Atacama Desert


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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.
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, 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.
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 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 The trouble began when President Hilarión Daza of Bolivia rescinded (Feb.
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), 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; in more recent years solar and wind energy projects have been developed in the region.

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 ?
In the past researchers have found dying organisms near the surface and remnants of DNA but this is really the first time that anyone has been able to identify a persistent form of life living in the soil of the Atacama Desert," Schulze-Makuch said.
The fact that the Atacama Desert and Death Valley National Park both gave spectacular displays of colour within six months of each other is no coincidence.
Most of the water in this part of the Atacama Desert now is used in the copper mines and to support the local population that is gathered in the nearby city of Calama.
The Atacama Desert, for all its well-deserved atmospheric fame, is more the kind of place to excite engineers--solar energy engineers, that is.
above sea-level in the Atacama Desert in Argentina, the LLAMA radio telescope is scheduled for operation beginning in 2017 and will operate in the 90 to 700 GHz frequency band.
Gravel in the Andes and a lot of extremely fine sand in the hot Atacama desert.
DialAFlight is offering a four-day Atacama desert tour from PS399 per person (saving 10%).
Starting in Santiago he will cross the remote Atacama desert to reach the world''s most advanced ground-based telescope, the VLT (Very Large Telescope) as well as visiting the world''s largest, most sensitive radio telescope ALMA.
But the 6-inch skeleton found in the Atacama Desert in Chile in 2003 by a treasure hunter - dubbed the 'Atacama Humanoid' or 'Ata' for short - has been declared human.
Engineers and scientists battled against the harsh climate of the Atacama desert to get a chance to peer into the darkest corners of the universe.
You donOt have to be an astronomer, or know the names of the constellations to appreciate it, but one look at the sky over ChileOs Atacama Desert and youOll want to know more.
5 GW in northern Chile, including the Atacama Desert region.