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Jeff Johnson paddles back out after catching his first wave below Cerro Corcovado. Patagonia, Chile. Photo: Danny Moder

Reñihué

Jeff Johnson
Holiday 2009

Onboard the Cahuelmo, the expanse of Golfo de Ancud has tightened as we enter the narrow fjord of Reñihué. The sky is abnormally cloudless for these parts, the water calm, and the air eerily still. The muffled gurgling sound of the Cahuelmo’s engine permeates the silence. The Tompkins’ residence is only accessible by boat or small plane. Located at the base of the remote fjord, it is surrounded by lush jungle and flanked by white-capped mountains.

After dinner one evening, the Tompkins invite us over to their home to watch a few DVDs about the parks they are creating. Before the viewing, Doug talks candidly about his efforts and what has inspired him. He begins his speech with the word “love.” The conclusions he draws from the word and its origins make perfect sense to me, but I can’t help but be thrown off by this. It sounds so sensitive and esoteric coming from this seemingly tough and stoic revolutionary. “Love,” he says, “is what it all boils down to.”

In a section of one DVD titled “Sharing the Planet with Others,” Doug quotes naturalist Lois Crisler: “Species of every ecosystem around the world are going extinct, not by the hour, but by the minute.” In a stern and haunting voice, Doug makes clear which animals are near extinction.

About the Author
Chris Malloy chose his longtime surfing and climbing friend Jeff Johnson as the most qualified protagonist to follow in Yvon and Doug’s footsteps. Jeff brought along both camera and notebook to chronicle the entire 180° South journey, from a transoceanic crossing to a couple of memorable, near-disastrous climbs, as well as some long rainy-day talks over bowls of maté.