State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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At the Feet of El Misti

19th June 2011

What a difference a day makes! We’ve said goodbye to the sprawling metropolis of Lima and now are happily settled in Arequipa – the White City. This name refers to the white sillar rock used in the construction of the old colonial city and which is in fact a pyroclastic deposit from the volcanoes towering above us. From our hotel room I can see the massive bell-shaped peak of El Misti (5800 m), the only active volcano of the group, and it’s looking particularly snowy this year. In fact, flying in to Arequipa, I was surprised to see so much cloud. Normally, with this being the dry season, the sky in this desert region is blue and the mountains dry. Perhaps we should prepare for some wet, snowy field work!

Arequipa has grown on the flank of the active volcano, El Misti. The city center lies only 17 kilometer from the summit of El Misti. Much of the building stone for Arequipa, know as 'sillar', is quarried from the typical white pyroclastic flow deposits nearby.

Thankfully, nothing has changed at La Casa de Melgar, our Arequipa base, and I dug out my sampling tools from where I’d stashed them last year, a little dusty but in perfect working order. The rest of our gear, due to its incredible weight, is making its way slowly from Lima by road and should be here tomorrow morning. As for Matt, we found him in the airport, looking surprisingly fresh-faced after his red-eye flight, and so our field team is now complete.

Kurt and Matt arriving at Arequipa airport with Nevado Chachani behind

We’ll spend the rest of the day organizing our transport and, in the interests of science, sampling the rather incredible local cuisine.

Gordon

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