Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘patagonia’

The Emu in the Sky

The Emu in the Sky

What happens when you find yourself standing in the middle of the night at 800 meters high, with little or no humidity and more than 200km away from the nearest artificial light-source? Welcome to one of the best nigh skies in the world, at the Somuncura plateau in the Argentinian Patagonia.

There is a scale to measure the quality of the night sky called “the Bortle  Dark Sky Scale” in that scale Somuncura is a class 1 zone, there’s not a single lightbulb in hundreds of kilometers around you!

From Scorpius to Orion

From Scorpius to Orion

If you are used to the horrible pink glow of urban or suburban skies you will notice several differences in a class 1 sky. The first one is that you can’t see! And I really mean it, on a moonless night you can put your hand in front of your face and you won’t see it. Interesting!. Several deep sky objects are easily seen with the naked eye. The Magellan clouds are very bright and the Milky Way is stunning. The Orion Nebula is fuzzy and easy and of course you see thousands of stars. Something that really caught my attention was how the dark coalsack  nebula next to the southern cross contrasted against the Milky Way. It was deep black against an ocean of stars.

The Light of the Milky Way

The Light of the Milky Way

The Milky Way is so bright that it casts shadows and can be used as a light-source. This panorama is Milky-Way lit, no moon, no artificial lights no other light source in hundreds of kilometers. I blogged about this before in a post called “The Light of the Milky Way“.

The Celestial Equator

The Celestial Equator

One inmediate effect of darkness is that you can take a really long exposure photo without blowing the sky, at the place where I live I can expose the sky for about 30 seconds, at Somuncura I could expose for 2 hours and the photo had still room for more photons! This is very nice but caught me totally off guard and I run into several technical problems with my remotes, batteries and supporting gear because I wasn’t trained for such long exposures.

Meteor at Somuncura

Meteor at Somuncura

My final paragraph is for meteors or shooting stars. I visited the plateau in March far away from any significant or even small meteor shower. Even then it was very easy to catch a few sporadic meteors jut by grazing at the sky for some time. I even got a nice bolide in one photo jus by pure luck. I can’t imagine how a meteor shower would look under these skies but I would love to be there for one.

Read Full Post »

Laguna Blanca and Cerro Corona

Laguna Blanca and Cerro Corona

The Somuncura Plateau is a large and almost unexplored part of the Argentinian Patagonia. It’s between the coast on the East popular for the beaches and the whales and the mountains on the west popular for the ski, snow, lakes and glaciers. In the middle we have this gigantic piece of basalt formed millions of years ago by volcanos that are now extinct.

Somuncura

Somuncura

In this remote location at about 800 meters above sea level the weather is very extreme and random, you can have more tan 40C in the Summer and -20C in the winter, it can snow at almost any time of the year and winds above 60km/h are constant. Rain is very rare making water a very precious resource.

Difficult Roads

Difficult Roads

Only a few brave people live in this place where distance is measured in horse-hours, sometimes in days. The roads are made by hand removing the rocks one by one until a path is cleared, they are difficult and only accessible with 4×4 vehicles and horses. Most people live from their animals struggling to survive day after day without electricity, gas or any form of service. At some points of the plateau you will be more than 200km away from the nearest inhabited place.I’m not a “people” photographer but their stories really deserve attention and respect, a lot of respect.

The Centinel

The Centinel

Only a few species make the Somuncura Plateau their home, there are a lot of Guanacos, very shy from people as they are hunted for their fur and sometimes meat. The majestic Condor can be seen at some specific locations of the Plateau. All the other forms of life are small rodents, mammals and the typical plants you can find at the desert.

The Pointed One

The Pointed One

The terrain is mostly flat with a few volcanic cones here and there. The highest elevations are from “Cerro Puntudo” at around 1600 meters, “Cerro Corona Grande” and “Cerro Corona Chico” are also prominent. All these are extinct volcanos with the classical conic shape of a stratovolcano, that’s why basaltic lava is so common in the soil. You can also find very large rocks in the middle of the plateau that could have been ejected from a volcanic eruption many millions of years ago.

The Pearl

The Pearl

There are only a few permanent bodies of water at the plateau, “Laguna Azul” is one of the biggest ones connected perhaps to an underground reservoir but even the it’s becoming smaller and smaller year after year. The lagoon is in the middle of an almost perfectly circular volcanic crater. Basalt, pumice and obsidian rocks are commonly found and used by the people that live here to make tools and construct their homes.

The Somuncura Plateau has one of the best night skies in the world but I’ll leave that for the next post.

You can find more photos about this magical place at my website. I’ve made a slideshow here: http://www.luisargerich.com/somuncura-2011

If you want to visit this or any other place in Patagonia I recomend this company: http://www.rupestrepatagonia.com.ar/ I think they are the only company with a real permit to visit the Somuncura Plateau as the area is protected.

Read Full Post »