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Thursday, 31 August 2006

Snow White Lakes...But No Snow - Page 2

Written by Dr. Ronald Francis
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Your best initial guess is that it is a frozen lake covered with snow. Look again and you see that it is too dry to be snow, and the temperature is not as cold as it should be. In fact you are not looking at snow, but salt.

 

You decide to take a drive on it in order to get to Fish Island, where you’ve heard there are great views of the lakes through interesting rock formations. You feel like you are driving to the end of the world because it is so flat for so long, and so uniformly white. The complete and utter flatness makes depth perception difficult, and you record the strange visual effects in photographs.

You wonder how Salar de Uyuni was originally formed. Uyuni used to be part of a prehistoric lake called Minchin 40,000 years ago. When Minchin dried up, it left smaller lakes and two salts flats. Uyuni is one of the salt flats.

You can walk on the 10 meter deep flat during the winter, but in the summer heavy objects like a truck, have been known to occasionally “lose ground” on the salt surface and drop into a hidden mud pit.

After a rain, the rainwater sits on the surface of the salt flat creating a dramatic mirror-like effect. This makes for magnificent views.

saltYou’re glad you’ve done your research beforehand, since there are limited resources in the general area of Uyuni. There are, however, several tourist agencies that offer trips to Uyuni.

You’re near the end of your stay. Despite the grueling trip to get here, you’re glad to have seen one of the earth’s most interesting natural surfaces.

 

For a satellite picture of the area see http://www.salar-uyuni.com.bo/uyuni/component/option,com_google_maps/Itemid,38/lang,en/

 

 

Have a question for our resident physicist to answer in his next column?  Send to: mail [at] intravelmag [dot] com

 

©Dr. Ronald Francis

 

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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