Reading the Salt Caves Of Atacama Desert – Chile

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The Cordillera de la Sal (San Pedro de Atacama, Chile) is one of the most important salt karst areas in the World, hosting over 50 caves and more than 15 km of underground passages, including the longest and deepest cave system of Chile. This landscape, with deeply eroded reddish marls, dark aeolian sands, the white salt layers, and the complete lack of any vegetation, forms a perfect analogue for Mars.
The expedition (March 2018) was leaded by Prof. Jo De Waele of the University of Bologna, and involves cavers of italian Association “La Venta-Esplorazioni Geografiche”, and scientists of the University of Copiapò (Prof. Barbieri), Padova (Prof. Massironi), CSIC-IRNAS Sevilla (Prof. Ana Zelia Miller), and CNR-Ibimed Sassari (Dr. Laura Sanna).
This project had two main objectives: exploration of new caves, and scientific research in known cave systems and the newly discovered ones.
Scientific studies had included 3D laser scanning measurements of cave passages, short-time meteorological monitoring, and mineralogical and microbiological sampling and analyses.
The Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society had authorized a Grant for this work.

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