Chile Expedition: Santiago – The gang’s back together!

All five Volcanofiles are (believe it or not) all in the same place at the same time. Yep, the gang’s back together, and so far everything has gone better than expected!

The gang's back together!

A five week field campaign takes a lot of planning, and given that we hadn’t been able to meet in person for several months, much of our discussion had been carried out over email. Tuesday was the first time in almost six months that the Volcanofiles had all been in the same room. There was a lot of excitement – and a lot more work to do. Yves had arrived in Santiago a few days early, and Kayla and Kelby flew in on Tuesday morning. Nial and Tehnuka arrived hours later with the bulk of the equipment. Nial had picked up our Carnet documents in London before the flight. These papers were one of the biggest expenses of our trip but make transporting equipment easier, as they act as a ‘passport for goods’ between Carnet countries, allowing us to bring our equipment in and out of Chile without paying duty tax.

We reunited at the Don Santiago hostel in Santiago (which we would highly recommend, by the way!) and began to plan our forthcoming volcanic adventure. Between us, we have three UV spectrometers, two of which Nial is setting up as mini scanners; a UV camera kindly lent to us by Matt Watson at the University of Bristol; an infrared thermal camera; a filter pack; a video camera; and a sun photometer.

Although access to Villarrica wouldn’t be too difficult, Puyehue-Cordon Caulle has been on red alert, and the recent seismic activity at Làscar means it is now on yellow alert status. Until we met with OVDAS (the Chilean Volcano Observatory) at Temuco on Friday, we wouldn’t have a clear idea of how close we could get or which instruments we’d be able to deploy at those two locations. Among our priorities were picking up rental cars and buying batteries, finding road maps, and deciding where to stay near Villarrica – we had enough camping gear between us to fill up both our cars.

There was a lot of work to be done. Nial was hard at work writing code for his brand new, home made DOAS UV spectrometer scanners; Kayla gathered maps and talked to local contacts at the volcano observatory in Temuco; Kelby was doing his homework on how to drive us from Santiago to Villarrica and sorting the medical kits with Yves, who spent time researching equipment and transportation costs; and Tehnuka was writing up extra funding proposals. All in all, it was a busy couple of days, but it was great to be reunited.

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