What should the clothes be able to withstand on such an expedition? Durability is of course important as the untouched landscapes in Patagonia, located more than 24 hours by boat from the closest port, have a lot of sharp and rough surfaces. But most of all, the clothes have to protect the participants against the weather. And that’s not easy in a climate where the wind regularly reaches over 52 knots in a storm and can often reach hurricane strength with 97 knots. During the expedition, they often experience over 80 mm of rain a day, and approximately 700 mm rain in one month. The expedition area receives an average annual rainfall of 8000 mm.
The expedition is also about teamwork; not only for the work itself, but also when it comes to protecting each other in harsh surroundings. Building a base camp is hard work, partly because the materials have to be carried from the boats up to the campsite. »In order to alleviate some of the heavy lifting and the hard work days for the expeditioners, we decided to transport the heavy building materials up the mountain by using a small-scale cableway that I had built in advance. But, during the transport, we always had to pay attention to the wind, which could bring sudden gusts up to 120 km/h.
The wind in Patagonia sets the agenda for the day. We noticed the power of the wind from day one. We had installed some very heady military tents to serve as shelters during the first weeks until the camp was ready, but already on the first night the wind had ripped them loose. After the next night, we found them blown a good distance away, and partially damaged. It was a good reminder of the wind’s power. We had to be very careful when handling and assembling the wood and polycarbonate building materials, and particularly the sharp metal plates, to ensure that they wouldn’t get caught in the wind. It takes strong teamwork and the great responsibility of caring for each other. Regardless of the strength of the wind, the human values of Madre de Dios are stronger than the storms.«
»My work during the expedition takes place outside in all hours of the day. In my day-to-day job, I work as a camera operator, leading a camera into sanitation pipelines to check their condition, and therefore I am used to working outside in all kinds of European weather. But the weather during the expedition is far more extreme.
The weather has huge consequences for us. One time I was with four others on the way to an advanced camp, four days away from the main camp. When we arrived, we believed that the best place to set up camp was in a hole so the wind would pass over our tents. Unfortunately, it rained and hailed the whole night. The hail blocked our drainage holes and the water level started to rise. There was around 5 cm of water around me in the tent and my blanket soaked it like a sponge! It was a horrible night and early in the morning I asked to go back to the base camp. But when I awoke to the infinitely amazing limestone of Madre de Dios I immediately changed my mind. I didn’t mind sleeping with my wet blanket again – experiencing this is worth the pain!«
In 2017, MASCOT provided clothing for the team of cave researchers, geologists and biologists on their two-month long expedition, far from the nearest civilisation, in Patagonia, Chile. A large number of the researchers are also craftsmen in their day-to-day jobs. In January 2019, the group of about 50 people will head out again and once again, they’ll be testing MASCOT workwear under particular demanding conditions.