Masato Ishiguro
Professor emeritus at NAOJ
Former ALMA-J Project Director
Former JAO international staff
(at the time of writing)

June 2008
・ALMA Construction Site -1-
July 2008
・Scenery around the ALMA Office
August 2008
・ALMA Construction Site -2-
September 2008
・Trees and Flowers in Santiago -1-
October 2008
・Trees and Flowers in Santiago -2-
November 2008
・Clouds Seen in the Atacama Desert
December 2008
・The Dog that Trots about Finds…
January 2009
・ALMA Construction Site -3-
February 2009
・Memories of the Atacama Desert
March 2009
・Chile from North to South


Chile from North to South

This is the last issue of Atacama Report. In previous reports, I have written mainly about ALMA construction sites and town of Santiago, but this time I will write about landscape of Chile from north to south extending over 4000 km long.
The Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) is a tourist spot located around 30-minute drive west from San Pedro de Atacama, which is a town closest to the construction site. The valley is famous for its crater-like geography formed by folding and erosion (Photo 1). In earlier years, rock salt was quarried around here, but such practice does not exist any more. Walking around here, we can still find rock salt crystals. The beautiful surface of crystal is melted away in Japan where the humidity is high. Driving south from this town, we arrive at the Atacama Salt Lake (Salar de Atacama). Most part of the lake is covered by dry rock salt but spotted with small water-rich lakes, which are known as habitats of flamingos and also as a place where we can enjoy body floating experience same as in the Dead Sea.

Moon Valley
Photo 1: “Moon Valley” in the Atacama Desert

Going 1100 km southward from San Pedro de Atacama, we arrive at Santiago, the capital of Chile with a population of about 6 millions. Going 100 km westward from Santiago, we reach the Pacific coast. The biggest port town along the coastal area, Valparaiso is the political center of Chile where the parliament is located. I feel more historic ambience in this city than Santiago. Valparaiso is a very attractive town with colorful houses on a cliff by the sea, inclined elevators called “ascensor,” narrow and steep stairways, and houses with modern paintings on their walls (Photo 2). Since the temperature of the coastal area is lower than that of Santiago (located at a higher altitude) due to a clod current, the town of Valparaiso is popular as a good summer resort.

Town of Valparaiso
Photo 2: Town of Valparaiso, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site

Going about 800 km southward from Santiago, we pass the south latitude 40 degrees and arrive at the region called “Patagonia” containing areas of southern Chile and Argentina across the Andes Mountains. In this region, we can enjoy landscape of steep mountains and great glaciers, as well as beautiful lakes with drifting glaciers. Around the south latitude 50 degrees (2000 km south from Santiago), there is a well-known tourist site, Torres del Paine National Park. The park is famous for their craggy mountains of Torres del Paine (Photo 3) and Gray Glacier which is one of the most popular glaciers. Walking around here, I sometimes see a “guanaco (an animal of the Camelidae family, similar to llama and vicugna)” and fox. This is one of my pleasures while walking. Crossing over the Andes Mountains from Chile, we enter another famous tourist site, Los Glaciares National park in Argentina. The Perito Moreno Glacier is the most representative glacier among many in the park, and we can enjoy here trekking on the glacier and observation of big ice blocks melting and falling on the water surface with a roar and big waves. What is surprising about the glacier is its blueness. Even under a gray sky on a cloudy day, the glacier maintains its blue color and looks very mysterious (Photo 4).

mountains of the Torres del Paine
Photo 3: Steep craggy mountains of the Torres del Paine

 The Perito Moreno Glacier
Photo 4: The Perito Moreno Glacier (Patagonia on the Argentina side)

As we have seen, Chile is a country richly endowed with nature providing a variety of topographical features from northern deserts to southern glacier regions.

The article above is an excerpt from our in-house magazine NAOJ NEWS. This article is reproduced and posted on this site with the approval of the copyright owner NAOJ. The contents of this site may not be reproduced, transmitted, published, distributed, or translated without permission from NAOJ.

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