Cabo de Hornos National Park (Chile)

Cabo de Hornos National Park (Chile)

Wed, 02/12/2020 - 11:23
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Cabo de Hornos National Park is the world's southernmost national park. It is located 12 hours by boat from Puerto Williams in the Cape Horn Archipelago and comprises a series of the islands and islets, including the main landmasses of the Wollaston and Hermite Islands.

Cabo de Hornos National Park is the world's southernmost national park. It is located 12 hours by boat from Puerto Williams in the Cape Horn Archipelago, which belongs to the Commune of Cabo de Hornos in the Antártica Chilena Province of Magallanes y Antártica Chilena Region.

The National Park was created on April 26, 1945 by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture. The park is the southernmost piece of Chilean territory, except for the Chilean Antarctic Territory which is in dispute. It is part of the core area of the Cabo de Hornos Biosphere Reserve along with Alberto de Agostini National Park.

Cabo de Hornos National Park covers an area of 63,093 ha (155,900 acres), at a general altitude of 220 m (720 ft), with the exception of two major peaks: Cerro Pirámide, which has an altitude of 406 m (1,330 ft), and Cerro Hyde, the highest point with an altitude of 670 m (2,200 ft).

The park comprises a series of the islands and islets that make up the archipelago, including the main landmasses of the Wollaston and Hermite Islands.

Satellite image of the Wollaston Islands (upper right), the Hermite Islands (center) and Cape Horn (lower right)
Satellite image of the Wollaston Islands (upper right), the Hermite Islands (center) and Cape Horn (lower right)

 

The climate in the park is generally cool, owing to the southern latitude. Precipitation is high throughout the year: the weather station on the nearby Diego Ramirez Islands, 109 km (68 mi) southwest in the Drake Passage, shows the greatest rainfall in March, averaging 137.4 mm (5.4 in); while October, which has the least rainfall, still averages 93.7 mm (3.7 in). Wind conditions are generally severe, particularly in winter.

The terrain is almost entirely treeless peat and its main characteristic is the presence of tuberous vegetable formations covered in low dense Poaceaes (Gramineae), lichen and mosses that are resistant to the low temperatures and harsh weather. In some parts, small wooded areas of Antarctic beech or nire, lenga, winter's bark or canelo, and Magellanic coigüe can be found.

 

Fauna in the park is scarce and many of the species are endangered. The fauna is dominated by birds and maritime mammals.

Bird species found on the islands include: Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus), or red peek penguin, the southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus), kelp gull or Dominican gull (Larus dominicanus), red-legged cormorant (Phalacrocorax gaimardi, also known as the red-legged shag, red-footed cormorant, red-footed shag, Gaimard’s cormorant or grey cormorant), and southern royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora).

Mammal species found in the park include: marine otter (Lontra felina, known locally as chungungo), leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), Chilean dolphin (Cephalorhynchus eutropia, also known as the black dolphin or tonina), Burmeister's porpoise (Phocoena spinipinnis), Peale's dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis) and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae).