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Drake Passage

The Drake Passage, as the name implies, is a channel that lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

It is a body of water that has been described as the shortest passage of Antarctica.

The Drake Passage measures just 400-500 miles.

The Drake Passage has the South American continent and Cape Horn to its north, and the South Shetland Islands (parts of Antarctica) to its south.

Drake Passage Facts for Kids

  • The Drake Passage derived its name from the 16th-century British privateer, Sir Francis Drake. In September 1578, after taking the Strait of Magellan route, the last remaining ship of Sir Francis Drake was blown far to the south. It was at this time the ship crew realized there could be a passage between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Well, it turned out to be true.
  • Despite the name of the passage being attributed to the British privateer, the first recorded voyage through the passage happened about 40 years after Drake’s crew had found the passage. It was the Dutch navigator Willem Schouten who sailed across the waters of the Drake Passage in 1616.
  • Nonetheless, you should remember that the Drake Passage was ignored by a Spanish crew in 1525, that’s many years before Sir Francis Drake and his crew even thought of it. The Spanish crew of the Francisco de Hoces thought they had seen a land’s end, therefore ignored further navigation toward it. The Drake Passage, today, is known as the Mar de Hoces by some Latin American and Spanish historians; naming it after Francisco de Hoces.
  • Many people around the world have distinguished the Drake Passage for having possibly the most unforgiving the roughest waters in the universe. The Drake Passage has claimed several lives and vessels over the few hundreds of years since it has been found.
  • A dramatic Drake Passage event was recorded in 2010 when Clelia II (a passenger ship carrying 160 people) became partially disabled as a result of a rogue wave. The ship had to be rescued by the National Geographic Endeavour.
  • Despite having the reputation of rough waters, the Drake Passage still retains its place as the preferred channel for ships sailing around the southern part of South America. The Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel are alternative routes. However, both are not as wide as the Drake and are prone to becoming icebound.
  • In 1914, sailors and many people welcomed the opening of the Panama Canal with joy. Before 1914, the Drake Passage was virtually the only channel of crossing the Pacific and the Atlantic.
  • The waters found in the Drake Passage have been noted as some of the coldest waters on the planet as they are part of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which is a freezing current that circles the Antarctic continent endlessly.
  • The Drake Passage, before the opening of the Panama Canal for trade, played an integral role in the trade of vast of the 19th century and that of the early 20th century.
  • The average depth of the Drake Passage has been pegged at about 11,000 feet while deeper regions could be as deep as 15,600 feet near the southern and northern boundaries.
  • Despite its cold temperatures, the Drake Passage remains a good habitat for wildlife of varying species. When you cross the Passage, you will find an incredible variety of seabirds. Other times, you may find a good number of whales and dolphins.
  • If you are taking a ship voyage across the Drake Passage, you should remember you read it here that it would take you complete two days. That’s 48 hours, and it’s always worth it!