09 November 2008

Gearing up for the 2008 NASA/ SETI High Lakes Expedition

29 October - 01 November 2008

Blogger's Note: I have been incredibly slack in getting all my blogs posted over the past two months. My apologies to my one fan, my Mom, who keeps up with my blogs. Sorry Mom!

The team loading up the bus and truck. We're getting ready for our departure to San Pedro de Atacama.

Gosh, it seems I never left here. It's been a little over two months since I was here. The first couple of days back in Chile was uneventful. As is tradition with the High Lakes project, we fly into Antofagasta. Our first day is a down day; this is a much needed day. It allows us to recover from the long flight. Day two involves going to the grocery store and purchasing comfort foods – nothing glamorous, but food is an essential part of any expedition. Then, we pack, boxed up all the food and the remaining gear and prepare ourselves for departure to San Pedro.

Image: Waiting to depart for San Pedro. Credit: Cristian Tambley.

San Pedro is our home for the cave detection work. So, I know this town well. It is always nice to return to SP.

The San Pedro stop is rather important for most of the expedition team members. Two days at 8000ft starts the acclimatization process, and prepares us for the higher elevation work that we will ultimately do. Living in Flagstaff, and training at altitude, I should be able to adapt to high elevation working and living. We shall see.

Image: Group photo at the Tropic of Capricorn.

En route to San Pedro, we made a couple of stops that I was unfamiliar with. We stopped at an old mining town along the highway. This mining town was likely a boom town during the turn of the century. They were mining nitrates in the area, and the town suffered the same boon to bust fate that most old towns in the American Southwest have suffered. Today, all that remains are numerous adobe structures and all the artifacts one may expect to find in association with an old mining town.

Image: A crypt that was broken into. Unfortunately, the remains have been heavily disturbed. In many cases, the skulls were stolen.

The cemetery leaves some tell-tail signs of this town’s demise as well. We encountered numerous headstones with the dates 1933-1935. There may have been some sort of epidemic that went through the town. Perhaps this epidemic ushered in the demise of this once bustling mining town. Along the back wall of the cemetery, there were numerous mausoleums that had been disturbed and looted by grave robbers. There were numerous burials completely exposed. Most disheartening was that many of the skulls had been removed. We saw many of the flower arrangements that were interred with these departed souls. We even saw their clothes that they were wearing. In most cases, we could actually see the bodies in various stages of mummification. I took a few pictures of this, but chose to do it tastefully. These are the remains of someone’s loved ones and should be respected; however, now mother nature is continuing her work to return these individuals to dust and dirt.

Image: We also saw this lone and rather desert-worn vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) was observed about 30 miles from San Pedro.

For more information about this expedition, you may go to the NASA/SETI High Lakes 2008 website.

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