Madre de Dios Speleo 2008

News Updates

The expedition is currently underway. News updates will be added to this page as they arrive from Chile.

18th April 2008, Puert Montt, Chile

The expedition has arrived in Punta Arenas via the Navimag ferry from Puerto Eden and an interesting bus ride across the Patagonian grasslands.  We left Madre de Dios island five days ago, having spent two and a half weeks first camped on shore and then based on the Ocean Tramp in Seno Egg.  Despite one three day storm and the ever present rain, or was it hail (definitely was hail I hear them shout at me from our Hostal rooms in Punto Arenas), we managed to work every day. 
Concentrating first with an exploration of the karst plateau, during which Ben and Rick bivouacked in a small cave and dropped many choked shafts, we decided that both cave passage and speleothems were more likely to be found by looking for fossil entrances above the current seaward resurgences.  Two small caves were discovered and explored, one containing useful stalagmite samples, before our main discovery was made. 
Not far by dingy from our makeshift camp (itself embarrassingly close to the tidemark as we found out one evening as we were forced to retreat to the dingy as the kitchen went under water), Lou, Simon and Ben looked around a complex of passages surveyed by our French colleagues on their recce of the North a few weeks earlier.  A way on was discovered and soon it became clear that this would be the place to concentrate in our search for useful samples and new cave passages.  By the end of expedition we had surveyed more than 1.5km of new passages in this cave, documenting a host of interesting sedimentary deposits and other intriguing features.  We found many stalagmites and selected two. 
In addition, Tim filmed as much of the expedition as he could, so we hope that all three of our main objectives were successfully accomplished up to this stage.  On top of all this, we have spent the best part of a month in a truly wild place, an experience we shall never forget.  None of this would have worked without the skill and hard work of expedition member Charlie, captain of the Ocean Tramp.

25th March - 17th April 2008, Chile

No news recieved during this time from the expedition. The extreme remoteness seems to have made email communication impossible.

24th March 2008, Puert Montt, Chile

Another round of re-packing and readying science equipment.  Lou and Chris calibrate the drip loggers under the bathroom tap.  Its another calm day, and as we prepare to board the Navimag ferry south towards Puerto Eden and the start of our expedition into the Patagonian islands, it all seems to easy.  I wonder what we will be saying in week's time

23rd March 2008, Puerto Montt, Chile

By 11am, Tim and Lou know this little town and its web of rough streets lined by wooden houses in a myriad of different designs and colours.  Wood smoke snakes up from metal chimneys everywhere.  It is calm, and the sun is breaking through a layer of low clouds.  It's going to be a beautiful day.  This is certianly not what we had been expecting, and in our foul weather clothing we all look a bit over-prepared. We know the town well already because we have been searching for Chris and Rick.  Eventually, as we pass a quaint, bright yellow house, Rick pops his head of an usptairs window and shouts hola!  We spend the day basking in the sun, and buying odd and ends: chocolate, fresh food, and deck shoes.

22nd March 2008, Chile

The flights are uneventful, and for Tim, Ben and Lou give a chance to explore Santiago de Chile for an afternoon. For all three, a first taste of South America.  Rick and Chris have superb views of the Andean volcanoes as they fly south to Puerto Montt, our first rendezvous.  But the timing is not perfect, and by the time Tim, Ben and Lou arrive at the bus station in this bustling seaboard town, the others have given up and gone to bed in a tiny hostel up on the hill above the port: Casa Perla.  Neither Tim, Ben nor Lou can recall the name of the place, and in the hectic frenzy of last minute logistics none of us has written it down.  Noone's mobile phone seems to work.  After a couple of hours of searching fruitlessly, we give up and check into a place near the bus station.  We're sure we'll we find them tomorrow.

21st March 2008, Oxford

Chris and Rick have to catch the bus to Heathrow at 5am.  That's just three hours away and we are all still madly squeezing stuff into bags and stuffing bags into waterproof rucksacks, re-weighing everything again and deciding what has to be left out to fit within the baggage allowance.  Even with Chris and Rick travelling with the huge baggage allowances allowed on flights via the states, we seem to have way too much: maps, samples bottles, sat phone, radios, first aid kits, surveying equipment, not to mention a mountain of video and camera gear in waterproof pelicases.  Oh, and caving equipment.  Loads of it.  With their later flight-times via Madrid, Tim, Ben and Lou abandon the others and head for bed to snatch a few hours sleep, a luxury Chris and Rock miss out on.  In the morning they are gone, and the expedition is fragmented into three parties, separated by half the globe.  Simon, our invaluable advance party, is on a ferry heading north from Puerto Natales with 13 boxes of provisions he has been gathering together for the last week in South America. Chris and Rick are on their way to face the infamous US immigration system at New York, and Tim, Ben and Lou are heading straight for Chile.

Sunday 2 March 2008

On the weekend of 1st March 2008, we had our first official event together as an expedition group. We took off to the hills and caves of South Wales in view of practicing rescue & rigging techniques, refining logistics and testing equipment within our group context. A small selection of photos is included below.