26 January 2009

The Howling High Winds

Originally Drafted 12 November 2008

Image: Team members on Laguna Lejia. Credit: Eric Fleming.

It was another cold night at Chillyfornia. Fortunately, my -15° sleeping bag kept me nice and cozy. I actually broke a sweat this morning, and I had to shed a layer to continue my slumber.

We returned to Laguna Lejia again today. I had quite a treat as we were making our approach into the Laguna basin, we spooked a herd of vacunas, and they took off across the plain. They kicked up quite a bit of dust in the process, and I just sat and watched in awe. This is a desolate, yet truly amazing place.

As is per usual up here, the winds were howling on the Altiplano. So, it's going to make for another fun day up here.

My objectives were to collect water habitat information (using our multi-parameter instrument) related to the Laguna proper and assist Nathalie and Eric Pinto in collecting water samples. Eric Pinto is a graduate student at UCN-Antofagasta. He is collecting water samples of all the small ponds, as well as the lake. These samples will be studied in the lab.

I arrived early with the first group of researchers. So, before I started my work, I volunteered to assist Kevin Rose and Jeremy Mack in collecting a UV profile of the lake. These researchers are studying the copepods that occur in the lake and the smaller ponds. They are investigating the relationships between UV and their life cycle. So, we trudged about 30 meters into the laguna and through the sinking mud to operate this instrument.

Image: Jeremy and Kevin heading into Laguna Lejia with the UV meter. Image: Eric Fleming.

As we were wrapping up this data collect, Nathalie, Eric Pinto and the others arrived. So, I went off to work with Nathalie and Eric. Nathalie has been ill the past couple of days, and she decided to return to camp to rest.

So, Eric Pinto and I collected water samples and I continued to collect water chemistry data. Nothing overly exciting and in the eyes of the common observer, it was rather mundane data collection. However, we were doing it at 14,000ft on the Chilean Altiplano!

Once the data was collected, we were done for the day. Everyone remaining on the Laguna was now ready to head back to base camp.

Our resident geologist was still working along the southern shore of the lake. I decided to remain with her so she could complete her work there. Once done, we were done for the day. We packed it up and headed back to Chillyfornia!

Image: Back at Base Camp. Featured in the office/ medical tent from left to right Eric Pinto, Claudia and me. Image: Cristian Tambley.

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