Read Caption
Ushuaia light, the last lighthouse in South America (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

Nothing thrills quite like a great sea voyage does.

To travel across Earth’s immense oceans, to feel the true size and expanse of our planet, to roll through at least a million waves, to let go of the sight of land on one side and then hope for that next rare sight of land—this is what I love about sea travel.

And so I am crossing the ocean once again (specifically the South Atlantic), from west to east, from the southernmost tip of South America to the tip of Africa, from Cape Horn (55°58′47″S 067°16′18″W) to the Cape of Good Hope (34°21′29″S 18°28′19″E),

I left South America three days ago and am now sailing east through the furious fifties (they are in fact, quite furious at the moment). All around me are seas and waterways named after famous explorers: The Strait of Magellan carried Magellan himself from the Atlantic to the Pacific on the world’s first circumnavigation. The rough and tumble Drake Passage is named after Sir Francis Drake, who tackled both capes in his career. Likewise, the prolific voyager Captain James Cook also rounded both Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, but never from west to east and never on the same voyage.

Today’s navigation equipment makes mine much less of an adventure than it was for Magellan, Drake or Cook, but I still like to imagine myself picking up where the other explorers left off.

The Dutch first reached Cape Horn in 1616 and named the promontory after their ship Hoorn (which was named after the city Hoorn in Holland). “The Horn” is notoriously stormy and tempestuous, which I’ve experienced myself more than once. Likewise, Africa’s optimistic-sounding “Cape of Good Hope” is also no stranger to big storms—the Portuguese who first sailed here in 1488 called it Cabo das Tormentas—Cape of Storms—and I expect we shall encounter a few squalls along the way.

I am riding across the vast ocean aboard my favorite ship, the MV National Geographic Explorer. This is the same sturdy expedition ship that brought me to Antarctica two years ago and the same ship that carried me all the way from the Antarctic to the tropics last year. This time, though, I intend to disembark and continue my adventure in Africa. Where I will go and what I will do is for me to know and for you to discover, however.  In total, my Cape to Cape journey will last five weeks, span two continents, and jump one great ocean.

I expect to revisit some of my favorite spots on the globe and perhaps reunite with some old friends, both human and feathered. And I also expect the unexpected adventure or two, too. Because that is why I travel—for the unexpected adventure—and why I choose to venture out to sea—the most uncertain destination of all.