Posted by: Rob Viens | January 5, 2013

“A More Disagreeable Way of Spending Time”

In early January the Beagle crept along, held back by the infamous weather of Drake’s Passage (recall the Bounty‘s failure to round Cape Horn in the previous century). Darwin makes the first of several entries that describe the trials of the Beagle as they tried to move westward:

“This is always accompanied by constant rain & a heavy sea; & now after four days beating we have scarcely gained a league. Can there be imagined a more disagreeable way of passing time?— Whilst weathering the Diego Ramirez rocks, the Beagle gave an unusual instance of good sailing; with closed reefed topsails & courses & a great sea running, close hauled to the wind she made 7 & ½ knots.” (Jan 2/3)

In 1929, Irving Johnson filmed his passage around the Horn on a sailing vessel called the Peking (really – it is amazing to find old footage like this but is true). Below is a clip from Irving’s film found on YouTube – it is amazing to see how many times the deck is flooded by large waves:

The full film – narrated by the filmmaker himself and called Around Cape Horn (the link will take you to the full 37 minute version) – also gives you some idea of what it must have been like for Darwin on a large sailing ship in some of the most dangerous water in the world.  Happy viewing! (RJV)

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  1. […] generally makes for a safer route to the Pacific (compared to Drake Passage to the south – see “A More Disagreeable Way of Spending Time”), it is not devoid of hazards. As Darwin points out the tides can be quite extreme in the eastern […]


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