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 had been the subject of several expeditions since the early 19th century. A source of interest for many reasons, among them the quest to discover 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 in fact he had instead come across Lago Viedma. Finally, an expedition commanded by Francisco Perito Moreno identified 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 prestigious academic home. 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. It also meant the Masters’ resignation of legal ownership of their land as the Estancia fell within the borders of the park.
Over the years, and with the arrival of climbers to the region, Argentina recognized the importance of exploring the glaciers and the Campo de Hielo Patagónico Sur. In order to do so, they built shelters throughout the entire mountain range. The first refugio is still standing within Estancia Cristina’s territory and can be visited when arriving at the Upsala Glacier land-based lookout point, which offers the closest view of the enormous glacier that can be had from anywhere inside the 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.
Using a battery powered by a wind turbine, the pioneer Herbert Masters installed a radio in the Estancia and joined the lengthy list of global amateurs. Communication with people from around the world helped to alleviate Patagonia’s solitude. A hobby that generated thousands of contacts and converted friends into a family for people living in a remote part of the Earth.
Jorge and Pedro Skvarca, pioneer climbers in the area, reached the summit of Cerro Norte, which dominates the view of the Valle Caterina in Estancia Cristina’s territory. These climbers were great friends of the Masters family, and Pedro Skvarca still lives in El Calafate, where he runs the “Glaciarium,” a museum dedicated to the science of glaciers.