Wind of the 40th Parallel: RGS’ Circumnavigators Return from Patagonia

Анды в Патагонии. Фото: Станислав Берёзкин

In mid-October, most of the territory of Russia enters the pre-winter period: fallen leaves rustle underfoot, cold, prolonged rains fall, nights become frosty. Meanwhile, spring is coming into its own in South America with increasing confidence, and the participants of the round-the-world expedition of the Tomsk Branch of the Russian Geographical Society are preparing to go to sea. The trimaran’s crew will have to travel south to Cape Horn. The wintering in Argentina turned out to be intense: the crew strengthened the ship's structure before a difficult voyage and friendship with the local population as part of the "people's diplomacy" mission, collected materials for a documentary and a new "Lesson from the Ocean", which will take place in November. To do this, Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin, as well as the head of the coastal headquarters of the circumnavigation Yulia Kalyuzhnaya, made an overland trip to the southern borders of the continent – to Patagonia.

The members of the expedition “Following the paths of Russian explorers” shared their impressions of the trip with readers of the website of the Russian Geographical Society.

“That's the end of our voyage to the south of Argentina. It makes you ask yourself, ‘How do we describe what we saw in one word?’ And the answer is simple – the wind. I have seen and felt the wind many times. There is the wind of the Arctic, the wind of the Pacific Ocean, the wind of the Atlantic. There is mountain wind – of the Sayan Mountains, the Kuznetsk Mountain Range, the Altai Mountains. There is the wind of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. There is the Canary Islands wind and Cape Verde wind. There is the coastal Brazilian trade wind and the ‘sudestada’... There are also many different air currents that I have encountered personally. But I've never felt a wind like this in Patagonia. This is the ‘wind of the 40th parallel’ – cold, exhausting, and inexorable. The wind that has been blowing for thousands of years without ceasing. And you just have to put up with it, get a lungful of it and... I don't know yet what next. In November we will meet it at sea, and then we will see!” Stanislav Berezkin confessed.


На трассе Ruta 40/ Фото: Станислав Берёзкин

The Russians went to Patagonia from the Argentine city of Mendoza along the longest and most picturesque road in Argentina – "Ruta Cuarenta" (“Ruta 40”). Along the way, they were met with beautiful landscapes, interesting discoveries, and unexpected adventures.

“The navigator stubbornly led us to Route 51. I shut up my inner voice, succumbed to the navigator, and instead of 51 we ran into the Chilean border. Straight ahead – Chile; to the left – a dead end; behind us – 30km of going back and 140km of earth road. But it was worth it. After two hours of shaking, an absolutely magical view opened from the Cape Virgenes Lighthouse. And the very same wind of the southern border of the ‘roaring forties’, already warm, spring-like, but so strong that you can lie down on it. The wind that tangles scarves, hair, and speech. The soft sunset sunlight, the turquoise Atlantic, and the edge of the earth a couple of miles to the south – an absolutely magical feeling," Berezkin admitted.

It was Cape Virgenes that the famous navigator Ferdinand Magellan reached on October 21, 1520, before discovering one of the longest straits of our planet, which later received his name. The lighthouse on “cape of virgins”, as the name Cabo Virgenes translates from Spanish, was built in 1904. This is the extreme southeastern point of continental Argentina. From here, the harsh and gloomy Strait of Magellan, which for a long time remained the only way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, goes to the west.


Маяк на мысе Вирхенес. Фото: Станислав Берёзкин

The mountain ranges of the Andes and the blue ice of one of the most beautiful glaciers on earth, Perito Moreno, made an indelible impression on the RGS’s circumnavigators. The Perito Moreno Glacier originates in the mountains on the Chilean-Argentine border and moves towards Lago Argentino at a speed of about 600m per year. About once every four years, the ice tongue slides into the lake waters and creates a natural dam dividing the reservoir into two parts. In the drain-free half, the level can rise by 30m and create monstrous pressure on the bridge. Sooner or later, the water breaks the barrier and breaks free, destroying the ice vice.

“An incredible sight, splendor! There is a natural power in everything. For me, as a geographer, such concepts as the age of the glacier are important. It is believed that the Perito Moreno is more than 30,000 years old; and it is important that the glacier maintains a balance, despite the massive melting of glaciers around the world,” said Yulia Kalyuzhnaya.


Ледник Перито-Морено. Фото: Станислав Берёзкин

The members of the RGS’s expedition also visited the Tombo Reserve, home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins; and the Valdez Peninsula, off the coast of which there are many whales and sea lions. They saw the wintering place of Magellan – Port St. Julian. A replica of his carrack “Victoria” is moored there at the pier.

“A lot of impressions, a lot of shooting videos and taking photos. The pampas, glaciers, the Andes, amazing animals Magellanic penguins, guanacos, whales, elephant seals, and sea lions. Places associated with Magellan's great journey, meetings with interesting people. Steppe, ocean, the Strait of Magellan. The Perito Moreno Glacier is a real wonder! The Andes are a wonder!” Evgeny Kovalevsky confessed.


Равнины и горы Патагонии. Фото: Станислав Берёзкин

The circumnavigation’s crew returned from Patagonia on the evening of October 17. There are many important events ahead. They include the end the trimaran’s preparations for going to sea, the opening of an exhibition of photographs, and participation in the international educational campaign of the RGS the Geographical Dictation.

“On October 30, we are planning a hat-trick together with the Tomsk Branch of the Russian Geographical Society and the Russian House in Buenos Aires. The opening of the Stanislav Berezkin’s photo exhibition, the Geographical Dictation for the Argentines, and the departure of the trimaran to the south will take place on the territory of San Fernando Club," Evgeny Kovalevsky shared his plans.

On July 1, 2021, Siberian travelers Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin set off along the route of the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century: Ivan Kruzenshtern’s (1803-1806), Yuri Lisyansky’s (1803-1806), Otto Kotzebue’s (1815-1818, 1823-1826), Vasily Golovnin’s (1817-1819), Fedor Litke’s (1826-1829), Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev’s (1819-1921). The international project of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society "Following the paths of Russian explorers" is dedicated to the 250th birthday anniversary of Krusenstern and the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors. These events for a long time determined Russia's leadership in the development of the oceans and the discovery of new lands. You can learn more about the project and provide all possible assistance in its implementation on the website of the expedition.

Alexander Zhirnov