El Calafate History and Legends


El Calafate is 316 km. far from Río Gallegos, and takes its name from the shrub Calafate, indigenous from Patagonia. Its fruit is an appetizing berry used for the elaboration of jam. According to the tradition, whoever eats calafate will return for more. But reality tells that those who come to El Calafate do not want to leave.

In October 1867, an expedition, promoted, organized and financed by Captain Luis Piedrabuena went up to the birth of river Santa Cruz under the orders of Guillermo Gardiner and his crew, who sailed along the southern margin of the river, what took them 33 days to go, and 16 to return. Along the way they crossed the river Bote, arrived near the present location of El Calafate, found the brook coming from the mountains and saw an island -Isla Solitaria-. They passed by Chorrillo Malo, continued to Lago Roca, while performing partial recconnossaince, and considered the possibility to find a pass to the Pacific. This expedition was important because they discovered the lake called by Moreno Lago Argentino, and set the conditions to facilitate future expeditions, by describing water, plants, pastures and animals.

In November 1873, second lieutenant Valentín Feilberg was appointed to explore the origin of river Santa Cruz. They marched on rowboats during 22 days, but the information they had was not correct, and thought they were rowing along the river Viedma. They hoisted the flag in a paddle and left a bottle with a document to prove their deed.

By the end of 1876 and beginning of 1877, Carlos Moyano and Francisco Moreno sailed and explored the river Santa Cruz from Isla Pavón. On 15th February 1877 Moreno called Lago Argentino the lake where that river originates. They continued to the north through river La Leona up to Lago Viedma. They reached river Chalía, lake San Martín and lake Tar, the name given by the aborigines. The information about Lago Argentino was known due to this expedition. The point where the north and the south branch split was called Punta Bandera and the Argentine flag was placed. They also baptized the lakes Frías Buenos Aires Moyano, Stokes, Fitz Roy and Punta Avellaneda.

In 1789, the glaciar Moreno was seen for the first time by Captain Juan Tomás Rogers, from the Chilean army and given the name of the director of the Oficina Hidrográfica de la Marina de Chile “Francisco Gormaz”, since it was that office which sponsored the expedition.

Years later, Hauthal, who was working for the Comisión Argentina de Límites called it Bismark in honor of the Prussian chancellor.

In 1887 Agustín del Castillo was in Lago Argentino and at the foot of mount Paine. In 1892, Alcides Mercerat, a French scientist, went on an excursion alon the river Santa Cruz up to Lago Argentino and and Cordillera del Paine, where he observed geology and gathered archaeological evidence.

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