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Journal of the Transect
June 20, 2006

Cherlyn Anderson, South Carolina
Cathy Campbell, Michigan
Phyllis Isbell, Washington

photo of participants packing up car
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 new friends.

photo of Koby taking a swim in the oceanWe 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

sample taking along the wayWe 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).
We 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.
tent city at Jungay
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.

This opportunity is brought to you by in partnership with
Mars Society,
NASA Explorer Schools,
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS),
National Society of Black Engineers - Space Special Interest Group (NSBE - Space),
Space Generation.


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Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: April 2007
Teachers Contact: Liza Coe