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The Drake Passage or Mar de Hoces -Sea of "de Hoces"- is the body of water between the southern tip of South America at Cape Hornmarker, Chilemarker and the South Shetland Islandsmarker of Antarcticamarker. It connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Oceanmarker (Scotia Sea) with the southeastern part of the Pacific Oceanmarker and extends into the Southern Oceanmarker.The passage is named after the 16th century Englishmarker privateer Sir Francis Drake. Drake's only remaining ship, after having passed through the Strait of Magellanmarker was blown far South in September of 1578. This incident implied an open connection between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Half a century earlier, after a gale had pushed them South from the entrance of the Strait of Magellan, the crew of the Spanishmarker navigator Francisco de Hoces thought they saw a land's end and possibly inferred this passage in 1525. For this reason, some Spanish and Latin American historians and sources call it Mar de Hoces after Francisco de Hoces.

The first recorded voyage through the passage was that of the Eendracht, captained by the Dutch navigator Willem Schouten in 1616, naming Cape Horn in the process.

The wide passage between Cape Horn and Livingston Islandmarker is the shortest crossing from Antarctica to the rest of the world's land. The boundary between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is sometimes taken to be a line drawn from Cape Horn to Snow Islandmarker north of mainland Antarctica). Alternatively the meridian that passes through Cape Horn may be taken as the boundary. Both boundaries lie entirely within the Drake Passage.

The other two passages around Cape Horn, Magellan Strait and Beagle Channelmarker, are very narrow, leaving little room for a ship, particularly a sailing ship, to maneuver. They can also become icebound, and sometimes the wind blows so strongly no sailing vessel can make headway against it. That is why it is the roughest sea in the world. Hence most sailing ships preferred the Drake Passage, which is open water for hundreds of miles. The very small Diego Ramirez Islandsmarker lie about south of Cape Horn.

There is no significant land anywhere around the world at the latitudes of the Drake Passage, which is important to the unimpeded flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which carries a huge volume of water (about 600 times the flow of the Amazon River) through the Passage and around Antarctica.

Ships in the passage are often good platforms for the sighting of whales, dolphins and plentiful seabirds including giant petrels, other petrels, albatrosses and penguins.

The passage is known to have been closed until around 41 million years ago according to a chemical study of fish teeth found in oceanic sedimentary rock. Before the passage opened, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were separated entirely with Antarctica being much warmer and having no ice cap. The joining of the two great oceans started the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and cooled the continent significantly.

Image:Drake Passage - Lambert Azimuthal projection.png|Drake Passage or Mar de Hoces between South America and AntarcticamarkerImage:Drake Passage - Orthographic projection.png|Drake Passage

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