The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) navigated the Strait of Magellan Oct. 24-25, while conducting a home port shift to Norfolk Va.
The evolution took approximately 26 hours and covered just over 360 nautical miles marking the completion of the Pacific Ocean portion of Wasp’s Southern Seas 2019 transit.
"Transiting the Strait of Magellan aboard a naval vessel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many Sailors, however at the same time it is also an incredibly difficult evolution which requires extreme attention to detail and excellent seamanship," said Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Greg Baker. "Our entire team performed impeccably for the duration of the transit, demonstrating a keen level of ability coupled with professionalism, bringing us safely and capably from the Pacific to the Atlantic."
The Strait of Magellan is a natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans located immediately south of mainland Chile. It has been traveled by explorers throughout modern history and is difficult to navigate due to frequent narrows and unpredictable winds and currents.
"Historically, there are only a few ways to get from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Before the completion of the Panama Canal the Strait of Magellan was considered the safest of these. There were, and are, still precautions that had to be taken due to the frequent storms, high winds and variable currents,” said Wasp Navigator Lt. Cmdr. Roger Gonzalez. “I would not call the weather systems that roll through this region benign. There are always storms that pass through bringing high winds and heavy seas therefore, timing that correctly was important to the safety and comfort of the ship and crew. Besides the chart preparations and timing, a lot of thought was also given to the human factors of the transit.”
Wasp last passed through the Strait of Magellan at the end of 2017 on her way to Sasebo, Japan where she served nearly two years forward deployed in U.S. 7th Fleet as the Amphibious Squadron 11 flagship.
During the transit, Wasp at times steamed only a few miles from land and gave Sailors an opportunity to view the snowcapped mountains found throughout the strait.
“For a Navigator, this is an ‘all work evolution’. Most of my thoughts were consumed with courses, speeds and timelines,” said Gonzalez. “However, when I had a break from duties on the bridge I was in awe at the beauty of the transit. The high mountains with snow caps and the discrete lighthouses that line the transit all make for a picturesque experience. I may never get the chance to do something like this again so I'm grateful for the experience.”
Wasp is currently operating in the U.S. Southern Command and Fourth Fleet area of responsibility giving her an opportunity to build and maintain relationships with partner nations in South America through training engagements and regularly scheduled port visits.
U.S. Southern Command and Fourth Fleet area of responsibility encompasses the Caribbean, Central America, South America and surrounding waters.