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    Rios Libres: The Voice of the Ice

    Timm Neff walk Team Rios Libres is back with an update from the Neff Glacier, at the headwaters of the Río Baker. The team's first two reports can be found here (1, 2). With the Neff at their backs, the team followed the river to the sea, doing their best to document the diversity, beauty, and wildness of the region. Before completing their journey, the team will be checking in on a region of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field last believed to be last visited and documented by explorer Eric Shipton during 1960-61 expedition.

    Reports from the Rios Libres team are that their travels are proceeding smoothly, but the impacts of the quakes continue to be felt and much support is still needed (information about how to help is here).

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    Childs-Neff1 The Voice of Ice (a report from Craig Childs)

    At night I lay in my tent listening to the thunder of collapsing seracs, multi-ton columns of ice breaking free and falling a thousand feet. Smack, crack, rumble, groan. In these deeply-cut canyons, echoes build and fade. The ice-bound head of the Rio Baker is not a stable or quiet place.

    [Top, Timmy O'Neill walks the line on the Neff Glacier. Above, left - Craig Childs watches as a huge chunk of ice falls 20 stories down the Neff Glacier. Photos: James Q Martin]

    Continue reading "Rios Libres: The Voice of the Ice" »

    Rios Libres: Moving Like a Feather

     

    FeatherBakerWe've just received some fresh correspondence from the Rios Libres team with their latest progress. Their first post (featured on TCL Monday, March 8) got the journey started. Today's post shares a first taste of the wild, vibrant waters of the Río Baker, where it meets the Neff. Stay tuned for next week's update from the Neff Glacier, headwaters of the Baker. From here, the team will trace the path of the Baker from source to sea.

     

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    Moving Like a Feather (a report from Craig Childs)

    The Río Baker is the color of topaz with the visible depth of sapphire.

    Entering one of its gorges, a smooth, ceramic lip of water crashes into malestrom. Kayaks flash through like swift, tiny birds. Feeling this wild tumult, you can understand why one might want this kind of power. You would be a god to have this under your control.

    Throw a switch and the raw, terrifying force of nature crimps down into cables and transformers - becoming the hum of millions of refrigerators across South America.

    Every time you walk into a room and turn on the lights, every familiar tone of an Apple computer coming awake carries a grain of river, a hundredth of a kilowatt of what groups like NRDC and Patagonia Sin Represas wants you to think is sacred.

    Kayaks take the run, skating across the water, airborne for moments. This is how you do it without taming the river, without conquering or consuming its power. You become a feather on a current and suddenly the river's power is at your fingertips.

     

    [Timmy O'Neill drops into the Class V confluence of the Río Baker and the Neff River. Photo: James Q Martin]

    Rios Libres: The Journey Begins

    “Chilean Patagonia is a remote region of the world where nature--long left to its own devices--grows wild, beautiful and largely untouched by man. As South America's last frontier, the region boasts incredible biodiversity, breathtaking landscapes, essential ecological values, and a remote solitude that is increasingly rare.”

    GroupShot The above is taken from the blog-in-progress for a group of dedicated conservationists, Team Rios Libres, made up of photographer James Q Martin, author Craig Childs, cinematographers Denise M. Stilley and Ed George, Wildlife biologist Chris Kassar, Patagonia Climbing Ambassador Timmy O’Neil, local river guides, and Chilean journalists and conservationists. Together, their mission is to Protect Chile’s most wild and magnificent rivers from a consortium of European and Chilean mega-companies that are actively seeking to forever alter these natural jewels. The plan Rios Libres is working against would place a total of five dams along some of the magnificent rivers that are the lifeblood of this richly diverse region. Two of the dams will be placed along the Rio Baker (rhyms with “soccer”), Chile’s longest and highest-volume wild river. The remaining three dams would be built along the Rio Pascua, Chile's third highest-volume river. 

    The dams are not the only impact planned for this region. To extract the power they are planned to generate, the builders will have to clear-cut at least 1,600 km (1000 mi) of pristine old-growth forest to install the world’s longest high-tension transmission line. Over 2,450 km (1,500 mi) of line would be built to transport the electricity northward to support population centers and, ultimately Chile's massive mining industry. The Rios Libres team states the impacts succinctly: “Together, the dams and transmission lines would damage communities, scar the landscape, and wreak havoc on ecosystems. Additionally, these projects would hasten the extinction of species such as the torrent duck, the Chilean river otter, and the endangered Chilean deer, the huemul.”

    Team Rios Libres’ goal is simple: to give this threatened area a voice by documenting this incredible natural resource in its pristine state and by highlighting what the area means to the people, plants, and wildlife that make up its ecosystem. These are their first words from the field:

    READ ON, for Rios Libres' first reports . . .

    [The group gathers to begin their journey. All photos: James Q Martin] 

     

     

    Continue reading "Rios Libres: The Journey Begins" »

    Vermont Skiers Urge World to Protect Patagonia

    1_Ember_Photo_Patagonia Not too long ago we told you about this year's Dirtbag Grant winners, the second recipients of the award. But who were the first? Today we're happy to share the story of the first Dirtbag Grantees, Vermont residents Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson, and their trip to "Endangered Patagonia." Here's a recap from Brian and Emily, including a video after the jump:

    We are not just a bunch of gringos who would prefer that Chile stop developing its wonderful country. Nor are we opposed to hydropower. We are residents of this planet who support the cause of countless Chileans endeavoring to stop the profit-driven damming – the "electrocution" - of the global treasure that is Patagonia.

    If the European-owned energy giant, ENDESA, gets it way, Chilean Patagonia’s largest and wildest river, the Rio Baker, will be dammed. To connect the resulting glut of power to the Chilean national grid and the growing network of inefficient copper and gold mines in Chile’s far north, ENDESA is scheming to build a 2000km transmission line through the biodiverse heart and soul of Chilean Patagonia – degrading sweeping vistas and plowing roads through nature reserves. Once the transmission line is built, it will only be a matter of time before the remainder of Patagonia's wild rivers fall, and the rich mosaic of ecosystems that define Patagonia is torn to pieces.

    Continue reading "Vermont Skiers Urge World to Protect Patagonia" »

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