8 narrow channels of vital importance

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Vessels too large to go through the PANAMA CANAL, are generally called "Capesize" vessels, because they have to take the much longer southern route (via the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa) to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans (or vice versa). However, the name "Capesize" is confusing, because it is sometimes mistakenly thought to refer to Cape Horn. Few ships would want to encounter the violent weather around Cape Horn, prefering either to go via South Africa or if they need to go via South America, to use the calmer (and slightly shorter) route through the Magellan Straits; a channel that weaves its way through numerous small islands just north of Cape Horn, and the chief port of which is Punta Arenas.

The Straits are named after Ferdinand Magellan, who in 1519 successfully took a fleet of 3 ships (out of an original fleet of 5) through these straits for the first time, while trying to get to the Spice Islands in the Pacific. He succeeded, but died later during the expedition. As a light-hearted memorial to that first transit, those who today sail on vessels through the Straits for the first time, are often given an offically stamped "Explorer's Certificate", such as the one sent to us by Luiz Gustavo Cruz from Brasil.

Click on any thumbnail photo (below) to see full size versions of each of these wonderful photos, taken recently during a tanker's transit through the straits.

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