Sometimes the vast nature surrounding us makes us feel small, but the legacy of our history always reminds us how enormous a dream is for humankind's path.
Patagonia has been investigated by several expeditions since the early 19th century for many reasons, like the quest for the Santa Cruz River’s headwaters. First, Charles Darwin and Fitz Roy attempted to find it but failed. Years later, Valentin Feilberg reached the source: a vast lake, but he mistakes it for Lago Viedma. Finally, an expedition commanded by Francisco Perito Moreno identifies the lake as a distinct body of water and named it Lago Argentino.
Parallel to the arrival of the Masters in Patagonia, an English journalist named Hesketh Prichard went on an expedition to the northern area of Lago Argentino in search of the Milodon, a giant sloth bear from prehistoric times. The reporter believed the animal was alive and had taken refuge in the cold Patagonian forests, but the search was fruitless.
Prichard traveled through the unexplored area now known as the Río Caterina valley (present location of Estancia Cristina).
The giant glacier, first sighted by Hesketh Prichard, was immortalized by a Swedish expedition in 1908. When Professor Percy Quesnel from Upsala University noticed the immensity of the Glaciar Upsala, he named it in honor of his famous house of studies. Today, it is one of the main attractions in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.
The Italian explorer, Father Agostini, led the investigation of the mountain range area as part of an Argentine project to create a protected area.
This exploratory trip resulted in the foundation of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, a reserve that protects an unparalleled natural heritage for the enjoyment of all, and the Masters’ renunciation to have legal ownership of their lands.
Over the years, and with the arrival of climbers to the region, Argentina resolved to explore the glaciers and the Campo de Hielo Patagónico Sur. For that purpose, they built shelters throughout the mountain range. The first refuge is still standing within the territory of Estancia Cristina and can be visited when arriving at the Upsala Glacier lookout, the closest glacier viewpoint in the entire park.
In order to increase air travel between Argentina and Antarctica, the Argentine Air Force modified its aircraft to land on ice and snow. The places chosen for their pilots to practice were Estancia Cristina and the Glaciar Upsala.
After the successful tests, Argentina became the first nation to complete a transpolar flight.
Thanks to a battery-powered by a wind turbine, the pioneer Herbert Masters installed a radio in the Estancia and joined the lengthy list of amateurs. Communication with people from around the world helped to alleviate Patagonia’s solitude. A hobby that left thousands of contacts and friends to a family living in a remote part of the earth.
Jorge and Pedro Skvarca, pioneer climbers in the area, reach the summit of Cerro Norte, which dominates the view of the Valle Caterina in the Estancia Cristina territory. These climbers were great friends of the Masters family, and Pedro Skvarca still lives in El Calafate, where he runs the Ice Museum “Glaciarium.”