A Maiden Voyage on a Threatened River
The Rio Santa Cruz crawls 325km across the Patagonian steppe, depositing an enormous volume of glacier water into the Atlantic Ocean. Three generations of TRAK Pilots are paddling this mighty river, beginning at its source: Argentina’s great alpine lakes of Viedma and Argentino in the Andes Mountains.
The TRAK 2.0 gets its maiden voyage in one of the most remote regions of the Americas.
Steeped in History
These TRAK Pilots are the latest in a long line of prestigious explorers to embark on this oft-overlooked region of Patagonia. The area was discovered by Magellan 499 years ago on his first voyage to the Southern terminus of America. Magellan had entered into the mouth of a large river on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and named the river “Santa Cruz”. The expedition also encountered native people in the region who, to the medieval Spanish, possessed large feet (“patagones”), who became the namesakes for the entire region.
The river would not be officially explored until centuries later, when Darwin and Fitzroy visited the area. The men of the Beagle went up the river for weeks in hopes of finding its source. They pushed large boats filled with their supplies in an arduous trek westward and upward, desperately hoping to reach the Andes mountains – this expedition, however, did not succeed. The men of the Beagle were forced to turn back just as the Andes were rising in the western sky.
Ecological Oasis & A Threatened World of Fossils
It would be 40 years until the expeditions of Francisco Moreno that the source of the river was reached and a world rich in fossils uncovered. It was in the “Barrancas” lining the river where he discovered multiple fossils belonging to undiscovered and long-extinct mammals, dating from a time when South America was home to giant armadillos, giant sloths, and the aptly-named “terrorbird” which stood 240cm in height and weighed 136kg.
The Santa Cruz remains incredibly fossil rich, delicately preserved within a mostly-untouched ecosystem. This delicate river is now threatened, however, by hydroelectric development from the Argentine government. A vocal grassroots movement has sprung up in opposition to the development of the region, passionately defending the existing ecosystem and the traces of life from as far back as 16 million years ago. It is the vulnerable status of this river that compelled TRAK Pilots Ken Storm, Zack Kruzins, and Cole Slusarenko to trace the footsteps of Darwin and Fitzroy, collect the stories of its people, and explore along the Santa Cruz – perhaps for the last time.
Maiden Voyage of the TRAK 2.0
Unimpeded by the logistical challenges of taking hard shell kayaks to one of the most distant corners of the Americas, our three TRAK Pilots were able to bring the new TRAK 2.0 as the vehicle for this expedition. With years of experience in taking TRAKs to the ends of the earth, these Pilots built their kayaks on the shores of Lago Viedma and make a windy crossing to the beginning of the Santa Cruz. The TRAK 2.0 is an ideal craft for such a remote journey, providing a steady yet-nimble paddling experience that will serve them from the windy Andean crossing, down the entire length of the Santa Cruz, and into the Atlantic Ocean. The TRAK 2.0 has been designed specifically for these expeditions, with attention paid to maximizing tourability in a 16-ft sea kayak without sacrificing performance and versatility.
The TRAK 2.0 has been out on several test expeditions during its young life, but this is the first true maiden voyage of final production models in a truly distant region with the training wheels taken off.
Documenting the Stories of the Land and the People
More than a just a vanity cruise, the Pilot team will be recording on-site interviews with locals fighting to save the Santa Cruz in an effort to spread their message of conservation and environmental responsibility, and explore one of the major issues of our time. The Pilot team will also be documenting their natural surroundings at each point of the journey to the tidal flats of the Atlantic Ocean, while also putting their kayaks to the test and reflecting on their journeys as Pilots that brought them there.
Check the TRAK social media for updates from the field from these adventurers.
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