Tag Archives: chile

Truck crashes into Easter Island sacred statue

Located in the Pacific Ocean near Chile, the Easter Island has always been surrounded by mysteries and open questions due to its popular moai — the emblematic gigantic heads made out of stone that belonged to the Rapa Nui, the community that originally lived there.

The descendants of the Rapa Nui now manage the area, a popular tourism destination with over 130,000 visitors per year. This has led to many problems such as tons of waste and growing traffic, culminating yesterday when a truck smashed into a moai.

Credits: Facebook Comunidad Indígena Mau Henua

A Chilean resident was arrested after impacting with his truck an ahu, a sacred ceremonial platform, where a moai was located, causing “incalculable” damage, according to the local communities.

“The damage is incalculable,” said the president of the Polynesian indigenous community, Camilo Rapu, who said in a statement that the events occurred in the morning and that the person responsible was finally stopped.

Through a video, Rapu explained that the driver “collided the ahu with a vehicle, creating great damage.” The ahu is the place where their ancestors were buried over 1,000 years ago, he said, adding that “great harm” was also caused to the moai that was over the ahu.

The representative of the Ma’u Henua community said that they are “very sad and outraged” over the incident, confirming that they have “taken all legal actions” and hope “authorities take action and sanction in an exemplary manner for this not to happen again.”

The images of the damage were disseminated by the community on their Facebook page, where they reiterated “the importance of taking care of the heritage we have in our park because they are not only archaeological remains, they are sacred elements for living culture.”

Credits: Facebook Comunidad Indígena Mau Henua

It was, apparently, an accident, caused by a faulty brake. The head of the local police Jorge Fuentes Sierra said there wasn’t even any driving involved.

“The defendant went to that sector to visit some friends and left his truck with a stone in the front wheel because the handbrake was damaged,” Fuentes said. “Then, he went back to the truck and took the stone, causing the truck to move downhill in direction of the ahu, hitting it and climbing on it.”

Meanwhile, chief prosecutor Lorena Villagrán said that the detainee was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident and that he will go to the detention control hearing next week.

The detainee has been residing on Easter Island for more than 12 year. The area where the accident happened is protected by a heritage law and is managed by the local community.

In the 1980s, between 2,000 and 5,000 travelers per year arrived at the Easter island. These days, this has climbed to over 100,000 a year. Also, instead of two flights a week from Santiago, Chile’s capital, there are three per day.

Image Credits: Facebook Comunidad Indígena Mau Henua

That is a huge burden on an island with only about 6,000 full-time residents, not to mention a place where water and other natural resources are limited and should be used with care.

Although in the past visitors were able to tour the national park freely and approach all the Moai, the excess of tourism has come with restrictions and now travelers must follow a prescribed path and only see some of the statues.

Protesters in Chile bring down police drones using simple laser pointers. Lots and lots of laser pointers

In Chile, protesters are using lasers en masse to bring down hapless police drones.


Videos of Chilean protesters bringing down police drones using nothing but green laser pointers have been hitting social media since Wednesday, attracting quite a large helping of attention. Still, how is it possible for what are essentially toy lasers to bring police-grade technology to the ground?

To kill a spying bird

Chile is in the grip of public protests after a proposed increase in subway fares sparked nation-wide demonstration over low wages and economic inequality. And, in a very fitting allegory of their cause, the protesters have started using cheap laser pointer pens to bring down police drones (which can cost up to several tens of thousands of dollars apiece).

Footage of these protesters hit Reddit late Tuesday, showing how, as more and more light beams found their unmanned aerial mark, the drone begins slowly drifting towards the ground. At one point the UAS (unmanned aerial system) almost escapes, until more beams are trained on it bringing it down for good. Here it is in all its glory (turn the volume down, headphone users, you’ve been warned):

The collective cheer at the end is the best part. So now, the question that’s been plaguing Reddit — how did the humble laser pointer do it?

Christopher Williams, CEO of Citadel Defense Company (a company working with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deploy anti-drone “bubbles” along the border) told Aaron Boyd, Senior Editor at Nextgov, that one of two things likely happened.

First, if the drone was piloted by a human operator, they likely used a camera for the pilot to navigate through; in this case, the bright massed beams of several laser pointers could very easily have ‘blinded’ the camera, making navigation extremely difficult if not downright impossible.

Alternatively, in the case of an autonomous drone, Williams says, the laser beams could have caused its onboard sensors to go haywire: its infrared landing sensors would give false altitude and proximity readings, and the craft’s downward-facing cameras (used to spot obstacles) would also give out false readings — all in all, this would cause the drone to either flay about or even perform a forced safety landing.

The Reddit hivemind also proposed that the combined heat of the laser pointers melted the drone’s circuitry or caused the battery to give out; personally, I am strongly inclined to disagree. There just isn’t enough energy in a single laser pointer beam that, even en-masse, it could melt wiring.

What the humble pointer may lack in sheer power, however, other lasers don’t. A recent collaboration between U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and the Air Force resulted in a laser weapon that does just that — melt internals and explodes batteries — in drones.

Banning plastic bags: Chile becomes the first country in the Americas to opt for a ban

In what is a historic decision, Chile’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass a law that would ban the usage of plastic bags in all types of shops across the entire territory. This would make Chile the first country in the Americas to take this measure.

Plastic is one of the biggest problems in the modern world — no matter where you go, there’s just too much of it around, and it’s often ending up in unwanted places like in the oceans, where it can cause dramatic environmental damage. The good news is that efforts to fight plastic pollution are working.

Among these efforts, firm measures such as taxation or bans seem to be both necessary and very effective. Even modest taxes of a few cents applied in the UK have slashed plastic bag consumption by more than 85%. Meanwhile, other European countries like Italy have opted for a complete ban. Some African countries have also banned plastic bags, but across the ocean, in America, things have moved slower. Despite some statewide bans in places like Hawaii or California, national measures have been few and far between.

This is why Chile’s initiative is even more laudable. The bill will come into force in a year’s time for big retailers and in two years’ time for smaller businesses. Garbage bags are not included.

It all started last year, when former president Michelle Bachelet announced a bill to ban plastic bags in all coastal areas.

“We are going to present a bill that will ban the usage of plastic bags in coastal cities within the next 12 months”, Bachelet said in New York City, in September.

The bill was embraced by the new administration, and president Sebastián Piñera pushed to expand the measure to all the population. Piñera himself took to Twitter to say that “we have taken a fundamental step to take better care of Chile and the planet. Today we are more prepared to leave a better planet to our children, grandchildren and the generations to come”.

According to data provided by the Association of Plastic Manufacturers (Asiplas in Spanish), Chile uses more than 3.4 billion plastic bags a year, which translates to almost 200 bags per person annually.

Again, despite remarkable city or statewide initiatives, no country on North or South America has banned plastic bags. Currently, the only other country in the Americas that has announced similar plans is Costa Rica, who plans to pass the ban by 2021.

Chile to start phase-out of coal

After France, another country has recently announced plans to start eliminating dirty fossil fuels. President Michelle Bachelet says Chile will not build any coal plants without carbon capture and will start replacing existing plants with cleaner sources.

This could be the beginning of the end of coal in Chile.

Thanks to its geographical and geological context, Chile has excellent potential for renewable energy. With 15% of the world’s volcanoes and almost 10% of the world’s geysers, the country has vast geothermal potential. Northern Chile also has the highest solar incidence in the world and being a large coastal country, Chile is also quite windy. Yet despite all this, the energy production is dominated by fossil fuels. Coal and oil together generate more than half of the country’s energy, with hydro providing just over 30% in 2017. Wind, solar, and geothermal have been relegated to secondary sources, but that might soon change.

The energy ministry has reportedly secured an agreement with its major utilities to not built any coal plants unless they have the technology to store the emissions underground. While this is still less than ideal, it’s definite progress. No clear end date has been announced for the end of coal-burning, but environment minister Marcelo Mena has described this stage as “the beginning of the end of coal”.

“Thanks to significant reduction in costs and the massification of renewable generation technologies that have been incorporated into our [energy] matrix, the electricity generation industry sees an increasingly renewable future, where thermoelectric generation will no longer be the main source of energy and, together with hydroelectricity, other renewable technologies and storage, will complement variable solar photovoltaic and wind generation during the absence of sunlight or wind,” the press release read.

Chile has pledged to generate 70% of power from renewable sources by 2050. Especially since the controversial HidroAysén project was canceled in 2014, hydropower seems to be maxed out, so solar, wind, and geothermal will have to pick up the slack. A consortium formed by the National Petroleum Company and Enel have requested a concession to develop geothermal resources in the northern parts, while wind and solar power have also surged in recent years. Although this trifecta still only provides a small fraction of the country’s electricity, there’s a tremendous potential for things to change. If healthy policy is put in place, the transition to clean energy could happen quickly.

Coal phase-outs have been announced in several countries, especially in Europe. France announced it will stop burning coal by 2021, Italy by 2025, and the Netherlands by 2030. The UK is also shutting down its coal plants fast, and even in the US, coal power has dropped from over 50% in 2000 to 30% in 2016.

8.3 Magnitude Earthquake strikes Chile

A massive 8.3 magnitude Earthquake struck the northern coast of Chile on Wednesday night, killing at least five people and causing buildings to sway in the capital city of Santiago. Following the earthquake, waves of up to 4.5 meters were reported in some areas of the coast. About one million people were evacuated.

The earthquake’s epicenter. Image via USGS.

“I was in an open area on the ground, in Santiago when the initial earthquake stuck. It was so strong that I could barely stand on the ground and saw buildings around me sway. It was very long as well, and I felt as if the ground itself would break apart. Till now, at around 5:30 AM, there have been more than 30 after shocks,” local Sumit Kaul said through Guardian Witnesses.

The aftershocks were also massive; there are reports of one measuring 7.0 and at least three over 6.0.

“Once again we must confront a powerful blow from nature,” President Michelle Bachelet said, addressing the nation late Wednesday.

Damage in Chile. Image via The Malay Mail.

Chile, a country used to strong earthquakes, reacted promptly and evacuated over a million people from the 2,400 miles (3,900 kilometers) coast of Chile’s Pacific shore.

Some adobe houses have also collapsed in Illapel, and there is no thorough estimation at the moment. In the city of Coquimbo, mayor Cristian Galleguillos said the city was starting to see flooding and 95% of the city had lost electrical power. All the inhabitants were evacuated before the waves hit the city. Pictures from a nearby mall showed significant destruction.


According to a preliminary assessment from the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake’s epicenter was about 54 kilometers (34 miles) west of Illapel; the temblor occurred as the result of thrust faulting on the interface between the Nazca and South America plates in Central Chile. Chile has a long history of massive earthquakes, including the 2010 8.8 earthquake which ruptured a ~400 km long section of the plate boundary.

Most of the large earthquakes in South America (and especially in Chile) occur close to the surface, of depths smaller than 20 km; they are the result of both crustal and inter-tectonic plate deformation. The South American arc extends over 7,000 km, from the Chilean margin triple junction offshore of southern Chile to the offshore areas of Panama. Since 1900, numerous massive earthquakes have been recorded on this subduction zone, often followed by devastating tsunamis. The largest earthquake ever recorded, the 1960 M9.5 earthquake was also recorded in the Chile area.



Chile Villarica Volcano Spews Ash and Lava

The Villarrica volcano in southern Chile erupted in the early hours of Tuesday morning, spewing lava and ash up to 1,000 meters in the air (3,300 feet). The 2840m-high towering volcano is an active volcano with a lava lake in its crater, and is considered a popular attractions among hikers.

Image credits: Reddit user schmick.


Authorities have issued a warning and evacuated over 2,000 people, but other tens of thousands of people live nearby and are advised to take care. Despite being one of the most active volcanoes in the area, Villarica had not erupted since April 2010.

Image via BBC.

Over 200 people have been killed by the volcano in the 20th century, but thankfully, it seems like there are no casualties this time.

UPDATE: Pucon Mayor Carlos Parra (one of the nearby evacuated villages) said that after 20 minutes, the volcano’s activity seemed to have calmed down again.

“There’s no ash, no lava flow, the volcano is totally passive at the moment,” he said.

Chile earthquake triggered icequakes in Antarctica


Chile is one of the most seismically active countries in the world. In 2010, it was struck by a powerful 8.8 earthquake which produced temblors throughout the entire country, as well as in Peru and Argentina. But a new study concluded that its effects were felt even further, in Antarctica, where several seismic stations recorded “icequakes,” probably due to fracturing of the ice as the planet’s crust shook.

It’s been documented for a while that big earthquakes can affect Antarctica’s ice sheets both directly, and through generated tsunamis. Tsunamis can propagate across very long distances, pushing and shoving big chunks of ice on the frozen continent. But seismic waves can also chip away at Antarctica’s ice sheet, and that mechanism is not yet entirely understood.  Zhigang Peng, a geophysicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta figured it out almost by accident, while he was studying the effects of the Chile earthquake in South America.

His team was searching for the effects of surface waves – Love and Rayleigh waves.


Even though they generate very different ground movement, both Love and Rayleigh wave often generate powerful microtemblors as they travel across the surface. So, while Peng was searching for more recordings of the earthquake, he also analyzed data from Antarctica stations, and he started to observe an interesting pattern.

“We started to find tiny seismic signals that we believe are associated with ice cracking.”

It’s the first time that ice cracks have been thoroughly analyzed following a remote earthquake; the first thing which geophysicists noticed was that only Rayleigh waves (ground roll waves) generate ice quakes. After studying seismic data at 42 Antarctic stations from within 6 hours of the Maule temblor, the team found that 12 of the stations registered “clear evidence” of Rayleigh waves generated by the Chile earthquake passing through the crust beneath the ice sheet, in the form of small icequakes. Because both type of waves generate significant ground movement, but only Rayleigh waves generate ice quakes, they suspect that ice quakes are fundamentally different from earthquakes.

The study suggests a “coupling with the ground that seems to be important,” says Jeremy Bassis, a geophysicist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who was not involved in the work, but was among the first to link tsunamis with ice shelf cracking.

“I think the big picture of this is that we keep on finding out that these relatively small environmental perturbations generated far away—the ice seems to actually feel them,” Bassis says. By the time they get to the ice sheet, the signals are tiny, but they still can cause the ice to break and change a little bit. “Ten years ago, I don’t think anybody would have thought that.”

Peng admits that his results, while interesting, don’t yet paint a clear picture of what is happening in Antarctica. It’s still not clear if this is a common phenomenon, or if the earthquake (among the biggest ones on record) had some very specific circumstances.

“At this point we cannot say definitively that large events play an important role in accelerating or changing ice behaviors there,” he says.


Europe will blast the top of a Chilean mountain to install the first telescope which directly studies signs of life on other planets

You just gotta love European engineers! They’re about to blast away the top of a Chilean mountain to create a site for the European Extremely Large Telescope. This telescope will, for the first time, allow astronomers to directly observe planets outside the solar system.

The telescope will be called the European Extremely Large Telescope… which is really not the most original name they could have thought of – but that’s not really relevant. The telescope will also allow astronomers to probe the earliest stages of the formation of planetary systems as well as look for water and organic molecules in proto-planetary discs around stars in the making.

Ok, so building a really large telescope which will provide huge scientific benefits is laudable… but why blow up a mountain top – and in Chile, of all places? The answer is pretty simple – it’s all about water, according to Cambridge University astronomer Professor Gerry Gilmore.

“The atmosphere here is as dry as you can get and that is critically important. Water molecules obscure the view from telescopes on the ground. It is like trying to peer through mist – for mist is essentially a suspension of water molecules in the air, after all, and they obscure your vision. For a telescope based at sea level that is a major drawback.”

There’s a reason for blowing up the mountain top too – it’s not just engineers having fun.

“However, if you build your telescope where the atmosphere above you is completely dry, you will get the best possible views of the stars – and there is nowhere on Earth that has air drier than this place. For good measure, the high-altitude winds blow in a smooth, laminar manner above Paranal – like slabs of glass – so images of stars remain remarkably steady as well.”

The Milky Way seen from the Paranal Observatory in Chile. Photograph: National Geographic Image Collec/Alamy

The telescope’s “eye” will be 39.3 meters in diameter and will gather 15 times more light than any telescope existing at the moment (according to Wikipedia); there are other good telescopes being built at the moment, but this one is hands down the most promising. An indication of the E-ELT’s potential is provided by ESO astronomer Linda Schmidtobreick.

“There are fundamental issues that only a telescope the size of the E-ELT can resolve,” she says. “Its mirror will have a surface area 10 times bigger than any other telescope, which means it will take a 10th of the time to collect the same amount of light – ie the same number of photons – from an object compared with these other instruments.”

For her, as well as other researchers, gathering the light is extremely important. For example, Schmidtobreick studies the so-called cataclysmic pairs: systems of two stars in which one is pulling vast amounts of gas (hydrogen) from the other. This project can lead to huge thermonuclear eruptions, which are incredibly short (sometimes less than 30 seconds).

“With current instruments, it can take minutes or hours to collect light from these objects, which is too long to resolve what is happening,” says Schmidtobreick. “But with the E-ELT, we will be able to study many, many more cataclysmic variables because we will be able to collect significant amounts of light from them in seconds rather than minutes or hours and so will be to resolve their behaviour.”

The astronomers’ residence: ‘As accommodation goes, it’s as exotic as you can get.’

But this is also important in the search for extraterrestrial life – more light means you can study smaller things. Simone Zaggia, of the Inaf Observatory of Padua is more interested in this aspect.

 “At present, our biggest telescopes can only spot really big exoplanets, giants that are as big as Jupiter and Saturn,” he says. “But we really want to know about the smaller worlds that make up the solar systems in our galaxy. In other words, we want to find out if there are many Earth-like planets in our part of the universe. More importantly we want to find out if their atmospheres contain levels of oxygen or carbon dioxide or methane or other substances that suggest there is life there. To do that, we need a giant telescope like the E-ELT.”

I’m really looking forward to the development, but this over 1 billion euro telescope will only start functioning in the early 2020s.

Image and idea source: The Guardian.

8.2 magnitude earthquake strikes Chile

An 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit near the coast of Chile last night, triggering multiple strong aftershocks and a 6-foot (3 meter) tsunami. There have been at least five confirmed casualties, with the victims being crushed or suffering from heart attacks.

“The fact is, we will know the extent of the damage as time goes by and when we inspect the areas in the light of day,” Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet said early Wednesday. “The country has faced these first emergency hours very well.”

The earthquake hit just 50 miles southwest of Cuya, Chile at 6.2 miles deep in the Pacific Ocean.

The tsunami warning also struck fear into Chilean people, but thankfully, the tsunami was relatively small in amplitude. However, the earthquake itself was very strong – the shaking was so strong that it was felt 300 miles away in Bolivia and aftershocks measured up to 6.2 in magnitude. However, while the extent of damage was considerable (landslides damaged roads in some regions, power and phone outages were reported in others), given the tectonic context, the situation could have been much worse.

Image Source.

Chile is located in one of the most volatile areas in the world – tectonically speaking. The country spans over the so-called “Ring of Fire” – the tectonic edge between the South American plate and the Nazca plate. The Nazca plate is slowly subducting (moving under) the South American plate, the most obvious result of which is the Andes Mountain range; this movement also causes massive earthquakes, as well as increased volcanic activity in the area.

Geologists worry that the energy is still not released, and Chile may have to face an even stronger event in the near future.

“As big as an 8.1 is, it probably has not released all of the stored up energy on the subduction earthquake fault in northern Chile. For the sake of all of our friends in the region, we’re hoping that there isn’t a bigger one still to come,” said geologist Rick Allmendinger.

White-peaked volcanos rise from the plains of the Atacama Desert under deep blue skies. The Atacama is the driest desert in the world.

32 inches of snow in the driest place on Earth

A bit late on reporting this, but I’m still struck with amazement by this extremely peculiar case of precipitations. Last week a cold wave hit Chile and surroundings, including the Atacama desert, known to be the driest place on Earth, covering it in snow.

In this area less than 50mm of rain on average is reported each year, and in some spots it can be as low as 1-3 mm. It’s extremely surprising then that the Atacama has been inflicted with 31.5 inches of snow after a cold front brought subzero temperatures to much of South America.According to the national emergency centre in Chile, the area had not seen this amount of snow in close to 20 year, leading to closed roads and stuck vehicles. According to local media, authorities rescued 36 people on Tuesday, whose bus had been stuck in heavy snow.

Parts of the desert are known to be devoid of moisture and therefore all life, even bacteria. The lack of airborne water and minimal population leads to it having some of the clearest skies in the world, hence the abundance of huge observatories as they can stargaze all year round.

White-peaked volcanos rise from the plains of the Atacama Desert under deep blue skies. The Atacama is the driest desert in the world.

White-peaked volcanos rise from the plains of the Atacama Desert under deep blue skies. The Atacama is the driest desert in the world.

Global warming? Might be. Freak of nature? Weather is known to act unpredictably all the time. What’s your take?

[AMAZING VIDEO] Chilean sky light up by heavens

A regular starry night at the ALMA site.

I just stumbled onto this spectacular time-lapse video of the Chilean ALMA site skyline, where an entire night from the observatory’s high ground is fast forwarded. A regular starry night at the ALMA site. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international partnership between Europe, North America, East Asia and the Republic of Chile to build the largest astronomical project in existence, and sits on top of the Chajnantor plateau at 5000 meters altitude in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. Oh, and it’s no surprise or wonder to anyone anymore why they chose this exact site to invest more than $1 billion in the most ambitious ground-based telescope currently under construction.

Be sure to play the video at 720pp (HD) and watch it in full screen. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SciGuy for sharing this.

Recent seismic activity in Chile

According to USGS, on Friday, February 11, 2011 at 20:05:31 UTC a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the offshore Bio-Bio region, very close to where last year’s magnitude-8.8 quake spawned a tsunami and devastated coastal communities. In the following hours, a dozen aftershocks ranging from magnitude-3.9 to magnitude-6.3 shook the seismically active area.
Skyscrapers swayed in the capital of Santiago, and in the inland town of Cauquenes, mothers ran into the streets carrying babies in their arms, as stated by Yahoo News.
Fortunately, no tsunami was formed as in the last’s years mega quake and the communities were better prepared for the hazard. The 8.8 magnitude earthquake last year killed more than 500 and produced massive devastation in all the cities near the coast.
So…why no tsunami this time? It seems there is a huge difference in strenght between the two big earthquakes, the 8.8-magnitude quake being about 800 times larger in terms of energy released, said Natan Becker, an oceanographer at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. After all, magnitude is measured on a logarithmic scale.
The Chile region was hit by 10 earquakes with more than 6.5 magnitude only in the last 10 years, so we can only hope they use the latest technology advances to increase the level of safety.