Imagine a deserted island, lost in the confines of Chilean Patagonia, at 52 degrees south latitude... An island beaten by furious winds, drowned by torrential rains... To be interested in this pebble facing the Pacific, you have to be a castaway, a madman... or a caver.
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"Imagine a deserted island, lost in the confines of Chilean Patagonia, at 52 degrees south latitude... An island beaten by furious winds, drowned by torrential rains... To be interested in this pebble facing the Pacific, you have to be a castaway, a madman... or a caver. Because since 1995, Centre Terre has observed the presence of limestone formations. And who says limestone, says caves, chasms, underground rivers... Because since 1995 Centre Terre has observed the presence of limestone formations. And who says limestone, says caves, chasms, underground rivers... "
A word from the director
Lost at the edge of the Chilean Patagonian archipelago, at 52° south latitude, there is an island standing sentinel against the perpetual storms of the Pacific. An uninhabited island like the other two thousand of the archipelago? Not quite. Because, as on its big sister Madre de Dios, there is limestone. And who says limestone, says possibility of caves, chasm and underground rivers. Even better, the limestone massifs are sculpted by the 10 meters of annual rainfall, creating corrosion phenomena unique in the world that evoke glaciers... of marble.
For the speleologists and scientists of Centre Terre, who since 1997 have been exploring Madre de Dios, these exceptional landscapes are worthy of inclusion in the World Heritage of Humanity. In 2014, Centre Terre organizes its eighth expedition, under the direction of Bernard Tourte. The stakes are high, starting with the construction of a 40 m2 hut that will be the nerve center of a base camp where 20 team members will live permanently for two months.
Braving the storms, they explored the island, in rubber dinghies and on foot, descending to the bottom of chasms swept by the floods, diving the resurgences, discovering archaeological sites. The difficulties are permanent, and the risks also, as testifies an accident which will mobilize all the team during 3 days.
But the discoveries are in unison. In sumptuous landscapes, austere and of a wild beauty, men and women go from surprise to wonder. A great scientific and human adventure, told from the inside by a member of the expedition...
"The underground world will never be invested by any other means than the direct investigation of a man who goes underground, comes out and tells something about it," enthuses a caver. But there are not many unexplored places left... Diego de Almagro Island, in the heart of Chilean Patagonia, is one of them, because its climate has protected its glaciers, caves and crevasses from scientists...
Isolation, storms and cold are not enough to discourage the Earth Center (an international collective of cavers and scientists specialized in perilous expeditions). About thirty of them went to camp on this inhospitable island for two months. To the feat of going to the place, the director Luc-Henri Fage adds that of bringing back a film, inevitably shaky and uneven.
The best images are not the most beautiful but the most impressive: those of the cameras attached to the speleologists' helmets. The overly hurried editing and the clumsy cutting give the documentary a somewhat disjointed look, but in these conditions, the formal imperfection seemed inevitable. The work of these explorers who draw maps, date the stone and identify the path of the underground rivers is still worth seeing.
A film written and directed by Luc-Henri Fage
52 minutes, HDCam format
Images : Luc-Henri Fage
Editing : Tristan Soudarin and Luc-Henri Fage
Narration : Mathieu Barbier
Music : Michel Pascal
Produced by Jean-Pierre Bailly
Coproduction MC4, Félis Production, with the participation of Ushuaïa TV