This final chapter is designed primarily for the foreign visitor to Chile who wishes to gain a broad overview of the field geology and scenery of central and northern Chile. We hope that it will also aid an appreciation of the nature of human interaction with this climatically and topographically challenging area, from the early settlers to the modern mining industry. This is a traverse along and across one of the world’s classic compressional ocean–continent subduction zones, where strong coupling between the oceanic and continental plates is linked to active mountain building, dramatic scenery, and frequent earthquake and volcanic activity. The drive moves north from Santiago, which lies in the forearc Central Valley west of the South American Southern Volcanic Zone, into one of the flat-slab Andean segments. Within this flat-slab zone we divert east to describe a west-to-east across-strike traverse from the coast into the High Andes where, because of the low dip of the subducting plate, volcanoes are absent (Chapters 4 and 5). Returning to the coast, the drive continues north into the latitude of the South American Central Volcanic Zone, with its superbly developed line of modern volcanoes in the hyperarid high Atacama Desert. A second west-to-east traverse from the coast to these volcanoes illustrates how the modern continental forearc region is segmented into a series of mountain belts and intervening basins, each with its own distinctive scenery and geology. Additional details on the rock units and places visited, and the tectonic settings of ancient and modern
Figures & Tables
This book is the first comprehensive account in English of the geology of Chile, providing a key reference work that brings together many years of research, and written mostly by Chilean authors from various universities and other centres of research excellence. The 13 chapters begin with a general overview, followed by detailed accounts of Andean tectonostratigraphy and magmatism, the amazingly active volcanism, the world class ore deposits that have proven to be so critical to the welfare of the country, and Chilean water resources. The subject then turns to geophysics with an examination of neotectonics and earthquakes, the hazardous frequency of which is a daily fact of life for the Chilean population. There are chapters on the offshore geology and oceanography of the SE Pacific Ocean, subjects that continue to attract much research not least from those seeking to understand world climatic variations, and on late Quaternary land environments, concluding with an account examining human colonization of southernmost America.
During his voyage on H.M.S. Beagle, an extended visit to Chile (1834-35) had a profound impact on Charles Darwin, especially on his understanding of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Over more recent decades scientists have come to recognize the Chilean Andes as providing the classic example of a mountain belt produced by oceanic subduction beneath a continent, as well as some of the most dramatic scenic and climatic variations on Earth. In the final chapter, the editors offer a description of a drive from the Mediterranean landscapes of central Chile to the hyperarid Atacama Desert, a contribution designed to give visitors a chance to experience for themselves the geology and scenery of this extraordinary country.