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.

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

Remember the photos of the unusual rocks along the water?  That was the Giant Causeway in Ireland.  This area is found on the north coast of Northern Ireland.  I recently sent to you information about Ireland and Northern Ireland.  It explained the differences in these areas.  For the purposes of our trip, we include Northern Ireland in our trip.

When you visit the Giant Causeway you learn the Legend and the Science of the area.  The name for the area is reflective of the legend.  The story goes:  Finn McCool, a Irish Warrior Giant sees a Scottish Giant – Benandonner, threatening Ireland.  Finn, not wanting to swim, throws rocks into the sea to create a path to Scotland. As he crosses the causeway he sees the size of Benandonner and is afraid.  He retreats to Ireland and Benandonner follows.  Finn’s wife quickly dresses her husband to look like a baby.  When Benandonner sees the giant baby he leaves in fear, believing that if the baby is that big, the father must be much bigger.  He destroys the pathway as he retreats.  There is a similar causeway on the Scottish island across from Ireland showing evidence of the true length of the rock formation, the giant’s pathway.

The Science of the rock formation is very interesting.  60 million years ago or so a volcano erupted and lava flowed down toward the sea.  As the lava cooled it formed the basalt columns.  Volcanos are an opening of the earth that allows the release of materials from our earth’s very hot layers.  The heat is so great that rocks become liquid.  The melted rock pours out of the Volcano and flows.  It begins to cool at the surface and slowly cools.  The cracks form as the cooling occurs.  Watch this video to see the process explained.

I found a great site for learning more about volcanos.  Take a short trip to this site to learn more.

The Giant Causeway is made of Basalt. Basalt is an igneous rock – colored rock from the magma (very hot part of earth) and contains silica, oxygen, iron (Latin= Ferrum) and Magnesium (Latin = Magnesium).  The iron and magnesium component is referred to as Ferromagnesian.    The columns at the causeway are each 15-20 inches in diameter (measurement across) and up to 82 feet high.

I loved the photos of you sitting and standing on the Giant Causeway.  Does it feel like you were really there?