Robinson Crusoe Island Recovery Project (RCIRP)
On February the 27th of 2010, at 3:34 AM, an 8.8º Richter scale earthquake hit the central zone of Chile. Because of the magnitude of this movement, several tsunami waves where generated and impacted with great intensity approximately 550 kilometres of the continental coast of the country, from San Antonio (33º35’S, 71º37’W) to Tirúa (38º20’S; 73º29’W), affecting also the Juan Fernandez Archipelago (33º37’S; 78º50’W), located 645 kilometres off the coast in the Pacific Ocean, creating a devastating tsunami, impacting the town of San Juan Bautista, the only inhabited place of this group of islands,
San Juan Bautista, located in Cumberland Bay, got hit by different series of swells that took everything that was on the lower range of the town, letting behind a total of 16 deaths, 48 families affected and a huge impact in the main economic industries of the Island, like the Lobster Artisan Fishing, and Nature Tourism. The ocean took everything that was underneath 20 meters of altitude of the shore, in an area understood between 3 kilometres wide and 300 meters large.
Between the material losses, there is the School, Town Hall, Fishermen Community Centre and Operational Infrastructures, Museum and Archipelago’s Library, Cemetery, Gymnasium and Sports Centre, Diving Schools, Restaurants, Guest Houses and Hotels, and other tourism infrastructure like the National Park’s visitors centre.
After what happened, there have being several kinds of aid to help the reconstruction of the school, Town Hall and houses for the families that where affected by this natural disaster. The aim of this construction is to orient them into sustainable type and eco/friendly homes, with the use of solar panels, wind energy and gray waters recycling systems.
Before the Tsunami, the Juan Fernandez Archipelago was felt to be a side from the reality of the country; it was mainly known because of the lobsters that arrived to the continents tables, and considered just another National Park like many others of the national territory and part of the program Sendero de Chile (Trans-Chilean Trail) that focuses on tourism promotion. After 5 years of inaugurated the program, there was no sign of any construction or ideal touristic infrastructure that could make it operable.
Being Biosphere Reserve declared by the UNESCO in 1977, this group of islands has been in the eyes of renamed botanists and biologists of the world, because of its unique particularities of Flora and Fauna. Having more than 73% of endemism (species found only in this place and no where else in the world), between them mammals like the Fine Double Fur seal (Arctocephalus philippi), Juan Fernandez Giant Hummingbird (Sephanoides fernandensis) and different species of plants, most of them ferns and some unique trees as well.
Being in 2010 actually the International Year of Biodiversity, the RCIRP propose the creation of an Environmental Education and Tourism Information Centre, with the aim of promoting in a better way the natural resources and the importance of the archipelago, as well as being an entrance door to the island, where visitors can have access to the information necessary to spend the days and what is able to do and mainly what are the particularities of the place.
Why all this? Because of the little environmental education and touristic infrastructure at the place, and actually looking to a worst scenery after what happened with the tsunami. Many of the visitors, as well as local people, don’t know really the rich fullness of the place, and neither how to interpret it, and there is neither a determined point of information where to go and see what is able to do and how.
Actually, like runners of this project, we are in contact with the administrative departments of the town, the design will be developed by students of the Universidad de Valparaiso with the help of the RCIRP. We trust that our project will benefit a new development of the island, in environmental matters and better quality of services, though it will support the local people, fishermen, tour operators, Restaurants, hotels, tourism agencies and others.
Our idea is to create a centre a 100% sustainable building, with the use of renewable energies, and be very careful in the way information is given and its functioning system, and as well to give a tool of progress for the place and a new source of work for the local inhabitants.
Once implemented and functioning, The idea is to give this centre to the local community, eventually in charge of the tourism department of the Towns Administration organism, in partnership with the National Park authority.
Tourism and services recovery was set up like a second priority for the help that has arrived to the island, that’s why now, with the project, we are trying not to lose motivation and create new and well developed initiatives to try and make them in the best way possible. It is because of that that we decided to present a photographic exhibition in 3 different cities of Europe, hoping to raise funds for the construction of the place showing the magnificent nature of this place.
The photo exhibition will show the work taken between 2006 and 2008 by Diego Fontecilla Correa, Eco-tourism Manager from Universidad Andres Bello of Chile and Photographer that developed his thesis degree at the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, creating a very close connection with the inhabitants and love for the islands natural essence. It was like that he decided to organize and realise the RCIRP, to help the reactivation of the island in the best and quickest way possible.
June 4-5-6 Maison des Associations de Solidarité, Paris, France www.mas-paris.fr
June 17 The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England
June 24-25-26 Restaurante La Moneda, Lisbon, Portugal www.lamoneda.pt
We hope to get as much support as possible to be able to realise this project in the best way possible.
Thank you very much
Diego Fontecilla Correa