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Whale graveyard in Chile unearths fossil treasure trove

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Site is branded most diverse on planet for marine mammals after Pan-American Highway roadworks unearth baleen whales

The baleen whale fossil graveyard in Chile known as Cerro Ballena, ‘whale hill’. Photograph: Adam Metallo, Smithsonian Institution

A mass graveyard of whales has been unearthed beside the Pan-American Highway in Chile, in what scientists believe is one of most extraordinary marine mammal fossil sites on the planet.

The skeletons of dozens of baleen whales were found in ancient sandstones in the Atacama region of northern Chile, where they are thought to have lain undetected for between 6m and 9m years.

Whale fossil graveyard in Chile. Photograph: Adam Metallo/Smithsonian Institution

In an article published in the Royal Society journal, scientists explain that the whales ended up in the same small area as the result of four separate mass strandings over a period of more than 10,000 years.

Researchers believe the animals ingested toxic algae before being washed into an estuary and, eventually, on to flat sands at the site dubbed Cerro Ballena (“whale hill”).

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The high road: Argentina to Chile by bus

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Buses are usually just a means of getting from A to B, but the journey across the Andes from Argentina to Chile is a true adventure, showcasing magnificent scenery, rare wildlife and, at times, extreme weather

A llama herd at around 4,000 metres. Photograph: Kevin Rushby

On the upper deck of the trans-Andes bus, the gap-year backpackers from every advanced economy of the globe did not appreciate the danger we were in. Not yet. When I looked back from my seat at the front, I saw that many of them were busy with iPads and iPhones, a few were asleep and the rest were chatting.

No one was watching the digital display that recorded the outside temperature. It had been falling ever since we left behind the last human habitation, in Argentina. Now it was below zero and still dropping. Rolling sheets of ice particles were scouring the road, while the midday sky remained an imperturbable blue.

We had spent several hours winding westwards towards Chile, up into inhospitable realms, passing vast salt lakes presided over by snow-capped peaks and seeing signs of life disappear. Now there were no more vicuña and guanaco, the wild llamas of the Andes, no suri, the giant flightless bird. At 4,800m, even the golden tussock grass had given up and there was nothing, only the jagged peaks rising from a barren plain. The bus lowed, then gave a shudder as an icy blast hit it broadsides.

Crossings are often the best part of any journey, whether it’s over a border or pass, or through straits. Humans have long known that such moments require the greatest concentration, for in those crossings comes the greatest danger – and the greatest pleasure. My favourites have always been mountain passes: the modest Lake District, or the dizzying Rockies or Himalayas.

I was looking forward to my first journey over the Andes, and to this pass, from Purmamarca in Argentina to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. I was expecting something special from the 10-hour bus ride. But I had not considered that a journey over a barrier like the Andes can take a traveller over subtler barriers too – like the one that separates you from the local culture.

The woman across the aisle let out a howl of frustration: “No signal!” Along the deck, headphones were flung aside, screens tapped, phones raised. The bus kept grinding upwards and the temperature gauge settled for -10C. The sheets of ice had become storms of blinding white. Then, with a lurch, we stopped. Ahead of us a lorry was jammed into a bank of driven ice. There was no way past, and our coach could not reverse or turn around. I saw the driver, or one of his assistants, struggling through the blizzard.

Lorries struggle through icy winds. Photograph: Kevin Rushby

“There’s this girl I know on Facebook,” said someone behind me, “she was stuck for two days and then they went back to Purmamarca.”

This news caused alarm: “They shouldn’t allow the buses to go if it’s dangerous!” “I’ve got a flight to catch.”

I pulled on my boots and jacket, grabbed my camera and set off to the lower deck. On the stairs the transition from tourism to adventure travel was drawing differing responses. A few passengers were embracing the excitement, but most were grim-faced. “The toilet’s blocked.” “I’m cold.” We’d been stopped less than 10 minutes.

Fortunately for me the adventure had started a day earlier and I was already in the mood. Sometimes a trip does that: jumbling any plans and demanding that you leap from tourist to traveller. My plan had read: “Transfer by car from Salta to Purmamarca via the famous tourist attraction of Humahuaca Gorge, then take the bus across the Andes to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.” That was not exactly what had happened.

I’d driven out of Salta early the previous morning with Edgar, my guide there. We were talking about the astonishing Museum of High Altitude Archaeology in the town square.

“It’s still controversial with some people,” Edgar had said. “They don’t like their ancestors to be disturbed.”

Five centuries ago the Incas, revering the eternal sun and the restless volcanoes, had sacrificed children by leaving them to die on the top of particular mountains.

“It’s not a human sacrifice,” said Edgar. “Don’t call it that.”

Their diminutive corpses were discovered in 1999 – preserved by severe cold and depleted oxygen – and removed to Salta. In the museum the story of how they came to be on a remote, 6,700m mountaintop builds to a remarkable moment of ghastly drama, when you come face to face with one of the children. It is a moving experience, giving a glimpse into ancient times, when people believed that mountains were living beings who made war on each other. In those times the few humans who passed that way came as supplicants, filled with a sense of awe and magic.

“Some people still revere the mountains,” said Edgar. “They wanted those children to be left alone.”

Read more with a link to a great photo album

Read more with a link to a great photo album

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I have done a similar trip from Calama (Chile) through San Pedro de Atacama up over two passes 4,000+ Susques and down to San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina.

When it comes to adventure, sometimes perilous adventure, this is hard to beat.

 

 

Puya chilensis eats sheep

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RHS ‘sheep-eating’ plant about to bloom in Surrey

The RHS Puya chilensis is expected to be in bloom in the glasshouse for about a week

A South American plant with a 10ft (3m) tall flower spike is about to bloom in a Surrey glasshouse for the first time since it was planted 15 years ago.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) at Wisley said the Puya chilensis, a native of Chile, would bloom in the next few days and last about a week.

In the Andes it uses its sharp spines to snare and trap sheep and other animals, which slowly starve to death.

The animals then decay at the base of the plant, acting as a fertiliser.

The RHS feeds its specimen on liquid fertiliser.

The gardening charity said very few specimens of Puya chilensis were known to have flowered in the UK.

The National Botanic Garden of Wales waited 11 years for its plant to bloom, though clumps bloom every April in the open on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly.

The plant has bright greeny-yellow flowers on tall spikes above the razor-sharp spines.

“I’m really pleased that we’ve finally coaxed our Puya chilensis into flower,” said horticulturalist Cara Smith.

“We keep it well fed with liquid fertiliser as feeding it on its natural diet might prove a bit problematic.

“It’s growing in the arid section of our glasshouse with its deadly spines well out of reach of both children and sheep alike.”

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Puya chilensis

Puya chilensis

The Earth is Grumbling

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Argentina and Chile order evacuation of Copahue volcano

Residents living near Copahue were also evacuated last year after the volcano erupted (file picture)

Chile and Argentina have ordered the evacuation of some 3,000 people living near the Copahue volcano in the south of their shared border.

The authorities in both countries issued a red alert – the highest possible – saying the Chilean volcano could erupt imminently.

The 2,965m (nearly 10,000ft) volcano – which sits in the Andes cordillera – has so far only spewed gas.

Thousands of minor earth tremors have been registered in the area.

“This red alert has been issued after monitoring the activity of the volcano and seeing that it has increased seismic activity,” Chilean Interior Minister Andres Chadwick said in a news conference.

“There is a risk that it can start erupting.”

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What was Flying over Santiago, Chile 4 Days Ago?

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On the 17th & 18th of December this year several glowing orbs, which looked like an alien fleet was observed over Santiago, Chile.

Usually these things are pronounced a hoax, but these seem to be filmed  from three different sources.

The wonderful thing about the mainstream media, not a word has been printed in five days…

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You can check The Canadian for more videos, photos and story.

UFOs, are they real?

I note that no air or military authority has commented either, maybe this one is too hard to explain.

The Great Marijuana Debate

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First of all, we need to look at why cannabis is illegal.

“Many people assume that marijuana was made illegal through some kind of process involving scientific, medical, and government hearings; that it was to protect the citizens from what was determined to be a dangerous drug.

The actual story shows a much different picture. Those who voted on the legal fate of this plant never had the facts, but were dependent on information supplied by those who had a specific agenda to deceive lawmakers. You’ll see below that the very first federal vote to prohibit marijuana was based entirely on a documented lie on the floor of the Senate.

You’ll also see that the history of marijuana’s criminalization is filled with:

  • Racism
  • Fear
  • Protection of Corporate Profits
  • Yellow Journalism
  • Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators
  • Personal Career Advancement and Greed

These are the actual reasons marijuana is illegal.

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Background

For most of human history, marijuana has been completely legal. It’s not a recently discovered plant, nor is it a long-standing law. Marijuana has been illegal for less than 1% of the time that it’s been in use. Its known uses go back further than 7,000 B.C. and it was legal as recently as when Ronald Reagan was a boy.

The marijuana (hemp) plant, of course, has an incredible number of uses. The earliest known woven fabric was apparently of hemp, and over the centuries the plant was used for food, incense, cloth, rope, and much more. This adds to some of the confusion over its introduction in the United States, as the plant was well known from the early 1600′s, but did not reach public awareness as a recreational drug until the early 1900′s.”DrugWarRant.com

Most Americans have no idea why cannabis (marijuana) is illegal.

The truth is that the move was politically motivated, and not beyond corporate interference.

Check this:

Is a major reason that cannabis is illegal today.

“DuPont’s involvment in the anti-hemp campaign can also be explained with great ease. At this time, DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid process for producing wood-pulp paper. “According to the company’s own records, wood-pulp products ultimately accounted for more than 80% of all DuPont’s railroad car loadings for the next 50 years” (ibid). Indeed it should be noted that “two years before the prohibitive hemp tax in 1937, DuPont developed a new synthetic fiber, nylon, which was an ideal substitute for hemp rope” (Hartsell). The year after the tax was passed DuPont came out with rayon, which would have been unable to compete with the strength of hemp fiber or its economical process of manufacturing. “DuPont’s point man was none other than Harry Anslinger…who was appointed to the FBN by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was also chairman of the Mellon Bank, DuPont’s chief financial backer. Anslinger’s relationship to Mellon wasn’t just political, he was also married to Mellon’s niece” (Hartsell). It doesn’t take much to draw a connection between DuPont, Anslinger, and Mellon, and it’s obvious that all of these groups, including Hearst, had strong motivation to prevent the growth of the hemp industry.”The Vaults of Erowid

Cannabis was made illegal at the behest of a corporate giant.

Nothing to do with being a drug, nothing to do with madness nor jazz music. Everything to do with corporate profits.

Of course the USA pushed the world into the same thinking, dragging the rest of the world into its own cesspool.

Now other countries are starting to think for themselves, and the American government doesn’t like it.

Uruguay, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and now Chile are beginning to question the logic and search for better ways to manage the issue. Places like Holland, Belgium and Portugal have already made inroads into the issue.

Chilean senator’s confession heats debate on legalising marijuana

Marijuana remains an illegal substance in Chile, but there are a growing number of shops in the country which sell cannabis products.

A recent admission by Senator Fulvio Rossi that he occasionally smokes the drug has heated the debate over whether the drug should be legalised.

Check the BBC video clip.

Santiago, Chile

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Santiago and the Andes

 

Santiago has a terrible smog problem, to see such a clear view of the Andes over the city is rare

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