Journal of the Transect
June 20, 2006
Cherlyn Anderson, South Carolina
Cathy Campbell, Michigan
Phyllis Isbell, Washington
We opened the shade and saw the most beautiful blue sky with a layer of pure
orange and saw dark jagged peaks. All the coast of Chile was beneath us.
The sun rising over the Andes was spectacular. We drove all day, white
truck, blue van, red truck, green truck. We had 700 miles to go to Vallenar,
halfway to our destination of Yungay. The group met briefly in Dallas and
were feeling the separation from our families and were separated from each
other on the long flight from Dallas to Santiago. Our team skills were
unpracticed and it took three hours to eat, pack the vans, pile into our
assigned vehicles, and leave Santiago.
We ate breakfast and
lunch off the tailgate of one of the trucks. The close quarters and
chatter in the vans helped us bond. At lunch we were asked to mix up
the vans again and we were reluctant to separate so early from our
continued on our eight-hour trek. The view reminded us so much of the California
coast . We stopped at some "beach" towns where it is off season
and the houses were boarded up. Two young boys were dropped off by the school
bus and they walked by in their uniforms carrying their books. It was here
that Koby VanBeest, a teacher from New Hampshire, went for a swim in the
breakers of the bright blue Pacific Ocean.
Everything was so interesting
and new that we lingered longer than we had time for. The last hours
of the drive to Vallenar were in the dark. Ruta 5 is the main road
and heavily traveled by trucks going slowly through the winding mountain
road. Each of our vehicles had a walkie-talkie and we used them to
alert the ones behind when it was safe to pass.
We celebrated when we saw
the lights of Vallenar in the distance. The hotel was nice and clean.
We were on 36 hours of little sleep and we still had to unpack the
trucks, register and look for dinner. There was no elevator and we
were on the third floor carrying tents and luggage for a two week
stay in the desert. The room was large and had three single beds,
a private bath with toilet paper and hot water! We got to Vallenar
about 8 pm and ate dinner at 9. We had trouble finding a restaurant
that had enough food for us. The first three restaurants turned us
down. We found a restaurant where the owner couldn't have been nicer
or more accommodating.
June 21, 2006
The Winter Solstice
Transect, Day 1
were already coming together as a group and the packing of the vehicles
took much less time. We rode in the same cars as the day before in
preparation for another long day of driving interrupted by four stops
for sampling along the transect. Our first stop was to get gas and
we grouped to hear each scientist describe what they would be looking
for and the tests they would do. Chris McKay announced that we would
travel at a rate that would get us to Yungay by nightfall (6pm).
drove a half hour out of town to the first transect site. The teachers separated
and went with different scientist to collect samples of the rocks and soil.
Our sampling tools consisted of sterile spoons, plastic gloves and zip-lock
baggies. The scientists are all passionate about their work here and the
teachers are excited to be doing real science along side the scientists.
We were still working out the kinks of cooperation and communication. We
kept hearing the term "herding cats", which was a good description
of the progress of our group.
One of the reasons for the long drive was to view the changing landscape as
we drove north from relatively arid to extremely arid environment. This was
the first time a transect was done along this route for the primary purpose
of determining the minimum water requirements for the threshold of life. We
stopped and did collection of samples at 3 of the 4 places we had planned.
The sun was setting so we headed for Yungay.
We arrived at the camp at ten pm, grateful for the cold sandwiches and hot
drinks for dinner. It was very cold and very dark(the station is run by generator
and our flashlights were packed). We jammed into the small kitchen area for
introductions. The excitement level was high for both the travelers and the
greeters at the station. The excitement carried us through unpacking the trucks
and setting up tents. We settled in for a long, cold night.
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