Licancabur Lake

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Licancabur Lake
Location Licancabur volcano
Coordinates 22°49′52″S 67°52′50″W / 22.83111°S 67.88056°W / -22.83111; -67.88056Coordinates: 22°49′52″S 67°52′50″W / 22.83111°S 67.88056°W / -22.83111; -67.88056
Lake type crater lake
Basin countries Chile
Surface area 0.003 km2 (0.0012 sq mi)
Average depth 4 m (13 ft)
Max. depth 5–6 m (16–20 ft) approx.
Surface elevation 5,900 m (19,400 ft)
Frozen most of the year

Licancabur Lake is a crater lake in Chile located in the Licancabur volcano in the Antofagasta region, of the Región de Antofagasta, Province of El Loa and close to San Pedro de Atacama as well as very close to the border of Chile with Bolivia. It is believed to be one of the highest lakes in the world at an elevation of 5,900 m (19,400 ft).[1]

While the volcano marks the limits of Chile with Bolivia, the lake is entirely located within the Chilean part of the volcano, since only the lower two thirds of the Northeastern slope of the volcano belong to Bolivia; 5,400 m (17,717 ft) from the foot of the slope at 4,360 m (14,304 ft); and the international borders are located slightly over 1 kilometer to the northeast from the lake.[2][3] The volcanic crater lake is 100 meters long by 70 meters and has a depth of 8 meters.[4]

While undertaking archaeological research on the summit in 1981, Johan Reinhard free dove the lake; he returned in 1982 with Charles Brush and three other divers and scuba dived in the lake, setting an unofficial world record for the highest ever altitude dive.[5]

Intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation, low oxygen, low atmospheric pressure and cold temperatures make the environment at this lake a close analog to Martian lakes that existed 3.5 billion years ago. Despite the extreme conditions at Licancabur, scientists say microscopic life is present and diverse. Its survival strategy might be very ancient.



  • Brush, Charles, "The Licancabur Expedition." Explorers Journal 62(1):4–13, 1984.
  • Reinhard, Johan, "Sacred Mountains: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of High Andean Ruins." Mountain Research and Development 5(4):299–317, 1985.
  • Reinhard, Johan, "High-Altitude Archaeology and Andean Mountain Gods." American Alpine Journal 25:54–67, 1983.
  • Barón, Ana Maria and Johan Reinhard, "Expedición Arqueológica al Volcán Licancabur." Revista de Corporación para el Desarrollo de la Ciencia 1(4):31–38, Santiago.
  • Burton, Kathleen, "NASA SCIENTISTS TO STUDY LAKE'S PRIMITIVE LIFE TO LEARN ABOUT MARS." Oct. 22, 2003, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.