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.

It is Chile!

Everyone should have received their boxes by now.  As I post this month, the items in the box will become much more meaningful.  You should have a Chilean flag, a book, a fidget spinner made of copper, a rainstick, a Lapis stone, and Night Sky playing cards.

Chile is a beautiful country bordered by the Andes mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other with a small section bordering the South Atlantic Ocean.  North to South the country is 4,270 km (2,653 mi) long.  The width is narrow however with an average width of 110 miles.  At the most narrow point it is only 40 miles wide!

My hint was “you would need to dress for cold weather if we left right now.”  That is because Chile, a part of South America, is in the southern hemisphere.  They are in their cold season when we are in our warm season.  If you look at the way the earth tilts in relation to the sun at this time of the year, you can see why there is this difference in our seasons.

Chile has one of the driest places on earth, the Atacama desert. The mountains are so high that they block moisture-bearing clouds from this desert. Long stretches of rainless periods can pass in the region but when rain comes it can leave the desert floor covered with beautiful Mallow flowers, occurrences that can be many years apart.     imrs.php

Chile has active earthquakes.  The biggest Earthquake of the 20th century occurred in Chile May 22, 1960.  It was so strong that it showed that our whole earth can vibrate like a guitar string.  The tsunamis that resulted from this quake hit Hawaii and Japan.  The waves, traveling 200 miles per hour, landed on Hawaii nearly 15 hours after and Japan 22 hours after the quake.  Can you imagine being a boat at sea and seeing that nearly 90 foot wave coming?  I plan to post an in-depth explanation of the earthquakes and tsunamis this month.

The playing cards you received have constellations on them to remind you that Chile is the best place in the world to view the night skies.  We will travel to the sites of scientific study of Astronomy and learn about their findings.

Every country we have been to has had very unique features….the biggest, the best, the driest,…..  Do you get the feeling that every country has something very special for us to see and learn about?  I do and I can’t wait to see where we go next.