Madre de Dios
|Krakowski Klub Taternictwa Jaskiniowego
The long-dreamed for me reconnaissance expedition to the Madre de Dios took place from the 9th of February to 14th of March 2003. We did not manage to achieve much: we checked on a number of openings and explored 35 caves of a depth not exceeding few dozen meters. We came back with a feeling of unease, still for me and most of the members this was one of the most important and fascinating expeditions eyer. Everything that took place there could only haye happened in yet but one place in this world - the Patagonia. So I decided to write something more on this region which is viewed by many as the most intriguing karst terrain in the world.
The Poles in Patagonia
I came up with an idea of organising an expedition to this remote region just after I had seen a text and magnificent pictures taken by the French reconnaissance trip of 1997. The objectiye seemed beyond our grasp for the sake of both logistical and financial matters. In 2001, in the course of the expedition to the Easter Island we managed to charter a little, 11 -metre long boat "Foam". Done with
the activities on Juan Fernandez Island, in a group of five people (Andrzej Ciszewski, Micha! Ciszewski, Wiesiaw Wilk, Ewa Wójcik, Zdzisiaw Ryn), we headed on to a 6-day cruise. All we wanted was to conduct a short reconnaissance at Diego de Almagro and in the Southern part of Madre de Dios. Horrific weather thwarted our plans. We managed to reach Diego de Almagro up to Abraham bay, from where we made two short trips. One into the region previously penetrated by the French, and second in the direction of the lapies at the base of Pic de I'Avenir, where no one else has operated before, and where there is a chance to reach a depth of 700 m. Both excursions ended earlier than planned. As far as the second one is concerned, we never reached the target. We did not manage to overcome the weather conditions; hurricane wind hindered our movement, and in the most terrifying moments, the only thing we were able to do was to lie down flat on the ground, since even kneeling did not ensure a stable position. With the weather being that bad, we were unable to go any further on the boat, and, wind blowing hard at our backs, we came back to Puerto Natales, completely stunned with what we had seen. I had already seen quite a few karst terrains up to that time, in different parts of the Globe, but this was the one of a kind, regarding both its forms and the wildness of the untouched nature. Here, the animals are not scared of men.
I decided to attempt to organise an expedition.
I was aware of the fact, that such enterprise would be very expensive. The French expedition cost 4000 Euros per person, even though they were sponsored. Knowing Chile from my earlier stays, I decided to try to reduce the costs. Zdzisiaw Ryn who, as a former Polish ambassador to this country and has maintained many of his contacts, was always ready to back me up.
In November 2002, along with Agnieszka Gajewska and Zdzisiaw Ryn, I flew to Chile. We got a promise from the Chilean marine forces they would grant us a war patrol boat for the purposes of transportation to the island as well as men from the Chilean commando squads. Unfortunately these tempting plans were not to be realized. A series of meetings supported by our embassy and personally by Ambassador Jaroslaw Spyra made our excursion plans more certain.
After the organisational part, we went to the south of Chile to conduct a reconnaissance in the neighbourhood of the Northern and Southern Ice Field, because that was were I expected to encounter geological structures similar to those found on the Island. The reconnaissance proved these assumptions to be correct. In the neighbourhood of General Carrera lake, there is also some marble, hence this region should also be more thoroughly looked into.
Back in Poland, I started to accomplish a team which was desperate enough. Thanks to the uptaken efforts, the costs were reduced to PLN 10000 per person. Our aim was the surrounding of the Egg bay, in the northern part of the island. In January 2003 I went to France to meet the people who, all in all, had the priority in acting there - to agree the areas of our operation, though the island remained untouched in over 90%. Just before our departure, it turned out that an Italian-Argentinean expedition was currently on the Island, but there was no time for our plans to be changed. Up to the date of departure, more and more personnel changes were made to our team.
Finally, we departed from Warsaw, through London, Miami to Santiago on the February the 9th in the following squad: Andrzej Ciszewski, Ewa Wójcik, Henryk Nowacki, Marek Mżyk, Jerzy Zygmunt, Włodzimierz Porębski, Hubert Warchał, Piotr Słupiński, Ireneusz Sobota - a hydrologist and glaciologist from the Nicolas Copernicus University
of Toruń and Michał Ciszewski.