Most of the people came from Puerto Natales or Punta Arenas – two of Chile’s farthest south cities – but there were also tourists who happened to be passing through at the time of the event. No matter where they were from, they all enjoyed the spectacular cinema screening, which marked the inauguration of the 10th Annual Patagonia Cinema Exhibition.
The Milodón Natural Monument, sunk deep in what President Piñera once called “the bowels of the earth,” is a series of caves in southern Chile where the remains of a giant herbivorous mammal were found; probably those of a Mylodon.
When discovered in 1896, the cave contained the skin and bones of an animal that has since fascinated Chilean and foreign scientists. They performed research to see whether the animal, which became extinct in the late Pleistocene period, may have actually coexisted with human beings.
The British writer Bruce Chatwin, whose famed book ‘In Patagonia’ featured tales of the remains of a giant herbivore found in a cave in Patagonia, is thought to have visited the cave before he wrote his novel.
Situated 24km to the north of Puerto Natales, and 3km from the waters of the Eberhard Fjord, the monument is formed of three caves and a rocky outcrop named Silla del Diablo (Devil’s Seat). The main cave where the screening was held is 30 meters high, 80 meters across and 200 meters deep.
More than a simple drive-in cinema screening, the lucky tourists and locals were in fact treading on the hallowed ground of land protected by CONAF (Chile’s National Forestry Commission). Great efforts were made to ensure no damage was done to the site by the large number of people visiting.
One of the caretakers of the natural wonder, during a speech before the event, said “thanks to the efforts made to mitigate impacts on the area, we were able to contain the people to a marked out area, keeping them on the slopes of the cave and preventing soil erosion.”
In reaction to the large number of people, CONAF arranged a series of special actions, including deploying 7 park rangers, 8 policemen and 2 volunteers. In general, the organizers present commented on the heightened awareness of the public about the place they were in.