El Tatio is a geyser field located within the Andes Mountains of northern Chile at 4,320 meters above mean sea level. Its name comes from the Quechua word for oven. It is among the highest-elevation geyser fields in the world. El Tatio has over 80 active geysers, making it the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world. Its geysers erupt to an average height of about 75 centimetres, with the highest eruption observed being around 6 metres.
The site is a major tourist attraction. Visitors generally arrive at sunrise when each geyser is surmounted by a column of steam that condenses in the cold air. The steam plumes disappear as the air warms up. It is also possible to bathe in the hot geyser water in a small pool.
There is wreckage at the site from an old project for harnessing geothermal power. The idea has recently been revived by the Chilean government and is meeting with heavy public resistance due to the touristic value the geyser field represents.
2009 prospecting controversy
In 2008, the Geotérmica del Norte consortium - formed by the Chilean state owned ENAP and Codelco Mining companies in association with Italian state owned ENEL - began exploration in the field of near El Tatio. In September 2009 an operating malfunction occurred in well No. 10 caused a 60-meter high artificial fumarole to develop, with the company unable to seal it for several weeks.
The exploration of El Tatio is controversial, because the area is a major tourist attraction. The site receives over 100,000 visitors per year, and is the principal attraction of nearby San Pedro de Atacama; whose mayor condemned the ecological impact of the operation and stressed that the geysers are in an indigenous zone that "our people put value on and [our people] show to the world".
- Glennon, J.A., and Pfaff, R.M., 2003, The extraordinary thermal activity of El Tatio Geyser Field, Antofagasta Region, Chile, Geyser Observation and Study Association (GOSA) Transactions, vol 8. pp. 31–78. (article available from GOSA)
- Corema paraliza la exploración geotérmica en géiseres de El Tatio, El Mercurio, October 2, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to El Tatio.|
- Google Maps location
- El Tatio Geyser Field
- Geyser Observation and Study Association
- World Geyser Fields (Dead link, Feb., 8th, 2014)
- Page dennouncing the damage done by prospection (Dead link, Feb., 8th, 2014)
- Virtual Tour on 360° of El Tatio Chilexplora.com