A volcanic ash cloud rises above Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano shortly after its eruption on 4 June 2011. Soon after this image was taken, the ash quickly blew eastward towards Argentina. Over the border, near the town of Bariloche, a layer of ash at least 30 cm (12 in) deep covered the ground. Image courtesy of NASA.
A NASA image taken on the morning of 6 June 2011 shows a large ash plume emanating from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano. Reaching an altitude of approximately 12,000 - 15,000 m (40,000 - 45,000 ft), the ash cloud drifted north along the Andes. A shift in the prevailing winds then caused the prominent kink visible in the plume. The last major eruption in the Cordon Caulle rift zone occurred in 1960. Image courtesy of NASA.
Satellite view of the Puyehue-Cordon Volcano Complex on 13 June 2011 - the 10th day of the eruption - shows a very large blanket of ash deposited onto the Pampas of Argentina. Photo courtesy of NASA.
Near the southern tip of South America, a trio of volcanoes lines up perpendicular to the Andes Mountains. The most active is the westernmost, Volcan Villarrica, pictured in this photo-like satellite image. The 2,582-m (9,357-ft) stratovolcano is mantled by a 30-sq km (10-sq mi) glacier field, most of it amassed south and east of the summit in a basin made by a caldera depression. To the east and northeast, the glacier is covered by ash and other volcanic debris, giving it a rumpled, brown look. The western slopes are streaked with innumerable gray-brown gullies, the paths of lava and mudflows (lahars). Beyond the reach of ash and debris deposits, the volcano is surrounded by forests; the area is a national park. The largest recent eruption occurred in the early 1970s; lava flows melted glaciers and generated lahars that spread at speeds of 30-40 km per hour (20-30 mph). Image courtesy of NASA.
Steep-sided volcanic cones along the Andes on the Chilean-Argentinean border add texture to this false-color satellite image. Of approximately 1,800 volcanoes scattered across this region, 28 are active and form part of the Andean volcanic belt that runs down the length of South America. For more information on other active volcanoes in the region, see the Natural hazards - volcanism subfield in the Geography section under either Chile or Argentina. Image courtesy of USGS.
This panorama looking southeast across the South American continent was taken from the International Space Station almost directly over the Atacama Desert near Chile's Pacific coast. The high plains (3000-5000 m, 13,000-19,000 ft) of the Andes Mountains, also known as the Puna, appear in the foreground, with a line of young volcanoes (dashed line) facing the much lower Atacama Desert (1000-2000 m elevation). Several salt-crusted dry lakes (known as salars in Spanish) occupy the basins between major thrust faults in the Puna. Salar de Arizaro (foreground) is the largest of the dry lakes in this view. The Atlantic Ocean coastline, where Argentina's capital city of Buenos Aires sits along the Río de la Plata, is dimly visible at image top left. Near image center, the transition (solid line) between two distinct geological zones, the Puna and the Sierras Pampeanas, creates a striking landscape contrast. Compared to the Puna, the Sierras Pampeanas mountains are lower in elevation and have fewer young volcanoes. Sharp-crested ridges are separated by wide, low valleys in this region. The Salinas Grandes - ephemeral shallow salt lakes - occupies one of these valleys. The general color change from reds and browns in the foreground to blues and greens in the upper part of the image reflects the major climatic regions: the deserts of the Atacama and Puna versus the grassy plains of central Argentina, where rainfall is sufficient to promote lush prairie grass, known locally as the pampas. The Salinas Grandes mark an intermediate, semiarid region. Image courtesy of NASA.
Brightly colored solar evaporation (salt) ponds in a desert landscape give this astronaut photo an unreal quality. The ponds sit near the foot of a long alluvial fan in the Pampa del Tamarugal, the great hyper-arid inner valley of Chile's Atacama Desert. The alluvial fan sediments are dark brown, and they contrast sharply with tan sediments of the Pampa del Tamarugal. Nitrates and many other minerals are mined in this region. A few extraction pits and ore dumps are visible at upper left. Iodine is one of the products from mining; it is first extracted by heap leaching. Waste liquids from the iodine plants are dried in the tan and brightly colored evaporation ponds to crystallize nitrate salts for collection. The recovered nitrates are mainly used for fertilizer for higher-value crops. They are also used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, explosives, glass, and ceramics, as well as in water treatment and metallurgical processes. Image courtesy of NASA.
On the border between Chile and the Catamarca province of Argentina lies a vast field of currently dormant volcanoes. Over time, these volcanoes have laid down a crust of magma roughly 3.2 km (2 mi) thick. This enhanced satellite image is tinged with a patina of various colors that can indicate both the age and mineral content of the original lava flows. Some arroyos and alluvial fans may be seen in the upper left portion of the photo. For active volcanoes in Chile and Argentina, see the Natural hazards-volcanism field in the Geography section. Image courtesy of USGS.
The entrance to Fuerte Bulnes, a Chilean fort located by the Strait of Magellan, 62 km (38 mi) south of Punta Arenas. The fort was originally built in 1843 to encourage colonization in Southern Chile, protect the Strait of Magellan, and ward off claims by other nations. Harsh weather prevented large-scale settlement and in 1848 the government founded Punta Arenas to the north; the fort was abandoned and burned. Between 1941 and 1943, it was reconstructed and in 1968 became a national monument.
Cape Horn, named after a city in the Netherlands, is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in southern Chile. It is frequently referred to as the "sailors' graveyard" because the waters around the area are particularly hazardous due to strong winds, large waves, strong currents, and icebergs.
Monument in Punta Arenas to Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who organized the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, which resulted in the first circumnavigation of the Earth. Overcoming storms and mutinies, the expedition managed to pass the Strait of Magellan (named after the navigator) to become the first explorers to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Punta Arenas (Sandy Point) is the most populous southernmost city in Chile and the Americas.
Another view of the monument in Punta Arenas to Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who organized the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, and that resulted in the first circumnavigation of the Earth. Overcoming storms and mutinies, the expedition managed to pass the Strait of Magellan (named after the navigator) to become the first explorers to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
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