Strait of Magellan

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The Strait of Magellan, near Punta Arenas

The Strait of Magellan is a navigable route immediately south of mainland South America. The strait is arguably the most important natural passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, but it is considered a difficult route to navigate because of the inhospitable climate and the narrowness of the passage.

Until the Panama Canal was finished in 1914, the Strait of Magellan was often the only safe way to move between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Protected by the Tierra del Fuego to the south and the bulk of South America to the north, ships crossed with relative ease, removed from the dangers of Drake Passage. The Drake Passage is the relatively narrow stretch of ocean separating Cape Horn (the southern tip of South America) from Antarctica, the waters of which are notoriously turbulent, unpredictable, and frequented by icebergs and sea ice. Until the Panama Canal was finished, the strait was the second-most used route for ships crossing between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans (the Drake Passage was the most used route).

Strait of Magellan, satellite image
Strait of Magellan, satellite image
The Strait of Magellan at dawn
The Strait of Magellan at dawn

In the unusually clear true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image to the left, the entire Strait is visible. The eastern opening is the wide bay on the border of Chile and Argentina. To the west, there are a number of access points from the Pacific, though the most easily seen here is the roughly 200 km stretch from the Queen Adelaide Archipelago (at center left) to the bulk of the Strait (at lower center). The islands and mountains are highlighted by bright white snow, while the lower-elevation lands to the north and east remain clear. This image was acquired by the Aqua satellite on August 27, 2003.

Missing image
The Strait of Magellan at sunset

Ferdinand Magellan became the first European to navigate the strait in 1520, during his global circumnavigation voyage. Because Magellan's ships entered it on November 1, it was originally named Estreito de Todos los Santos (Strait of All Saints).


On May 23 1843 Chile took possession of the channel, under whose sovereignty it remains as of 2005. On the coast of the Strait lies the city of Punta Arenas and the village of Porvenir.

This path was crossed by early explorers, including Ferdinand Magellan, Francis Drake, Charles Darwin, among others. Prospectors during the 1849 California gold rush used this route as well.

de:Magellanstrae es:Estrecho de Magallanes fr:Dtroit de Magellan nl:Straat Magellaan pt:Estreito de Magalhes ja:マゼラン海峡 sv:Magellans sund


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