Madre de Dios, northern part,
regions of polish activity are encorcled
I saw on the Patagonian islands. The beach is surrounded by cliffs completely overgrown with jungle plants. A resurgence was bursting from under one of them, and its another branch emerged from the bay bottom, forming a bulge on the surface. We have experienced there a kind of an illumination. We were running like kids here and there just trying to remember as much as we could.
On the next day we continued to move. The boat became our base, and the day started and ended with cruises on "Zodiac" which were complicated by the high and low tides. The weather was extremely unstable and did not allow us to plan anything. At the end of the bay which we called The Sandy Bay, after a few hours of work, we installed a second mini-base. A four-people squad moved on to find a passage up through a craggy jungle wet as a sponge. It grows on a steep lapies dissected by clefts with deep pits and rills. The surface is covered there with thorny shrubs and moss resembles a peat bog. After four hours, the team came back having reached 44 m above the sea level without finding the way. Fighting against a tempest we backed off to the boat.
Another day saw us going in a larger team, equipped with machetes and the tool most elementary to this expedition: wood saws made by Fiskars. After a few hours we reached a quartzite dome, which will turn out as an important landmark in our trips. Next, we went into a deep depression, known to us from the maps, separating the central part of the island
from the Silvertop summit situated in the north. At the height of 72 metres above the sea level we have found a good place for a camp. We formed two squads to search the two planned areas - the lapies to the south of the rift and Silvertop summit region. For communication we used Alinco radiophones that operated on the frequency of the radio on the boat, which on the first day lost contact with the harbour in Puerto Natales. Both teams went on to their destinations. Both routes had large numbers of entrances and a beautiful lapies, which we had previously seen only on the French pictures. It turned out that the maps 1:50 000 contained big errors and provided only a vague terrain orientation. The nearest summit was expected to have 160 m in height, whereas its real height was 292 m. Each of the squads conducted terrain operation using GPS Garmin E-trex Summit. The data were then on the ship transferred to two computers which contained digital terrain maps and supported GPS through Garmin Fugavi programme. All of this was prepared before the expedition, bearing in mind a fast data transfer. Laptops were configured with satellite phone in order to transmit the data. Everything would have been well, but it became apparent that satellite connectivity was only operational when the boat came closer to the ocean, and data transfer speed could have been much better.
On the next day we built a camp on the flatter part of the ravine at altitude of 72 metres. This small flat area is a quag, where one
Madre de Dios, northern part, regions of Polish activity ore encorded
can fall into a swamp. We built platforms of branches and moss for our tents, and then extended a sheet as a kitchen roof. I then decided not to come back to the boat for the remainder of that expedition.
Another two days were taken by a reconnaissance in the chosen areas. Unfortunately, the beautiful pitches ended after short descents. The rock, looking very solid, turns out to be brittle when we try to bolt it. We tried to search for entrances systematically in selected sectors. The weather remained unstable, and after two bearable days showed us who ruled on the island. The hurricane winds in the night managed to reach us even in our apparently calm spot. A large stream forming a vast lake at its end flew through our camp.
During the few following days we stayed in the base going out only during short breaks in the tempest for reconnaissance in the neighbourhood. Finally, after three days, the sun begun to shine. We started to go up, but the weather turned bad again just after two hours. The team under the summit of Silvertop found it extremely hard to backoff one of the pitches after a rapid water level rise at 8 m of depth. Still hoping that the weather would become better, two people have decided to stay with the deposit over a night in a niche at altitude of 270 m. This was a good intermediate spot to conquer more of the island. The tempest in the night convinced us to finally relinquish our hopes. The above mentioned team of two came back to the camp passing the more exposed fragments on all-fours. The captain established a connection with a camp and suggested our stay be shorter, justifying that with a possible weather breakdown. Quickly, we wrapped the camp up into backpacks and on the same day, were past the key spot - Canal Trinidad. The third day of our return trip to Puerto Natales proved our Captain to be right - a windstorm and huge rainfalls appeared, resulting in one of the largest floods in the recent years.
We have spent 12 days on the island, but our operations lasted for a mere 2.5 days. During our stay, the rainfall was equal to the half of the annual figure in Poland. We managed to explore 35 caves of depth coming to a tens of metres and to survey approximately 1000 m. Still for me this has been one of the most challenging and important expeditions. Next year - I do hope - we will be back, enriched with the previous experience, knowing the area and not cheating ourselves that the weather will be more gracious to us, and that the climate will be less severe.
Ciszewski A., 2003. Madre de Dios - wyspa marzeń.
Sobota l., 2003. Charaktcrystyka geograficzna i zjawiska krasowe na wyspie Madre de Dios. Jaskinie, 31:16-19.