The Driest Desert on Earth: The Great Atacama

When we hear the word desert, our eyes flash with a dry and rainless vast area covered with dusty sand. About one-third of the land of the planet is desert.

It is according to the research of the experts. The great Atacama is the driest desert on earth. Four types of deserts are generally found based on geographical conditions.

Atacama is the driest desert on earth
Photo by Fernando Rodrigues on Unsplash

These are polar deserts, tropical deserts, winter deserts, and winter coastal deserts. The Atacama desert is one of the coldest deserts in the world.

It is because Chile is in the southwest of the South American continent. The average temperature remains cold in this part of the continent of South America.

The Driest Desert on Earth

The Atacama in Chile is one of the coldest coastal deserts in the world. It shares a border with the Pacific Ocean on one side. It also has borders with Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina on the other side.

To the west of this desert is the Pacific Coast Range, which everyone calls the Cordillera de la Costa. The Andes or Andes Mountains to the east.

These mountains block the air currents and accompanying clouds of this inhospitable region. These mountains create obstacles from both sites of the wilderness.

As a result, the amount of rainfall here comes down to zero. The main area of ​​the Atacama is one hundred and five thousand square kilometers.

The rocky terrain, gray sand, salt lakes, and felsic lava cover the driest desert on earth. The rainfall history of this wilderness is quite pathetic.

Experts believe there was no rain in this region from 1570 to 1971. The average rainfall in this inhospitable region is about 1 mm per year.

But there are some places in this inhospitable region where it never rains. Some areas, such as Arica and Iquique, receive between 1 and 3 mm of rain a year.

But despite this lack of rain, the driest desert on earth has some natural powers. Thousands of flower seeds remain deposited under its sand. When it rains, the water seeps down to the bottom of the sand.

Desert
Photo by Paal Ultra on Unsplash

The rainwater brings new life to the dormant seeds under the sand. This seed becomes a tree and starts growing roots and leaves. All of these things happen very fast comparing other trees.

Because water accumulates under the sand, they do not have much problem growing. Yellow, white, pink, and red flowers of different colors started blooming on the tree.

As the flowering plants grow, the area once becomes a carpet of pink flowers. This desert sees rain once in two to four years. It rains around May, and flowers appear in the desert around September-November.

Locals call it the ‘desert of flowers. Usually, after five-seven years, such flower gardens become visible. In 2015, this wilderness received a lot of rain. A lot of flowers bloom here that year.

The whole world became astonished to see this strange sight of nature. The newspaper called the colorful flowers in the wilderness the ‘Super Bloom.

A surprising thing again happened in 2017. The vast area of ​​the driest desert on earth has become pink again. The unusual rain brought pink color.

National Geographic reported that the flower bloomed again in two years. It is a phenomenon called double blooming. Naturalists believe this happened due to unexpected rain around May 2017.

There are more than two hundred species of plants on this land. But perennial flowers are the most common here. Flowers do not live very long.

Atacama
Photo by Sam Power on Unsplash

It is challenging for any plant to survive in such a harsh environment. Apart from this rare flowering plant, no other type of tree is not available here.

Tourists feel the attraction to the flowering plants. Thus besides the flowers, many tourists gather at this place in Chile. This flower blooms from October to November.

According to experts, the number of flowers will decrease from November onwards. Rainless, barren, and uninhabitable, this wilderness is rich in mineral resources. It is rich in sodium nitrate and copper.

It is necessary to use Sodium nitrate for making fertilizers and gunpowder. Bolivia, Peru, and Chile surround this desert. Disputes began between the three countries over mineral resources.

It happened at the end of the 19th century. It resulted in a massive war between the three countries from 1879 to 1883, known as the War of the Pacific.

Bolivia and Peru controlled most of the land. But the military tactics and might of Chile defeated both countries. As a result, Chile gained control of most of the wilderness.

But Bolivia lost its entire western coastline. Another important aspect of this place is its natural environment and climate. According to scientists, it is like Mars.

As a result, NASA has a great interest in this land. Before a mission to Mars, NASA uses a variety of instruments to test them here.

Photo by Lucas Rizzi on Unsplash

They have done it to ensure their functionality. You will find many Hollywood science films shot in this desert. Another significant event in Chile is that archeologists found the oldest mummy here.

The age of this mummy is 7020 BC, whereas the Egyptian mummy dates back to 3000 BC. According to experts, only extreme humidity made this possible.

Another remarkable feature of this desert is the variation in its natural conditions. During the summer, the temperature reaches over 40 degrees Celsius. But it drops to 5 degrees Celsius at night.

But, the mountains here remain covered with white snow. The main reason for this is the height of the mountains. The temperature does not rise much in these mountains, as they are above sea level.

The driest desert on earth is a land of seeing clear skies most days of the year. This wilderness is the best place on earth to observe the sky, without any doubt.

Recently, scientists installed the largest telescope in the world ‘Alma’ in this place. Apart from this, there are 66 radio telescopes. Scientists obtained images to study the formation of stars with the help of it.

Another unique feature of this desert is the Hand of Desert. Tourists flock from far and wide to see this sculpture. The famous Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrazabal created it.

All in all, the Atacama Desert is full of natural diversity and wonder. There is no end to people’s interest in this desert.

Conclusion

This place may be the best destination for salt, inhospitable wildlands, and vast lifeless landscapes. We know that NASA uses it to test instruments for outer space.

It is one of the harshest places on earth. It may first sound dull, empty, or even devoid of water. But it is none of those things. There are many things to discover in this vast wilderness.