Mission: Tierra del Fuego


Justine Curgenven and Barry Shaw recently announced plans for a January 2011 sea-kayaking expedition to circumnavigate Tierra del Fuego (Isla Grande De Tierra del Fuego) at the southern tip of South America. The duo, who jointly have a long list of expeditions behind them, will be paddling clockwise around the tip of South America from Chile to Argentina for about two months; their intended route stretches over 1,000 miles.


The route includes the Strait of Megellan, pioneered in 1570 by the famous Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Megellan during the first-ever circumnavigation of the world. Legendary for its rough seas and unforgiving weather, the sea-kayaking circumnavigation attempt would be a first. Curgenven and Shaw will be piloting Valley Nordkapps.


“Almost three years after taking on the wild surf and unpredictable weather of New Zealand’s South island, Barry and I feel ready for another challenging trip in a wild and beautiful area of the world,” writes Curgenven, on her Cackle TV blog.


“Neither of us have ever kayaked in South America before but we both feel a pull towards the narrow channels of Chilean Argentina, where we can gaze up at ice-clad mountains and maybe watch glaciers carving into the sea. We recently became aware that there is an island down there at the tip of the world, about the size of Ireland, with a tantalizing mix of history, culture, wildlife, natural beauty and challenging conditions.”


“Tierra del Fuego is part Chilean and part Argentinian, part steep-sided channels and part exposed coastline. It’s a place where you can get four seasons in one day and where the wind doesn’t rest for long.”


“As far as we know, no one has kayaked around Tierra del Fuego before, although Argentinian paddlers Agustin Garcia Albarido, Luis Garcia Albarido and Diego Lamas kayaked down the exposed east coast of Tierra del Fuego earlier this year as part of their incredible cycling and kayaking trip down the entire coast of Argentina. Marcus Demuth and Biff Wruszek paddled two-thirds of the way around La Isla Grande last year before being storm-bound for 12 days in a row. They were running low on food and time and were evacuated by helicopter. We don’t mind if anyone has, or does, kayak around before us but we are looking forward to visiting this incredible area that has the ability to bring me up in goosebumps at just the thought of it!”


“We plan to fly to Tierra del Fuego in early January 2011 and will allow two and a half months for the 1,000 mile journey. This might sound like a lot of time, but we know we will have to satisfy the Chilean and Argentinean Armadas that we have the correct experience and equipment before we can set off, and we know we will be weather-bound a lot of the time, waiting for the incessant winds to abate enough to go paddling.” — Tim Mutrie

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