Field Logs and Archives

Photos courtesy of Henry Bortman unless otherwise noted.

November 1, 2006

Laguna Blanca Refuge, Bolivia

Today we left San Pedro and climbed up into the altiplano (Spanish for "high plain"), ending at the refuge by the shore of Laguna Blanca, in Bolivia. This will be our home for the next week. The scientists will collect samples from experiments that they placed in previous years here and at the nearby Laguna Verde.

The altiplano is a broad sloping plain that climbs to the base of the volcanoes that define the skyline of this harsh and beautiful desert landscape. It spans hundreds of miles north to south and is perhaps 50 to 100 miles wide. All of this terrain was created by volcanoes and hydrothermal activity. As we climbed, we passed through regions that were alternately barren, then covered with desert scrub. Occasionally, alongside the road we saw deep channels that were cut by rivers that once flowed there.

Suddenly, right beside the road, we saw a pack of llamas, about 20 of them. They were congregating around a watering hole. We stopped to take some pictures. They were apparently used to being around people. We were able to get within 10 feet of them before they lazily turned their backs to us and trotted a short distance away.

Just a mile or two later, the bus stopped again. "Everybody out," said Nathalie. It was time for our first official group photo, with Licancabúr as our backdrop. This was at 4,000 meters (slightly more than 13,000 feet) above sea level.

We continued climbing another 500 meters (about 1,600 feet) in elevation, and then turned left off the paved road we had been traveling onto a fairly well-maintained dirt road. And there, to our right, a herd of vicuñas, goat-like animals with tawny fur. They are related to alpacas and llamas.

A short stretch further down the road we stopped at the Bolivian border, where we all filed in to a small shack to present our passport and obtain Bolvian visas.

Soon we were at the refuge, the wind whipping around us and stirring up Laguna Blanca, giving it its characteristic milky white color. We unpacked, had our first taste of lunchtime soup, refuge style, a delicious welcoming meal.

Sunset over the lake was a fantastic visual treat.

Captain's Log

October 31, 2006

I did not think I would start writing so soon upon arrival...

Field Archives

October 28, 2006
November 01, 2006
November 02, 2006
November 03, 2006
November 04, 2006
November 05, 2006
November 06, 2006
November 13, 2006
November 26, 2006