Atacama Desert


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

Atacama Desert

(ätäkä`mä), arid region, c.600 mi (970 km) long, N Chile, extending south from the border of Peru. The desert itself, c.2,000 ft (610 m) above sea level, is a series of dry salt basins flanked on the W by the Pacific coastal range, averaging c.2,500 ft (760 m) high, and on the E by the Andes. There is practically no vegetation; rain has virtually never been recorded in some localities, and some river beds appear to have been dry for tens of thousands of years. Of the streams descending from the Andes only the Loa River reaches the Pacific. Antofagasta and other regional ports are without protected anchorages and are subject to frequent and severe earthquakes. The Atacama has been a source of great nitrate and copper wealth.

The first European to cross the forbidding waste was Diego de AlmagroAlmagro, Diego de
, c.1475–1538, Spanish conquistador, a leader in the conquest of Peru. A partner of Francisco Pizarro, he took part in the first (1524) and second (1526–28) expeditions and in the bloody subjugation of the Incas after 1532.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Spanish conquistador, in 1537. From then until the middle of the 19th cent. it was largely ignored, but with the discovery of the use of sodium nitratesodium nitrate,
chemical compound, NaNO3, a colorless, odorless crystalline compound that closely resembles potassium nitrate (saltpeter or niter) in appearance and chemical properties. It is soluble in water, alcohol, and liquid ammonia.
..... Click the link for more information.
 as a fertilizer and later with the invention of smokeless powder using nitroglycerin, the desert had a mining boom. Although the southern half of Atacama belonged to Bolivia, the companies exploiting the deposits were Chilean. Differences arose, and in the ensuing war (see Pacific, War of thePacific, War of the,
1879–84, war between Chile and the allied nations, Peru and Bolivia; also called the Chile–Peruvian War. The trouble began when President Hilarión Daza of Bolivia rescinded (Feb.
..... Click the link for more information.
), Chile won the entire area. When synthetic nitrates were developed after World War I, the boom collapsed. Economically, the Atacama is declining, as reserves are depleted and the desert expands southward into once arable land.

Atacama Desert

a desert region along the W coast of South America, mainly in N Chile: a major source of nitrates. Area: about 80 000 sq. km (31 000 sq. miles)
References in periodicals archive ?
SunEdison has now interconnected 150 MW in the Atacama Desert - the 100 MW Amanecer Solar CAP plant plus a 50 MW power plant in San Andres - and this is just the starting point.
DialAFlight is offering a four-day Atacama desert tour from PS399 per person (saving 10%).
According to a Chilean local newspaper, a treasure hunter Oscar Munoz found the remains on October 19, 2003 when he was looking for objects of historical value in La Noria, an abandoned town in the Atacama Desert.
The systems were implemented in Chile's Atacama Desert, an area with very harsh climate conditions, where day and night temperatures vary by more than 30[degrees].
His images include the Patagonian ice cap, leafy lanes of Somerset, Atacama Desert and Canadian Rockies.
Families cried, cheered and hugged as the men emerged on October 13 from 69 days entombed in the San Jose copper mine in the Atacama Desert.
The ex-professional footballer endured 26 minutes alone half a mile under the Atacama desert until he was brought back to the surface.
been trapped for 70 days half a mile below the Atacama Desert, have been
The group has been stuck in the San Jose mine in the Atacama Desert since a tunnel collapsed on August 5.
David Forshaw, composer, BAA member, and President of the Liverpool Astronomical Society, tells us he has long wanted to write a piece based on an eclipse experience, specifically his first such observation in the Atacama desert in 1994.