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World’s Driest Region – the Atacama Desert

World’s Driest Region – the Atacama Desert

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The Atacama Desert of Chile is the second driest desert in the world after icy Antarctica. It is located on the highlands of South America and covers about 1000 kilometers land shred on the coast of Pacific Ocean, west of the Andes Mountains. The desert is composed of salt lakes, sand and Felsic lava flows towards the Andes Mountains. It is barren piece of land with a very little rain in the decades. The desert is not at all suitable for living because of its uncertain climatic conditions, average temperature of 0° to 25° and its isolation it is sometime referred to as “Moon like”. And that’s why it is chosen to be fine site for the prototype testing of a future lunar rover. Though the desert is not suitable for inhabitant but its rich mines of nitrate and copper make Chile one of the leading exporters of it.

The Hand in the Desert

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The giant hand in the middle of the Atacama Desert which is named Mano del desierto is one of the strangest statues of the world. It was created by Chilean Sculpture Mario Irarrazaal in the early 1980’s. This statute was made with the purpose to imply the issues of human rights that were quite horrifying to be dealt by the people of the Chile in the past.  The hand is actually seems to be coming out of the sand. To add the insightful effect of the sculpture on the world it was in the outskirts of the city of Antofagasta.

Interesting Facts about Atacama:

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Virtually rainless – the Atacama Desert is said to be virtually rainless plateau as the average rainfall per year is just 1mm.Infact, due to dry weather mountain peaks that attain over 6,500 meters have no sign of glaciers. And some parts of desert have never been reported with any rainfall.

Sterile soil – the desert’s land is barren because of the sterile soil as it could not receive moisture from anywhere because of blockage from both sides by the Chilean Coast Range and Andes Mountains

Mars like soil- NASA has chose the desert’s land for testing instruments of Mars for future missions to the red planet. As the soil samples of the desert and mars soil are found to be similar. In fact the site has been chosen for the Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program.

Border dispute – The Chile and Bolivia fight over the land dispute of the Atacama Desert in 1800’s and finally dispute came to end with Chile having the land.

Birds and Animals of the Atacama Desert

Birds

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The Atacama Desert has the largest animal group as Birds. The desert’s salt flats near the Pacific and inland are very suitable for the Andean flamingos as they live on algae around there. The desert cliffs that overlook the ocean make home for the Humboldt penguins who live their year-round. The tamarugo conebill, the Chilean woodstar and the slender-billed finch are some of the threatened species that are helped in sustaining their life in the desert. The desert’ ecosystem also helps the birds of prey, such as burrowing owls and chimango caracaras when the flowers are blooming. Other birds like sparrows and humming birds also visit the desert seasonally to feed upon insects, nectar, flowers and seeds.

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Amphibians and Reptiles:

The desert has very less number of reptiles and amphibian species. The lizards of salt flats live in the dry areas of the desert around the ocean’s border, while the lava and iguanas lizards reside in every part of the desert. The Vallenar toad inhabits the ponds or streams of the desert where it also lays eggs.

 

Mammals:

The Atacama Desert’s dry weather and uncertain climatic conditions does not suits the entire mammal’s living there, therefore only few adapted species of mammal are inhabitant there. The grass grazing animals such as guanacos and vicunas eats grass irrigated by melted snow. Fur seals and sea lions gather around the sea coast while the vicunas need to remain near by the water supply constantly and the guanacos roam around the dry areas of the desert as they can survive without water for long time. Various other animals like viscacha, South American gray fox lives on fruits, eggs, lizards, seeds and even they desert scorpions.

 

Insects and Arachnids:

Very few insects are able to sustain their lives in the Atacama Desert due to its dryness. Different beetles and their larvae are the valuable source of food in the desert for various animals. Sand-colored grasshoppers blend with the pebbles are also inhabitants of the desert. Butterflies also become the inhabitants of the desert during warm and humid seasons.

An alien in the desert

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A long skeleton of about 6-inch was found in the Atacama Desert which showed various incongruities as compared to the normal human skeleton. The Skeleton has the teeny weeny body along with the alien like skull. The Skeleton has just account of the 10 ribs rather than 12 as compared to humans. The skeleton might seem to have earthly organs but the actual figure created quite a medical mystery. When the mummified specimen was found in the desert lots of buzz was around that might alien have landed the earth but nothing seems to be able to prove the fact.

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