One pioneering family’s dream come true

In 1910, after an unsuccessful attempt at settling down in the “El Calafate” region, Joseph Percival, along with this wife Jessie and two children, Herbert and Cristina, settled in Avellaneda Peninsula, breeding sheep in Herminita Penninsula. In 1913 Joseph Percival decided to move to the Caterina River Valley, where the “Estancia Masters” (which would later be renamed “Estancia Cristina”) finally begins to become a reality. At first the family lived in tented shelters, until they built their first stone and mud housing. They raised gardens and vegetable patches, and planted poplars to shelter them from the fierce Patagonian winds… in this remote corner of the world, one family’s dream was coming true.

Percival Masters

Jessie Masters

Herbert Masters

Cristina Masters

In 1916 Joseph Percival’s son Herbert was sent to Buenos Aires to continue with his studies, while Jessie’s brother Fred Wilding arrived to help continue to raise the Estancia. Through hard work, in these years the Estancia would grow to cover 22,000 hectares including Herminita Penninsula, along with 12,000 sheep, 30 cattle, 50 horses, two motorboats and two motor vehicles to transfer wool. At this time, in order to overcome the isolation, the family installed a radio station that allowed them to communicate with the outside world. Like her father, Cristina was an active and spirited girl. She helped her father and his hired hands with the daily tasks on the ranch such as animal herding and slaughtering. On one occasion, during “a day of heavy rain, she returned to the house with a bad cold. That did not matter to her and she went out again”. She never recovered, and in 1924, she died of pneumonia at 20 years of age. Since then the Estancia Masters was renamed Estancia Cristina, in memory of the Master’s only daughter. In 1966, Janet Herminsgton, a young Scottish widow whose family also resided in Patagonia, was hired to assist Jessie with her daily tasks at the Estancia. Janet quickly adapted and fell in love with the valley on which the Estancia stood. Unfortunately, during the 1970s the original pioneers of this Patagonian adventure, Jessie and Joseph Percival, died leaving Herbert and Janet in charge. However, the Estancia´s legacy lived on; its doors remained open for those explorers and scientists who dared venture to this breathtaking but rugged frontier, such as Father De Agostini y Eric Shipton. Over the years Herbert and Janet came to enjoy each other’s company and warmth, and when Herbert was 80 years old, he and Janet were married, to ensure that she could continue the family legacy. Herbert died two years later. Janet, now in charge, signed an agreement with the National Parks Service to extinguish the livestock business and use the Estancia exclusively for tourism. Janet died in 1997 and since then the company she founded has continued the family legacy at the Estancia, now focused on tourism. Since then Estancia Cristina has shared with countless visitors and guests the story of this pioneering family who, over a century ago, through sheer grit and determination, built a small piece of paradise in a remote corner of the Argentine Patagonia.