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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

On This Day, 18 September: Chile's National Day, featuring two saltos.

On this day in 1810 the Spanish colonial governor of Chile was deposed and replaced by a Council of seven, based in Santiago; this was only the beginning of the end of Spanish rule, but it is marked now as the first of two consecutive Fiestas Patrias, effectively Chile's national days. Chile was my first experience of South America, and as such retains a special place in my heart. My experience of it has so far been limited to the south, though in the next 12 months I plan to rectify that by visiting the Atacama. However it means that a strong part of my impression of Chile is water and in paying a tribute to the country on its special day, I'm going to do so by introducing you to two very special and spectacular saltos - literally a jump, but also meaning waterfall or cascade.

The first is Salto Petrohué in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, inland from the bustling Puerto Montt, on the Petrohué River soon after it flows out of Lago Todos los Santos. The second is much further south, in the sublime Torres del Paine National Park. Salto Grande - the 'big falls' - forms in a slot canyon between Lago Nordenskjöld and Lago Pehoé. 
Location of Salto Petrohué shown (approximately!) by end of red arrow;
that of Salto Grande by end of brown arrow.
The settings of both are superb. 
Looking east along Lago Todos Santos to the Andean spine; the mountains, including Tronodor, are
on the Chilean-Argentinian border. The Petrohué flows west from the right of the photo.
The mountains around Lago Todos Santos are still visible from the saltos, a little downstream.
The top of Salto Petrohué, with mighty Puntiagudo in the background.
(The name simply means 'pointy'.)
From there the water roars down through a narrow slot.
The rocks are laval basalt, very tough but still being gradually worn away.
Below the falls the river runs over shallow bars and through rocky channels, sometimes still white, sometimes relatively peaceful.
Rio Petrohué flowing through cool temperate rainforest downstream of the falls
(above and below).

While the falls are the obvious attraction, the forest itself is well worthy of our attention too, especially if we have an eye to the Gondwanan connections of the plants, a striking aspect to those of us lucky enough to visit from other southern lands.
Notro, Embothrium coccineum, overhanging the Petrohué River.
This member of the family Proteaceae bears a striking resemblance to the
Australian waratahs, Telopea spp., in the same family.
The characteristic blue of the water is due to the presence of fine suspended particles of silt.
Weinmannia trichosperma, family Cunonicacae - another Gondwanan family.
Escallonia rubra; its family, Escallionaceae, is mostly found in South America, with
a smaller focus in Australia.
But let's fly south now, to the second of our saltos to celebrate Chile's day. It too has a spectacular setting, between two of the lakes for which Torres del Paine is famous (among many other things!). 
Lago Nordenskjöld, with the Towers (Torres) behind it.
Not a very Spanish (or Tehuelche!) name, you may well think; it was named for Swedish
geologist and explorer Otto Nordenskjöld, who investigated the area in the 1920s.
Lago Pehoé whipped up by the winds that are typical of the area; I've been nearly knocked off my
feet by them while visiting Salto Grande.

Pehoé is lower than Nordenskjöld, causing the waters to rush into Pehoé with dramatic force.
Upstream of the salto, with the Horns (the Curenos) in the background.

The falls, above and below; the latter shows Lago Pehoé in the background.

Another view of the mighty Cuernos, looking back from Salto Grande.
And, as everywhere, there are plants and animals to admire too, including the ubiquitous Notro.
Notro by the Salto Grande.
Southern House Wren Troglogdytes musculus, Salto Grande. This bird will be instantly familiar to my northern
hemisphere friends, though the Eurasian species has now been separated. Many ornithologists recognise
just one species (T. aedon) from Canada to Tierra del Fuego, but the South Americans disagree.

Male Austral Negrito Lessonia rufa, an equally widespread bird in the south.
It is one of the vast group of South American Tyrant Flycatchers which makes
South American birding such a challenge and a joy to the rest of us.

So, Happy Day Chile, and thanks for sharing your wonderful saltos with us!



Flabmeister said...

Before reading the post (why confuse matters with mere facts?) I had assumed that '2 saltos' was about 2 sailors - presumably the fathers of the country.

I got to this - with hindsight daft - conclusion through a combination of the English vernacular "salt" for sailor and the Australian habit of appending 'o' to any word unfortunate enough to end with a consonant!

In the event the content was far more pleasing to the eye (and the mind)!


Ian Fraser said...

Martin, among the many things I like about you are your creativity and self-deprecation!