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Introduction and overview

By
Robert J. Pankhurst
Robert J. Pankhurst
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Francisco Hervé
Francisco Hervé
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Published:
January 01, 2007

Abstract

Chile is, geographically, an unusual and in many ways astonishing country (Fig. 1.1). It stretches north–south along the South American mainland for over 4000 km, from 18°S, where the Altiplano is shared with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, to 56°S at Tierra del Fuego and the islands of Cape Horn, the next stop being Antarctica. Its western margin everywhere is the Pacific Ocean, and its eastern boundary is the summit of the Andes mountains, so that in a width of rarely more than 200 km, the topography rises from sea level to a maximum of almost seven thousand metres. Climatic variations reflect this extraordinary topography. The north is characterized by the Atacama Desert, considered to be the driest place on Earth. The south is in the temperate rainforest zone, with vegetation that struggles against the prevailing westerly gales. In this southern sector the land is moulded by recent glaciations that carved the coastal areas into fiords and archipelagos consisting of thousands of islands; the length of the Chilean coastline including these islands must exceed that of many other countries that have a larger surface area. It is the extreme variety represented by these factors that have led to Chile becoming such an attractive tourist destination, despite the isolation and comparative difficulty of access of many of its geomorphological treasures.

Figure 1.1 shows the distribution of the main tectonic and geomorphological features of Chile. The northern and central parts of the country can be reasonably divided into three north– south

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Geological Society, London, Geology of Series

The Geology of Chile

Teresa Moreno
Teresa Moreno
Earth Sciences Institute ‘Jaume Almera’, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Barcelona, Spain
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Wes Gibbons
Wes Gibbons
AP 23075, Barcelona, Spain
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
9781862393936
Publication date:
January 01, 2007

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