Tag Archives: Chile

Teaching Tools – Tectonic landscapes: Volcanic research at a subduction zone

After the Volcanofiles 2012 Chile Expedition, supported by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), we teamed up with GCSE Principal Examiner Martin Parham who took our experiences — photos, data, anecdotes — and turned them into useful teaching tools. As part of the RGS From the Field Programme, Martin created three lessons:

  1. A case study of active volcanism in Chile.
  2. Data analysis using some of the data we collected in the field with UV spectrometers.
  3. And, a practical task using a KML file of a walking transect at Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano.

The full lesson, with introduction and all downloadable materials, is available at the From the Field Programme website. As the website states:

This will be of particular interest to A-Level students studying Tectonic Activity, but is also a valuable resource for all students interested in understanding the activity of different volcanoes and how researchers collect data from the field.

Chile/Costa Rica Expedition 2013 LIVE Tracking

These maps will be updated live throughout the duration of our trip! Watch this space and see below for location, photo, and info updates!

LIVE Map of the Expedition


SPOT Adventures Map w/Photos (not live)
Click on the map to go to our SPOT Adventures page.


Live Webcams: Villarrica
The view of Villarrica from the Centro Volcánico Villarrica (CVV) house that the crew is staying at during fieldwork.

Follow The Volcanofiles on our adventure through Chile and Costa Rica! Using a handy device known as a SPOT Connect, we will be able to send Tweets and Facebook updates as well as update the maps shown above.

The first map will be automatically updated, live, from our SPOT Connect in the field. It will track our location throughout the expedition as well as display any messages we sent through the device (geo-tagged, of course, so you can see where the messages were sent). The second map above also tracks our progress during the expedition and will also feature images that we upload. We will only be able to upload photos when we have access to internet, so it will be updated less frequently.

Some Photos:

VIDEO: Villarrica’s SO2 Plume in the Ultraviolet + Chile 2013?

A big congratulations to the team who have just been shortlisted for an interview on a grant that would fund a second volcanological expedition to Chile (specifically, Villarrica) in early 2013. The interview is this Friday, so we will keep you posted as things progress!

Until then, we want to keep your interest piqued, so check out this amazing video of Villarrica’s SO2 plume as seen by an ultraviolet camera. Kelby has been parsing through tons and tons of data, but had a few minutes to put this little gem together just for you! Check it out below:

Villarrica – A quick update from the team

We have been working our butts off and getting what looks like some very good data here on Volcan Villarrica! We have several blog posts backed up waiting to be published (we wish they could be coming in live, but we have very limited access to internet!). Expect more detailed field reports tomorrow.

We have had two teams summit to the rim of Villarrica while ground teams were simultaneously collecting data from the Los Crateres base camp. The past few days have been great weather for the spectrometers, UV camera, video camera, filter packs, and sun photometer. We are a happy bunch!

On Monday, we will leave the Villarrica area and head south to Puyehue Cordon-Caulle, a currently erupting volcano that (as you may remember) halted some airline flights in the southern hemisphere last year, sending ash all the way around the Earth.

Villarrica Day 0 – Recon

Sunday was “Day Zero” on Villarrica volcano. We decided that the best use of our time would be to split into two groups and scout out good sites for taking measurements of the volcanic plume with both UV spectrometers (DOAS) and the UV camera.

Three sites were chosen for recon: Los Crateres, a lookout point on the north side of the volcano; Glaciar Turbio, along an unmarked trail to the east; and Glaciar Pichillancahue, another lookout point to the southeast.

Map of our field site locations

Los Crateres

The Los Crateres team, Kelby, Kayla, & Yves, set off on a beautiful but challenging hike. Carrying with them two full-sized car batteries, a 12 kg UV camera and accessories, a DOAS scanner, tripods, computers, and other odds and ends was an incredible challenge and required two trips to the site and back. Needless to say, the group was knackered by the end of the day.

It turns out that Los Crateres is a perfect spot for simultaneous UV camera and DOAS measurements. The view of the volcano and it’s plume is ideal. The team have stashed the car batteries and tripods at the site (carrying those things up once was enough!) and will come back to measure regularly from this site. Kelby managed to get a few measurements with his UV camera, but most of the day was spent getting the gear up there.

Scanning the plume from the Los Crateres site

Glaciar Turbio/Glaciar Pichillancahue

Nial and Tehnuka left the others at the main park entrance and drove around the volcano to the north, planning to find a route up the Rio Turbio that would get them to the Turbio glacier front, where they could set up a DOAS scan.

Unfortunately, the map led them astray, and they ended up driving down a dirt road (dodging cows) to what they thought was the park entrance, only to find a sign telling them it was closed on Sundays.

Neither of us knows much Spanish – but it turns out ‘Vertedero’ means rubbish dump.

They picked out an alternative track to the east, which would take them to Glacier Pichillancahue, and returned to the main road (dodging the same cows). After only one more wrong turn, the two found their way up a gravel road – which turned into a four wheel drive track somewhat earlier than expected. Carrying their gear, including the car battery in Nial’s pack, they both made it to the park rangers’ office.

The route they had chosen was a two hour walk starting a few kilometres further down the 4WD track. However, the helpful ranger suggested a shorter walk up to a lookout point (‘it gains a lot of altitude fast’, he said in Spanish) that would give a view of Villarrica’s plume as well as nearby volcanoes Quetrupilllan and Llaima. The site would be several kilometres further from the crater than we’d hoped, but it was almost noon and Nial and Tehnuka were keen to set up the scan while there was still plenty of UV, so they took the ranger’s advice and started winding their way up the hill. It would be interesting to see what they could pick up at that distance, anyway.

The walk did gain altitude quite fast, but after an hour and a half – Tehnuka thought the ranger had said it was a thirty minute walk – the two decided that the view of the plume wouldn’t get any better, and began to set up the DOAS. At this stage they realised that they were missing the cable that connected the computer to the scanner, and – when they decided to try scanning manually (moving the telescope by hand) just to see what they could pick up – the software wouldn’t open. As they walked back, clouds began to build over the summit.

It was a pretty long walk carrying a lot of gear, and it was quite disappointing not to get any data, but we agreed that it was better to have things go wrong on a reconnaissance day than any other time. On the bright side, we had some amazing views!

View while setting up the DOAS. The top of Villarrica is visible over the top of the ridge. The pale blue of the plume extends right of the summit - it is grounded near the crater and then rises. A cloud has formed along the line of the plume (in the middle of the photo).

Chile Expedition: On the road to Villarrica

We packed up our enormous amount of gear into two small rental cars and left Santiago on February 2nd heading south on the Panamerican Highway – Villarrica, here we come!

Villarrica here we come!

Day One

Our travel plans took us south to Villarica by way of Los Angeles (where we camped for a night) and Temuco (where we met up with our local contacts at the observatory). The first driving day took us through Chilean wine country, so we decided that a stop at a vineyard was a compulsory cultural stop. The 7 bottles of wine we bought at the San Pedro vineyard should hold us over for the first week or so!

We stopped just outside of Los Angeles very near to Salto del Laja, a beautiful waterfall on Río Laja. Unfortunately, the waterfall was not in view of our (free) camp site, which was basically off the shoulder of the highway, in a ditch, among a travellers’ commune. It wasn’t the nicest camp site I’ve stayed in, but it did us for the night (and, you can’t beat the price). In the morning, we enjoyed breakfast next to Salto del Laja waterfall – a gorgeous site.

Day Two

Driving day two took us farther south into Temuco, the home of the Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), a part of the national geological service, Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) Red Nacional de Vigilancia Volcánica.

Our contacts there, jefe Fernando Gil Cruz and his team, have been invaluable in helping us plan our field work in the southern Andes. They were happy to show us around their facility, which looks to be a well oiled machine and an extremely well stocked volcanic vigilance center.

They provided us with advice about access to Villarrica and Puyehue Cordon-Caulle volcanoes as well as four car batteries necessary to power our equipment. But, that’s not all. They’ve even offered the use of their Villarrica base camp – a fantastic cabin about 20km from the volcano that offers an astounding view of the mountain and her plume. This place is the absolute best spot to base our field campaign out of.

Today we woke up to a sunrise through a giant picture window looking right at Villarrica. This morning we are sorting our gear and getting everything ready for a trek around the volcano tomorrow morning, weather permitting.

The upcoming line up:

Kelby and his UV Camera

Yves and the DOAS UV Spectrometer

Nial and DOAS and his home made automated DOAS scanners

Kayla and the MICROTOPS Sun Photometer for measuring aerosols

Tehnuka and filter packs for collecting particulates and acid gases

Lascar volcano, Chile on alert status

The Chilean geological service SERNAGEOMIN and Chilean emergency management ONEMI have placed Lascar volcano on heightened alert status. Over 300 small earthquakes at the volcano have occurred in the last day or so, and evacuation may become necessary for the small towns and mining operations in proximity to the volcano.

Lascar is one of the three main volcanoes The Volcanofiles will be visiting on our journey to Chile, which begins this February and will go through early March. Our current itinerary has us starting work on Lascar on February 27th for six days, but we’ll see how things shape up once we’re there. Check out this amazing photo of Lascar from an eruption in 2006.

Keep an eye out with Lascar’s webcam
If you’re as anxious as we are to see what Lascar will do now that it is on alert status, keep an eye on the volcano by checking in on the webcam pointed right at it, courtesy of SERNAGEOMIN:

Some history
Lascar is the most active volcano of the Chilean Andes. The andesitic-to-dacitic stratovolcano is composed of six overlapping craters. The biggest eruption ever at Lascar was about 26,500 years ago. The largest historical eruption occurred in 1993 when ash fall reached as far as Buenos Aires.

Lascar eruption in 1993

Lots of action in Chile these days…
Another smaller volcano, Callaqui, has had some possible ashy eruptions recently. One pilot reported seeing an “ash cloud” over the volcano. It’s on our way when we are driving between volcano sites in Chile, so we may stop to have a peak, time permitting.