Cape Horn: Background information when reading The Wager

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The Wager

A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder

by David Grann

The Wager by David Grann X
The Wager by David Grann
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  • Published:
    Apr 2023, 352 pages


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Cape Horn

This article relates to The Wager

Black-and-white photographic image taken from a ship sailing near Cape Horn during a storm, tilted and partially submerged in waves David Grann's The Wager is a nonfiction book about events surrounding the 1741 wreck of the British ship the HMS Wager, which met its doom while rounding Cape Horn, a rocky headland at the southernmost tip of the Chilean archipelago Tierra del Fuego, where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet. With this book, Grann sheds light on one relatively little-known historical incident, but Cape Horn is infamous for shipwrecks. Its treacherous waters are estimated to have claimed more than 800 ships and 10,000 lives.

So why exactly is rounding Cape Horn so dangerous? One reason for this is a sharp rise in the ocean floor that occurs southwest of the cape. This rise, combined with strong winds caused by the area's southerly latitude (where air is pushed towards the pole by the Earth's rotation), results in particularly high waves occurring on a regular basis, the danger of which can be exacerbated by volatile weather. Rocky outcroppings and icebergs are additional hazards.


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