Friday, 22 October 2010

Where is the land of eventoed ungulates? Where is the driest place on earth?

The Atacama Desert is that place – and I am sure by now you will have a concept of its whereabouts following the incredible escape of the Chilean miners... but what else? The long, long land – the strip of a country on the Pacific side of South America .. vast panoramic distances and mining ... anything else?

The Atacama is probably the driest place on Earth, and is virtually sterile because it is blocked from moisture by the eastern longitudinal Andes, and the western Chilean Coastal Range. Because of its high altitude, near non-existent cloud cover, dry air, lack of light pollution and radio interference from the very widely spaced cities, this Desert is one of the best places in the world to conduct astronomical observations – to see the skies in all their glory.

A desert is a place that will not support human habitation, though most deserts usually have oases, and the Atacama is no different; a river rising in wetter regions may traverse a desert, as the Nile does through Egypt, but the fundamental physical condition of an arid area is that it contributes nothing directly to the oceanic waters.

These oases have been populated since pre-Columbian times by the Native American nomadic hunters, who followed herds of wild camelids, for thousands of years, before settling into a sedentary culture around three – four thousand years ago; these “Atacamenos” then developed an economy based mainly on llama breeding and maize agriculture, but who were also noted for the construction of fortified towns called ‘pucaras’.

The camelids, eventoed ungulates, include both types of camel (Dromedaries and Bactrian), llamas, alpacas, vicunas etc, and fall into the same classification as pigs, peccaries, hippos, cattle, goats, antelope and others.

Camelid feet lack functional hooves, the toe bones being embedded in a broad cutaneous pad

This sparsely populated land, whose coastal cities originated from the 16th centuries – the time of the Spanish Empire, of navigation and exploration, the time of ocean sailing ships, the demand for deposits of silver, gold, copper and other minerals before the discovery of huge fertilizer deposits of sodium nitrates in the late 1700s - so valuable to agricultural growth in Europe.

In one of these oases, in the middle of the desert, at a height of about 2,000 metres (7,000 feet), lies the village of San Pedro de Atacama - pictured above, whose church was built by the Spanish in 1577.

The Atacama Desert again became a great source of wealth from the 1950s with the global demand for copper. This is the terrain and landscape that the rescued Chilean miners inhabit. Their mine was a deep copper and gold mine – which ‘weeped’ a lot – the miners’ expression for falling rocks and the sounds of creaking, that they knew warned of trouble.

That mine was a century-old one, located off a dirt track in the bare hills in northern Chile, which was worked the old-fashioned way. Miners explosively blasting chunks of gold-laden rock, the fractured rock rubble collected into trucks, transported back to the surface via the long mining tunnels, before being processed at a plant in nearby Copiapo.

The northern part of Chile in yellow, showing the Atacama Desert in red

However as we know the earth’s crust provides other riches, which over time have been mined to benefit man and his gods. The skies open our eyes to the heavens above, to the galaxies beyond ours, we have advanced mining plants, observatories with the latest telescopes ...

... but these lands of the eventoed ungulates offer something to the desperate, a place to garner a living, in terrible circumstances ... where they do not have a choice, they need to earn .. those miners will probably be alright – let us hope somehow their fellow Chilean (at least) miners have better opportunites.

... and where on the periphery old habits die hard and desperate people will do anything for a small wage – perhaps not even a living one. A harsh place with harsh consequences – but where, for those 33 miners, lady luck was with them; where further north, sadly in similar conditions, 4 Ecuadorian miners lost their lives. Let us hope the world becomes fairer ... humanity does not need this type of poverty.

Dear Mr Postman ... my mother has been partly awake this week, but enjoying knowing that she has had many cards and love from friends and relatives and from all of you around the world .. thank you for commenting, your birthday wishes and hugs – she does so appreciate your thoughts.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


TALON said...

Oh, to be able to view the night sky from Atacama would be so humbling...

I hope your mother continues to have more and more of those awake moments, Hilary.

Patricia said...

Another fascinating post Hilary, and something I should have learned about earlier, but am happy to know it now.

My partner's niece went to this part of the planet for several years to study "black holes" and ozone and atmospheric changes - she was a computer programmer and mathematician, she also went to Finland for awhile to do the same work. I should have studied the sites then! Too busy with small children, though it could have been a good geography lesson - what was I thinking!

Glad to hear that your mum is doing well and that you are both enjoying good thinking!

hugs to you both

Anonymous said...

Hi Hilary, thank you for sharing this. Very interesting stuff, as always.

Southpaw said...

You post the most interesting things. Camels are cute, but not for their toes - it's those big eyes.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talon .. thanks .. wouldn't it just be wonderful to have that clear night sky .. and you say it exactly right .. we should be humbled by this little earth of ours ..

Thanks for the hopes re my mother .. I just treasure the moments when she feels like being awake and sharing life ..

Lovely to see you here .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. thanks glad you enjoyed it .. I should think "your niece" had an amazing time and must be so interesting to talk to .. if she can put things at our level!! Finland too I would imagine would be beautiful too .. I enjoy geography .. and knowing where places, countries etc are situated within the world - still learning!

Yes - Mum is quiet and peaceful .. which is the most important things .. good to see you and hugs back .. you've got so much going on .. that a bit of comfort is needed! Cheers and thoughts .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susanne .. thanks - glad you enjoyed it ... we forget the history behind places .. so it was interesting for me too!!

Have a good weekend .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Holly .. thank you - I just love learning and thought I needed to know a bit more .. but you're right about camel's toes .. have you ever seen the film .. "The weeping camel" ..

It's here at Wiki:

We saw it via our Film Society .. that always has interesting films ..

It is those big eyes .. great to see you & have a good weekend .. Hilary

Sara said...

Wow...I liked this post because I actually didn't know that that Chilean miners were in The Atacama Desert. I don't watch the news. I had heard they were rescued.

I kind of like the idea of The Atacama Desert giving back life from its depths. I imagine many others were not so lucky.

As always, thanks for making me smarter. I'm planning to out tonight with friends. Now, if anyone brings up the escape of the Chilean miners, I will be able to say, "Yes, and it happened in the "land of eventoed ungulates!"

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for telling me more about the desert where the miners worked.

While the desert is a good place to spy stars, overall our use of lights has made the job of astronomers to view the stars more difficult. I've heard Galileo could see more with the naked eye than we can with a telescope.

Both remind us the prices we pay for convenience.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. I remember you saying you didn't watch tv, or perhaps even have one. Great .. that you now where the rescue took place .. and that the Atacama Desert has a reference point!

I think they were extraoardinarily lucky .. and lets hope they can adjust their lives as best possible.

Great talking point .. "land of eventoed ungulates" .. I'd better do a post on camels I think!

Cheers - have a great weekend .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. I didn't know that about Galileo .. but it does make sense - light pollution is terrible.

As you say .. we pay for all our modern living someway or the other .. mining is so dangerous, but miners need jobs .. and the air pollution clouding the skies in a haze .. is not good either ..

Great points - enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wonderful post, Hilary! The pictures were super too. I'd love to go to South America...It's full of history!

I'm glad your Mum was awake a bit this week. I hope next week brings more of those moments. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sharon .. thanks - I loved the pictures .. just gave it an extra oomph ..

Yes a visit to South America would be so interesting .. I really know little about it ..

Thanks re my Mum .. so do I .. the little times we get together are really good ..

Thanks - so much for your thoughts - Hilary

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the background into this geographical area. We all know the story of the Chilean miners. Bit few understand the physical area and why this region is so dry. There are also mummified corpses from this area that have been kept preserved because of such conditions. These mummies and their respective grave sites are rich in clues as to how people lived and survived in this area thousands of years ago.

Stephen Tremp

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Steve .. I obviously haven't read enough historical detective stories, or anthropological mysteries .. so forgot that interesting aspect.

Ah - so very interesting sites .. where so much can be learned of their way of life all those years ago.

Fascinating stuff .. thanks for adding this in .. great to see you in your busy schedule.

Have a wonderful week .. Hilary

Talli Roland said...

Interesting to learn more about the place the world has been focused on for the past few months. I never knew it was the driest place on Earth!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talli .. great to see you here - especially as you have masses going on in your life!!

I just thought it was worth a post - and am glad to see a few people found the 'lesson' interesting .. and Stephen Tremp adding to the post ..

Enjoy the sunny days .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

to see the skies too, the stars at mom and dad's i find incredible -- imagine in that dry dry place.

writing with left hand only, sorry no caps.

i like how you wrote about man mining for his gods too, makes me think of golden egyptian treasures.

I like the aerial of the mine and imaging that old church.

Cheers to your mother.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. good to see you .. yes I can imagine Canada would be brilliantly clear - Southern Africa is pretty good too .. but when Halley's comet went over in 1986 it was cloudy?! .. Kelly will see the next one - I won't 2061!!

Why left hand .. ok won't ask here!

Lots of Inca and other Ancients treasure there ..

I suspect the mine is a more sophisticated one .. but the size and the trackways .. can make one think.

Yes - the Church I loved .. I love those white-washed buildings against the blue sky ..

Thanks - Mum will be pleased to hear from you .. hope the coffee's worked now .. cheers Hilary xoxox

J.D. Meier said...

> one of the best places in the world to conduct astronomical observations
I've always been a sucker for the stars.

My Aunt and Uncle took me to the planetarium when I was really young and I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was the coolest thing to see the room light up with stars and to plot out the constellations. It truly was an experience.

I haven't been to the planetarium and years -- now I have to go and find one :)

Sibyl - alternaview said...

Hilary: Another great post and interesting fact. I can feel my trivia knowledge increasing every time I stop by your blog. I watched and read so much on the miners in Chile and never even picked up on the fact that they inhabited one of the driest places on earth. Thanks for always educating me. Great post.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. stars are magical aren't they .. and clear night skies - when we get one that we think is dark and the stars shine brightly out - it must be incredible down there .. the gateway to the universe.

Have you not taken your kids to a Planetarium .. ah! - now perhaps you'll be going soon! Good Christmas outing?!

We spent time outside as kids seeing the constellations with my parents .. and it was fantastic being in the southern hemisphere and seeing the Southern Cross .. a different constellation!

Thanks - have a great week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sibyl ..thanks - the Atacama always interested me .. so a little revising for me too - then Stephen adding in the the bit about the fact that there's so much information to be had via excavation and analysis - because it's so dry and nothing rots - it just dries out.

Delighted to hear you enjoyed it .. thanks - Hilary

Yaya' s Home said...

Hi there,
I just' found your link from a comment you made on Lenny's blog, so I thought I'd come on over an' say hi. So... hi.

Nice blog you've got here. I can see that I'm gonna' enjoy learning about the things you share.

Take care.

~ Yaya

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Yaya .. thanks so much .. good to see you - Lenny's a great kid isn't he?!

Great to see you and hope you enjoy your visits .. I just can't Google Follow to link up at the moment .. so I'll be over later!

See you soon .. I hope .. all the best Hilary

Liara Covert said...

Th Chilean miner story is a very uplifting one. Chilean landscapes are indeed diverse. Check out the ice fields and coastal vistas too.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. it was an extremely uplifting story .. gosh they were lucky .. but somewhat unsettled now with differing agendas ..

I know I could have put more information in .. but just decided to leave it 'relatively simple'! It must be stunningly beautiful .. have you been there?

Great to see you .. have a good week .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hilary, you always post such interesting information and related photos.

After looking at that big camel foot, I'm sure glad I don't have to ride one of those ugly stinky beasts down to the market! :-)


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ron .. if I can teach the Old Geezer a few new tricks ... great news! Lovely seeing you here ..

and the Camel Foot is such a fun picture - isn't it .. I had to include it .. and me too - but one day I'd like to give a camel ride a go & visit an Arabian/ Tunisian/Moroccan market .. would be so interesting.

Thanks for coming by .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

Hey, Sweet Hils, left hand because I was tired, and lying on my side with my laptop, my right arm so comfy under my head. :)

Yes, when one is away from city lights the stars do become amazing. I just love it at Mom 7 Dad's. I forget just how many stars there are, and how bright.

Now... the sunniest place on earth. Is that in Arizona, I think?


Jannie at the library with her toes well under wraps.

Karen Lange said...

I was not aware of all those details, thank you. I thought the camel foot picture was fun too! My husband recently saw a program (on the Travel Channel, I think) where they roasted a whole camel. He said it didn't look particularly appetizing. I suppose if you were really hungry...

Have a wonderful week!
Karen :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. oh ok .. strummer of creature comforts!!

Stars of the night sky - they are amazing .. and being at your Mum and Dad's must be beautiful .. one day I shall get there ..

Now - the sunniest place on earth .. I do not know!! You were right once again .. Yuma, Arizona .. or another scientific version 2007 - is a patch of sea in the Pacific (I won't be visiting any time soon) or the Sahara Desert in northern Niger.

Perhaps another post? Cheers for now .. and glad your toes are covered up in public!! happy day today .. xoxox Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. thanks & glad you enjoyed the article. Camel roast - possibly like goat? Except somewhat larger! I'm sure it tasted delicious for the people eating it .. a true feat!

You too .. have a great week .. Hilary

Soul Dipper said...

Hilary, this well researched and informative article has just looked after a block of curiosity I've been carrying. Many thanks.

Please add a hug from me to the next one you give to your mother.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Amy .. excellent to hear ..always good to 'satisfy' that information block of curiosity .. so many of us let the 'question' lie and never find out .. the internet and Wikipedia in particular are great for instant curiosity gratification!

I will .. I'll be up there in a few hours and add in your thoughts and hugs with mine. Thanks so much .. she appreciates everyone's thoughts .. love this .. thank you -Hilary

Joanne said...

In the summertime, I enjoy the night sky over Long Island Sound. It is amazing, almost alive with different celestial lights. I can't even imagine what the night sky over that incredible desert would look like. Yes, humbling might be the perfect word.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joanne .. the summer night sky is always sparklingly lovely .. but you're right I can imagine that degree of night sky over the Atacama would be awesome .. or as you describe it .. 'humbling' .. in this world of ours.

Thanks - great to see you .. enjoy the week .. Hilary

Evelyn Lim said...

Hello Hilary,

Fascinating stuff! Timely too because of the Chilean miners. I never knew, of course. Enjoyed the pictures that you've put up as well! I'm saddened to learn about the 4 Ecuadorian miners...sigh...

nick said...

Driest place on earth? I think it's Kentucky - many counties are eather completely "dry" or partially "dry."

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Evelyn .. just thought something a bit extra about the Atacama made for interesting reading over and above the escape .. so glad you enjoyed it.

I know - sad about the Ecuadorians .. it's a tough work place under the earth.

Thanks for the visit .. great post you've just written - I loved it .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick .. seeing you're a man of letters! and nursery rhymes with a twist .. I believe in Wiki (no - not all the time granted!) .. but for this .. that's what it says - the Atacama is the driest place on earth .. and so I added probably - to cover myself!

Perhaps Kentucky is .. I have no idea - anyway good to meet you .. and I'm a regular reader now at your blog ..

Have a good week .. Hilary

Linda said...

Fascinating information. I knew they were in Chile, but that's as far as it went. I read about the rescue.

This is an interesting place to read about. Thank you for digging this up (no pun intended) and sharing it with us.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Linda .. thanks - glad the info was informative and that you enjoyed the read.

It was good to be reminded about that part of the world .. there's plenty of history there! So it was an easy write.

Lovely seeing you - have a good week .. Hilary

R.S Mallari said...

You have good way of presenting facts which most failed. An article such as this would be so boring I weren't for your creative presentation.. Knowledge gained on my part again. BTW i have eventoe but separated with my feet :)

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Hilary. Humanity certainly does not need this kind of poverty. :(

Amazing write up on an amazing place. So dry. And it seems almost alien to me. Like the surface of Mars without the redness. Bizarre!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi RS .. Thanks so much these lovely words and glad you learnt something.

Love that thought - your eventoe separation of your feet .. yes made me laugh ..

Good to see you .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tony .. poverty in any form is awful .. and we need to help humanity or give it ways to help itself, not just take from hard work for goods exchange.

It does look a little surreal - doesn't it .. but Australia has amazingly similar landscape in places .. this wonderful land of ours ..

Good to see you here .. Hilary

... Paige said...

ha! today the driest place on Earth is here.
Right here in RiverCity, okay not there but Here in my town.

Can you belive 16% humidity? We are normally at 88%
We need water (but not too much for too long)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paige .. is it - 16% humidity .. that is dry. I can understand you saying you need water .. I hope you get some soon .. but a reasonable rain, not a deluge.

Driest place on earth - today .. ok .. for a dreamy moment .. but does sound like you need some wetter weather soon ..

Hope it comes .. thanks for the visit .. Hilary

Liara Covert said...

Hilary, every person makes his own luck happen or denies its possible. The mind puts a slant on perception. That is, it invites you to view things through the lens of the inner judge. Choose to love everyone equally and the judge fades. It no longer exerts power and control over you. Another perspective is you raise your energy vibration higher so you no longer align, hear or resonate with lower energies and vibrations. You choose whether or not to be affected by external things and the voice in the mind.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. rise above things and be. The mind can certainly affect ones' thoughts .. and choosing to love everyone equally will make life easier for that judge to fade.

Raising my energy vibration higher .. above the negative that floats along the bottom ....

Thank you .. learn not to be affected by external things and the little voice in the mind. Have a great week .. Hilary

Chase March said...

Send belated birthday wishes to your mom for me.

All the best to both of you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chase .. thanks I will .. she'll be pleased to hear from Canada .. and belated ones sometimes are a little special.

Thanks - you too .. have a good weekend .. Hilary