Melody, Judy, Jerry & Dave standing on the Tropic of Capricorn

What made it particularly exciting on this day was the trip that had us “officially” passing the Tropic of Capricorn – Latitude 25° 26’ 16”. There actually is a sign indicating its location and its where this picture was taken of the 4 Amigos – Melody, Dave, Jerry and me – at 1:10 PM. The desert expanse was mind boggling with very little if any plants on the desert expanses. There was one volcano en route that showed steam coming from its cone, reminding us this is country is part of the Pacific rim volcano ring.

Arrived at Laguna Miscanti (elevation 13,668 ft / 4,164 m ASL), at 1:20 PM. The “lake” was surrounded by mountains and their volcanic peaks, most notably the volcano Miñiques whose lava flow separated Laguna Miscanti from Laguna MiñiquesThe first thing we encountered upon arrival was a herd of vicuña on the gentle slopes leading down to the laguna and at water’s edge. 

Humorous Side Story: Our car, driven by Charline, had never been the lead car on excursions so “ate the dust” of the cars ahead of us on the numerous unpaved desert roads. On this day, it was warmer than usual, so Dave requested the air conditioning be turned up. Unexpectedly, a large plume of dust spewed out over Charline and me in the front seat which had us choking. Laughter prevailed throughout the car for several minutes! Dave suggested there must be 4 speeds of air conditioning in Atacama cars – low, medium, high and Atacama dust storm. That had us laughing even more!

Back to the Lodge for supper and for what we thought might be another night under the stars. That was not to be. We were informed upon our return that Latam Airlines was going on strike! Our flights to Santiago and the consequent connection to our flight home on Air Canada were in jeopardy. Jerry spent a lot of time on the computer and phone getting flights for him, Melody, Dave, and me. Thankfully, he was successful.

The airline strike certainly put a damper on that night’s observing. Melody located and viewed the remaining objects she wanted to find but did not have time to sketch them. I just didn’t have the heart for any serious observing other than to stare at the skies for a short period and to realize it may be the last time to see these dark southern skies with all its wonders.

Identified, not Observed:
Coalsack Nebula, Crux, LMC, SMC,

A great disappointment for everyone that the trip was cut short.

Milky Way and Large Magellanic Cloud with Small Magellanic Cloud (lower right tree branches) - Photo by Jerry Black


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