End of the Americas
25 March 2013. We are at the end of our trip through the Americas, at the end of more than 50,000 km of road and 10 months of driving through North, Central and South America. In the beginning of April, Frida (our car) will go in a container to Japan from Santiago in Chile. We have therefore crossed over Argentina from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, up over the Andes and into Chile.
There were a lot of sea lions and even a couple of enormous female elephant seals but they were very far away. Off the coast we saw 3 killer whales cruising by but they must have had their lunch already because they did not come to hunt the sea lion pups on the beach.
We crossed Argentina from Trelew in the east to Esquel in the west, through an area dominated by Welsh emigrants. The road took us through western movie canyon lands and we camped for the night by a quiet river.
In Esquel we visited good friends and the next day we drove up to Bariloche through Los Alerces National Park, an ancient stretch of forest at the foot of the Andes. Some of the trees are up to 4,000 years old.
27 March 2013. Today Frida got packed into the container, ready to go on the vessel for Japan. She will be on her way for about 5 weeks. A long time, especially for her parents, we will miss her a lot!
La Silla Observatory
Built in the 1960’s, La Silla was the first European Southern Observatory (ESO) site in Chile. It is located at an altitude of 2400 m in a very dry and very remote part of the world, more precisely in the southern part of the Atacama Desert in Chile. Here there are about 300 days of sunshine and about 350 nights of clear skies per year.
We got a 3-hour long tour of the facilities and saw two of the very large telescopes close-up. This the the NTT, the New Technology Telescope, which uses a very fancy system of “active optics” to correct the shape of the large 3.58-meter diameter main mirror so it is always in perfect shape. This gives a very high image quality.
Here it is, the perfect mirror, 3.58 meters in diameter. Made by a Russian subcontractor of Carl Zeiss!
Next we visited the ESO 3.6 m Telescope from 1977. Here seen on a hill top next to the radio telescope.
The ESO 3.6 m Telescope. In the early days, the astronomer would sit in a chair at the very top of the telescope, under the open dome and the clear night sky, and he would put photographic plates to take the high resolution photos of space. It must have been incredible!
The enormous building of the ESO 3.6 meter Telescope.