The Strait of Magellan comprises a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland South America and north of Tierra del Fuego. The waterway is the most important natural passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, but it is considered a difficult route to navigate because of the unpredictable winds and currents and the narrowness of the passage. Ferdinand Magellan (Portuguese: Fernao de Magalhaes), a Portuguese sailor in the service of Charles I of Spain, became the first European to navigate the strait in 1520 during his global circumnavigation voyage.
The strait is approximately 570 kilometres (310 nmi; 350 mi) long and about 2 kilometres (1.1 nmi; 1.2 mi) wide at its narrowest point (Carlos III Island, west of Cape Froward). The northwestern portion of the strait is connected with other sheltered waterways via the Smyth Channel.