Fieldwork Day 3

Iquique, Friday, November 28

Well, we missed Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with turkey and cranberry sauce, but we had a can of chicken-flavored potato chips instead, which turned out (not too surprisingly) to be a poor substitute for the real thing.

Nathalie, Edmond and Guillermo spent yesterday and today in the field with us, and we took advantage of Guillermo’s seemingly unlimited knowledge of Chilean geology to take a tour of the region with him. We had an impromptu stop at an old salt mine in Salar Grande yesterday, where I quickly put Kelli to work (see photo). Salar Grande is some 34 by 4 kilometers in size, with up to 120 meters thickness of salt, up to 99. 5% pure NaCl. A large amount of this salt gets shipped to the US for use on highways, and I am sure I will be seeing some of it again since it’s started snowing in Iowa already.

We did a little exploration of the area yesterday, visiting spots on the eastern side of the salt flat that we had wanted to get to last year, and found some interesting new geology. We also came to realize that salt doesn’t make for the smoothest ride, and the road over the salt flat was quite a bit bumpier than it looks. Today we spent time in our field area on the western side of the salar, near the Coastal Range of mountains, defining the outer limits of our field area. We split up into groups and traced out different units, sampling important rocks along the way. It was a productive two days with Guillermo, Nathalie and Edmond. They return to Antofastaga this evening and Jen, Kelli, Renee and I have two more days of science ahead of us.