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Centro Interactivo de Espeleología y el Medio Subterráneo

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Caving and World Heritage

The southernmost karst island on the planet


Perhaps one of the most unexpected gifts envolving caving is to reveal and bring to our universe a set of landscapes and textures that escape our everyday experience. They invite us to venture into the territory and explore.
A series of images, modulating the different moments of the
formation of a territory, now appear before us in a plain and explicit way, increasing the background and the knowledge we have about our landscape, natural and cultural heritage.

Future World Heritage Site

Protected National Asset Madre de Dios Archipelago


Outstanding Universal Value

UNESCO criteria for application


Cultural criterion

"To be a unique or, at least, exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared."

Thanks to its caves, Madre de Dios presents an exceptional testimony of the Kawesqar, the "Sea Nomads": several caves with wall paintings (the Pacific cave in Madre de Dios), burials staggered for several millennia, evidence of land routes (shelters), vestiges of various types in caves (hut with whale bones), etc.


Natural criterion

"To be outstanding examples representing major stages of the earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the developement of landforms, or significant geomorphological or physiographic features."

The Madre de Dios archipelago shows a remarkable geological evolution since the end of the Paleozoic. The archipelago shows the emerged zone of an ancient sedimentary accretionary prism formed off the paleocontinent Gondwana. This ancient volcanic archipelago with its Permian-Carboniferous coral atolls was imprisoned within the volcano-sedimentary sediments. In the Secondary Era (Cretaceous), the subduction favored the formation of the great Patagonian batholith (granite) and the partial metamorphization of the Madre de Dios limestones. The karstification would have started in the Tertiary Era . Then, the Quaternary glaciations and the action of the sea (glacio-eustatic transgression / regression) have shaped the present-day archipelago.


Natural criterion

"To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance".

The Madre de Dios archipelago presents the most aesthetic and spectacular open karst landscapes known. The expression "marble glaciers" arose after the exploration of the Diego de Almagro island in 1997, which has the same characteristics as Madre de Dios. This uniqueness is related to geographic, geological and climatic factors: mountainous islands of limestone subjected to the climate of the Furious 50s with the confluence of torrential rains (8 to 10 m/year) and very strong winds. This results in the creation of the most extraordinary and spectacular dissolution sculptures (lapiaz) on the planet, as well as unique forms such as "rock comets". There is also  records of surface of dissolution in limestone demonstrated by experimentation and morphological evidence (150-170 cm in 10,000 to 12,000 years).


Natural criterion

"To be outstanding  examples representing significant on-going ecological processes and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals."

These exceptional natural parameters have allowed the development of ecological and biological processes after the melting of the glaciers 12,000 years ago. These processes of ecological adaptation to an extreme island environment are manifested in a unique Magellanic forest on limestone (specific ecological niches), in various peat bogs (especially on slopes) and in a remarkable biological resetting in different places (caves, lakes, rivers, forests, cliffs, beaches, etc.).



Interactive Centre for Speleology and the Underground Environment

CIEMS proposes to bring this wild landscape of the Patagonian fjords to the mainland for the enjoyment of the community.


Puerto Bories, Puerto Natales
Commune of Natales

Ultima Esperanza Province
Region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica

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The CIEMS is part of the work being carried out by the Centre Terre association and the Asociación Espeleológica de Patagonia related to the speleological-scientific exploration in the Madre de Dios archipelago. The cooperation agreement signed in 2016 and updated in 2019 between both organizations and the Chilean Ministry of National Assets aims to lead the nomination of this archipelago as a World Heritage Site. One of the tools foreseen in the agreement is the creation of a speleological centre that will allow "bringing the island to the continent" and making this extraordinary place due to its natural and cultural value available to the public. This main objective relates to other projects in the field of education, training, sport and culture bringing together different communities in the region, which will have in the CIEMS a safe and welcoming place to carry out their activities.

South American benchmark

Architecture at the service of Cultural and Natural Heritage

The CIEMS building is an infrastructure that will contribute to cultural, educational, sporting and scientific enrichment of the city and the region. It is designed as a building composed of three blocks that can function autonomously or interconnected according to the needs and uses in the different months of the year. The use of renewable energy will be relevant to make each block efficient with the minimum use of conventional energy. It will be built in stages and each stage will refer to a complete block or part of it.

Training tower or Block #1

It is the main element of the complex and is positioned on the site as lighthouse that orients in the territory and relates the project a largen scale with its geographical and cultural context. With a height of 25 meters, considering high standard measures of world competition, a  viewpoint is projected on its upper level.

It is intended for training and training sessions in a wide variety of activities involving rope access.

It is inspired by similar structures located in France and the United States, which stand out for thei versatility of all the elements of which they are composed.

The CIEMS Tower will house an Artificial Caving Structure similar to the one that exists in Vercors, France.

Dissemination area or Block #2

This block mainly contains the museum exhibition, virtual reality and immersive rooms, a documentary center and a concert hall.

It includes a main open space for the exhibition of the karst environment of the Madre de Dios archipelago and a permanent exhibition, as well as other non-permanent exhibitions.


- Auditorium and projection room

- Virtual reality cabins

- Immersion and virtual reality room

- Coffee-library

- Documentation center

- Multipurpose space for co-working

- Ticket office and store

Reception area or Block #3

It is aimed at hosting scientists,cavers and, in general, to provide a logistical base for scientific expeditions.

It will consist of rooms, kitchen, laboratory, leisure and meeting room.

Architectural design

Some inspiring background


V-Axess de Petzl,

Crolles, France

Spéléo'Tour José Mulot

Méaudre, France

MAC - Sala inmersiva

Ullastret, Catalonia

The CIEMS is meant to be in a high standard infrastructure that will contribute to regional policies for its high social, cultural and economic impact, contributing to diversify the variety of public spaces. This project will also allow the town of Puerto Natales to be part of the network of scientific development spaces  in the Magallanes region, joining the International Antarctic Center (Punta Arenas), Cape Horn Subantarctic Center (Port Williams) and the Jetarkte Ethnoscientific Center (Puerto Eden). In fact, the strong bond between Center Terre and the Asociación Espeleológica de Patagonia with the community of Puerto Edén will allow the CIEMS to become, not only the gateway to the Patagonian karst, but explicitly mainland branch of Puerto Edén.

Technical data

Public land for social purposes and/or community development

Land: state-owned property Lot Pbr-4 Puerto Bories, Commune of Natales.

Surface: 18,000 square meters.

Plan No. 12401-2653-CR

Cadastral I.D. No. 1005432

Short-term free concession for five years through RES. EXEMPT Nº E-36132 - Seremiay of National Assets of the Magallanes Region and Chilean Antarctica.

Concession start date: November 1, 2023

Project phase: Preliminary Architectural Project

Architects: Danilo Lagos, Carolina Hermosilla

Requesting entity: Patagonia Speleological Association

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Images of the Madre de Dios Archipelago are courtesy of Center Terre

"Everything is yet to be done and everything is possible"
Miquel Martí i Pol

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In this phase, we are looking for public and private alliances to carry out this important project, which aspires to become a world reference in the protection and care of the territory, in the creation of multidisciplinary skills and awareness to carry it out, and in a vector of change for the future generations.

You can contact us for further details at or by leaving your details below:

Thanks for your interest!

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