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  Field Notes From
Going to Extremes



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From Author/Photographer

Carsten Peter





In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Luc-Henri Fage
 

image: stones
Deep in Patagonia

Field Notes From Author/Photographer
Carsten Peter
Man is nearly everywhere, so it’s very rare to find unexplored habitat. It was a great experience.
On one particular day it rained so much that we nearly gave up on being able to explore. Dark clouds filled the sky. My colleague Richard Maire pulled me aside to show me a wonderfully eroded rock formation, and at that moment the dark dramatic sky opened a hole in the horizon. There, in the rain-washed light, shone the most incredibly brilliant double rainbow. It was like none I’ve ever seen. It was very dramatic, a perfect highlight of this strange environment.
So much went wrong on this expedition. I had to pay the airline about $1,000 extra to transport my caving gear and special flash equipment. But when I arrived in Chile, my luggage was missing. I was shocked! How could I do decent cave coverage without flash equipment? I had constructed trigger units for old-fashioned flashbulbs. The bulbs arrived, but the units didn’t.
Our departure was then delayed so our boat could be inspected, so I used the time to inquire about my lost equipment and to find an alternative for lighting the caves. After nearly a week, the airline notified me that they had found my luggage. But when I got to the airport, I didn’t recognize it. All they gave me was a small plastic bag with my nametag attached. Inside was a little smashed container that looked like it had been run over by a 747. Most of my gear had completely disappeared.
I improvised and borrowed bits and pieces of equipment to do the coverage. On top of that, our boat nearly sank, I broke my foot, it rained all the time, and—in the end—the airline offered a shamefully low compensation for my damages.
Madre de Dios has very contrasting terrain that can cause optical illusions. When the marble plateau is wet and covered with a skim of water, it looks exactly like a glacier. I had to touch it sometimes to make sure it wasn’t ice. It was very bizarre. Even though it was solid rock, the surface was so perfect that I was afraid my shoes would scratch it.


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