of the continent that seems to be facing the treacherous step, there is a monument “in memory of all seamen of all nations who lost their lives against the elements.”