The Patagonia Sur Documentary Project: Field Notes—Melimoyu: Avatar has nothing on this place
March 6th, 2012
Bridget Besaw: Documentary adventures in Patagonia, Chile.
While Patagonia Sur owns six properties covering nearly 60,000 acres of land in the Aysen region of Patagonia, this phase of my coverage will only allow time to photograph and film the northernmost three properties of Lago Espolon, Valle California and Melimoyu. These are the sites with the most fully realized vision of the Patagonia Sur concept of “ecosystem-scale conservation”.
Melimoyu is one of the greatest examples I have seen of this concept. On our first trip, I felt instantly at home—and yet on another planet. Melimoyu lies at the southern edge of the Valdivian temperate rainforest and the northern edge of the sub-Antarctic rainforest. You often hear people refer to this part of coastal Patagonia as very “Avatar” looking. For me, every step through this enchanted forest or boat trip along these dramatic shores feels like being in an Imax film. Luckily we don’t have to rely on Hollywood alone to experience pristine wilderness at such a large scale!
The reserve that Patagonia Sur has created here is accessible only by air or sea, which is part of what has kept this place so special. Preservation begins at the top of the 7,200 foot glacier-covered Mt. Melimoyu, flowing down through virgin native forests of Arrayan & Coihue trees, glacial-fed rivers, waterfalls as tall as Niagara—all tumbling out to Melimoyu Bay off the Gulf of Corcovado, where each summer the southern hemisphere’s population of blue whales congregates off the coast that surrounds the property to feed after having given birth to their calves.
The Patagonia Sur guides that live here share their dramatic land and seascapes with so much knowledge and passion that they become an equally fulfilling aspect of experiencing this incredible place.
My friend Willard Morgan, President of Chewonki back in Maine came to visit the Patagonia Sur properties with the idea of someday developing a Patagonia Sur partnership to expand Chewonki’s programs in wilderness trips and environmental education. Isidora expertly and enthusiastically guided him through all sorts of new forest sights and sounds.
Sebastian took us on a light footed walk in search of the Darwin frog, and after cautioning us that the tiny (often fingernail size) green frogs were very difficult to find, his quiet ease in this forest guided us to so many Darwin frogs that we had to remind ourselves that they are in-fact endangered! (Count ‘em: 16 in a one-hour walk!)
In just a few days our first Seedlight/Patagonia Sur/Leica environmental photo workshop “Preserving Patagonia” will be here (if all goes well with weather and small plane transport to this remote spot!) I look forward to sharing with my workshop participants the wild wonders of Melimoyu—no movie theater required!