Spanish – a Multi-colored Language

In Chile, the primary language you will hear is Spanish. But not all Spanish sounds the same.  I love this video giving a description of many of the Spanish accents we can hear in the world.  She doesn’t even try to speak Spanish as the Chileans do, I think because it is just too hard.  My daughter-in-law is from Chile and I remember the first time I listened to her speak with her cousin.  The words came FAST, like a river rapid pouring over a waterfall.

 

Side note:   I went to Chile once and was amazed at how relaxing it is to move in a country where I couldn’t understand the signs or the conversations around me.  I would have thought it would have made me anxious and perhaps it would have if I hadn’t been someone who could guide me.  We don’t realize how hard our brains are working to take in the information around us all day.  When I couldn’t understand the language my brain tuned out the signs, the advertisements, and the conversations.  It allowed me to focus on the colors, the expressions, and the architecture and geography of the world around me instead.

 

Chile – Along the Ring of Fire

The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe shaped area of our planet in the Pacific Basin where 90% of earthquakes occur and over 80% of the world’s volcanoes are located.  Chile has over 500 potentially active volcanoes in an area 1/13 the size of the USA which has less than two hundred.  Most of our volcanoes are located in Alaska but one of the most active volcanoes on earth is in Hawaii.

Volcanoes occur when hot magma, melted mantle from inside our planet, and gases  work their way up to the earth’s surface. When the magma spews onto the surface it is called lava. Volcanoes usually occur where earthquakes occur.  Earthquakes occur when sections (plates) of the earth move against other sections or plates. Imagine two decks of playing cards pushed together and as they meet some cards are pushed up and some are pushed down.  The plates of the earth meet and effect one another. This effect result in earthquakes. The Ring of Fire is named for the high level of effects created by the meeting of these tectonic plates.

I found this video of an eruption caught by people visiting a nearby volcano.  I liked this video because you get a chance to see the lovely area around the eruptions prior to the event.  It made me see what visiting this part of Chile would be like.

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Hydrothermal fields are areas where sea water that has entered the fissures or cracks of the earth becomes heated and then spews from the earth.  This can occur on land and in the bottom of the ocean, just as volcanoes can (watch this video of a volcano erupting at the bottom of the sea).  Chile has a major hydrothermal field high in the Andes mountains called the El Tatio.  This is a major tourist attraction. If we were sitting there at sunrise we would see the plumes of steam rising from the earth toward the sky forming smoky columns. This happens on a regular basis due to the accumulation of pressure followed by a release. Take a look at this video to get a look at this area of the Atacama Desert.

Volcanoes and earthquakes are examples of how our earth is always changing. The land is always moving. Mountains are forming. Some of the newest mountains are the tallest. Some of the older ones look much smaller than they were at one time. Hot Springs Mountain is part of the Ouachita Mountain Range, a very old mountain range.. Erosion over the years has made them much less commanding than they once were when they looked more like the Rocky Mountains. The Andes Mountains in Chile are HUGE and are fairly young, only 10 to 6 million years old. In comparison, the Ouachita mountains are 500 to 290 million years old.

Chile’s Window to the Heavens

Imagine lying back and looking up to a night-sky filled with more stars than you have ever seen before. You can do this in Chile.  The mountains blocking a significant amount of cloud coverage, the expanse of the Pacific ocean to the west, and the absence of light pollution make the Atacama Desert the perfect location for the study of our universe.

There are many observatories in Chile including the European Southern Observatory  (ESO).  Most of these are off limits to tourist but some do have hours of access.  Additional telescopes are added as the technology improves.  In fact, the ESO just began the construction of an Extremely Large Telescope, referred to in articles as E-ELT.  It will take at least 10 years to finish the construction and will house a telescope as big as a football field and will weight 5,000 tonnes.**  This telescope will produce pictures 15 times sharper than those sent from the Hubble Telescope (in space).

There is an organization representing an amateur and professional astronomers that is available to you on the internet called Slooh.  Their mission is to make the wonders of the Universe available to everyone. Some of the “shows” of astronomy events are free but a subscription is required for admittance to many more resources.  One of those options is the ability to remotely control a telescope.  You get the chance to reserve time on a telescope five times a month for just slightly less than five dollars a month.  I have a subscription but I have not yet taken advantage of the remote control.  I did note though that none of the available telescopes for my membership level are in Chile.  Take a look at this site and watch for upcoming events.  I have watched events on this before at the free level. I believe I watched the most recent Blood Moon.  There are different telescopes that provide views of the occurrence and professionals are on-line discussing the happenings and related material.

Some places on earth are just better for watching the skies.  Cities have too many lights to allow a good view of the sky.  This is called Light Pollution. Go to this site called DarkSiteFinder to see a map that shows the areas of the earth that have light pollution and those that have less.  How far would you have to travel to get to a place with low light pollution?

**(Interesting side note – The USA and Canada use 2,000 pounds as net weight for a ton and is called a “short ton”.  The Long Ton is used in the Imperial system (UK and other English speaking countries) and is equal to 2,240 pounds or 1016 kilograms.  Since the article I referenced for this fact was from the UK, I am to assume the 5,000 tonnes is equal to 11,200,000 (11 million and 200 thousand pounds).

Snow Comes to Chile’s Capital in Big Way

A statue of Virgin Mary overlooks Santiago from Cerro San Cristóbal on 7/17/17, as the largest snow fall since 2007 covered Chile’s capital.

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Elias, Damien and Bri, this should punctuate the fact that the Chile, a country in the Southern Hemisphere, the part of the earth below the equator, is in winter while we are in Summer.  As you enjoy days by the pool or beach, the youth of Santiago bundle in gloves and heavy coats to play in a snow that rarely comes to this city that sits below the Cordón de Chacabuco, a mountain chain belonging to the Andes.

Read this article to learn why the sun hits one hemisphere more directly in one season than the other and why that changes.  Hint – The earth’s tilt doesn’t change…..

Easter Island

Easter Island is a very remote island off the west coast of Chile.  It takes about 5 hours to fly from Santiago to Easter Island some 2,300 miles away.  Imagine traveling by plane over the ocean about the distance between our country’s east coast and west coast and landing on a piece of land only 63 square miles in size. That is only the size of some of our country’s larger cities.  People go to this island to see the giant statues made by island people many years ago.

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The nearly 900 statues on Easter Island are found all around the island.  The statues are called Moai and weigh over a hundred thousand pounds a piece. The mystery of how they were made, why they were made, and how they were moved to their locations have enchanted visitors for years. The people who lived on the island told others that the statues walked to where they now stand. If you will notice from the picture you received in your box, the statue is only partly visible.  The head was the only part above ground; the body buried.  Do you think the bodies were purposefully buried or do you think the land changed and the bodies were covered as a result?

There are many really interesting articles to be found about the early settlers and the culture that developed.  The island, people, and culture are called Rapi Nui, meaning naval of the earth.  I encourage you to take a look at these articles as they are very interesting.  Some of the questions the sites will answer for you:  How did the first people get to this island and what was the island like when they got there?  Why and how did they build these statues? How did they move the statues that are so very heavy?  Where are all the trees?  Click here for an article by NPR.  Check this site to learn about the bird man.  This video portrays the loss of trees to be due to overuse of the trees – deforestation but other sites have claimed that rats that snuck on the boats that came to the island were responsible. They claim that the rats ate the roots of the trees and this caused the demise of the forests.   What do you think?

The island was created by the eruption of volcanoes and the triangular shaped island is framed by 3 main volcanoes today.  It has been said that Easter Island was only part of the land that had been there and that the other part sank.  Imagine how it would feel to see part of the land sink beneath the sea, especially when you are so very far away from any other land!

There are a lot of fun things to do on the island but it does seem to be a more “laid back” place to visit.  Surfing is excellent. There are many caves  to explore on the island – LOTS of caves.  In fact, it has the largest volcanic cave system in all of Chile.  Read this to learn more about the caves.

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If we were on the island at the end of January and first week of February we could enjoy watching and participating in the Tapati Festival, a celebration of the people and culture started in the 1970s.  It looks like fun.  Here is a site that tells you about the festival.  There are some nice videos on that site that show you the dancing competitions.  I liked the sledding down the hills.

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The Andes Mountains of Chile

The Andes Mountains stretch the length of Chile on the West side while the Pacific Ocean kisses the East coast.  The Andes mountains are very long and run through Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina as well.   The average height of a mountain in the Andes is 13,000 feet.  The mountains formed when parts of the earth called tectonic plates came together.  These layers of earth move, sometimes toward each other. Like two passing ships, they both can’t travel the same path.  In this case, one layer had to go under the other.  When this happened, the top layer was pushed upward. Here is a short video that demonstrates this.  (One of the facts given in this video is that the Andes are expected to DOUBLE THEIR HEIGHT in next 4 million years.  I looked for back-up information on this and I am not comfortable with the number of sources for this.  What is not disputed is that the Andes are continuing to change, as is the rest of the world.)

Every environment effects the plant and animal life that survive within it.  The Andes mountains have very warm areas and very cold areas due to height (altitude) variations of the mountains and due to the closeness of some of the mountains to the equator (the widest part) of the earth.  In some areas glaziers are found up high in the mountains while tropical climates exists below. (Remember the mountain in Tanzania?)

The air is thinner, holding less oxygen, up high.  This can cause health problems for humans that aren’t usually at this height.  If you don’t live in a high area  and you go to the top of a mountain too quickly, you can get sick with what is called Altitude Sickness.  This is because the body is not getting the amount of oxygen it needs.  There are some animals and people who live high in the mountains and their bodies have adapted to the environment.  Mountain Shepherds survive at 17,000 feet because their bodies are accustomed to the height.

Among the animals that thrive in the Andes are Chinchillas, Lamas, Alpacas and the Andean Condor.  Chinchillas are native to the Andes.  Their ability to move quickly and jump up to 6 feet makes them more adapt to the mountain.  Their fur is the second thickest fur of all (first is otter).  They live in herds.  They take dust baths to get clean.  My daughter, Anna, had a Chinchilla when she was young.  We enjoyed watching him roll in the dust to get clean.

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The Andean Condor is one of the largest flying birds in the world.  It has a wingspan of ten and a half feet. Because they are so heavy, they need to live where the winds are strong so they can soar longer periods.  They can live up to 75 years and reproduce very slowly.  A couple of Condor have only one egg every other year and then both parents have to care for the young one for a full year.  Here is a video showing you a Condor.  In this video you will find out why Condors throw up.

The wind can blow hard and nearly constantly in the high parts of the mountains.  The types of plants that can live up high must be able to stand the winds, the cold, and the dryness of the environment.  I found the Llareta plant to be most interesting.  This article is a good one to read for information on the plant’s very unique characteristics. Can you believe that some of these plants are 3,000 years old?   People of the area have used it for fuel and for medicine.  They use it to treat colds, diabetes, altitude sickness, and topically (on the skin) for wounds and soreness.  (If you think it is unusual to use plants as medicines (Medicinals) you are in for a wonderful discovery as medications often come from plants.)

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The Andes are beautiful, creating a wonderful backdrop of photos of Santiago, the country’s capitol.  We would have to make a trip to see some of the people and small towns in the mountains.  People have lived in the mountains for thousands of years and they are working to protect their culture in the changing world.  Today mines are found in the mountains where gold, cooper and other minerals are dug from the earth.  The presence of the mines can cause disruption to the long standing communities.  I love history so I would be anxious to see some of the older towns and get a feel for the long rooted culture.

World’s largest, make that the second largest, swimming pool in the World!

We can’t miss going to this HUGE pool! Watch this video for an overview of the pool at the San Alfonso del Mar private resort, about 62 miles west of Santiago. The pool holds 66 million gallons of water, water filtered after it is pumped from the Pacific Ocean. The salt water pool is 115 feet at its deepest and covers 20 acres.  This longer video will give you more awesome views and facts about the lagoon.

Are you interested in the technology involved in building this type of pool ? Crystal Lagoons, a Chilean Company, invented the processes that make these huge man-made bodies of water possible. The company has been busy. A pool in Egypt opened in 2015, breaking the wool record for size at 30 acres and it is slated to be dwarfed by a pool in Dubai in 2020 with a planned size of 90 acres!.   If you want to know more about the technology that makes this all possible watch this video.