Underway in the Andes – March, 11: In the Wild West

Travel Journal: Doctoral Students on an Excursion in Western Argentina
A landscape that is known as in movies about the wild west. Photo: Henry Wichura.
A landscape that is known as in movies about the wild west. Photo: Henry Wichura.

We are planning a 200 km round trip around the “Cordillera del Viento” (the cordillere of the winds) and  through the geology in Mapuche territory. From Chos Malal to Andachollo and El Cholar and back to the starting point, where we are going to overnight again.

Morning work out. We are back in the fossil hunting business. Every day we find new rock formations, where the fossils are bigger, better preserved, more divers and easier to find. Today, we find different species of ammonites. We think about strategies to outsmart the Neuquén customs, so that we could take some of them as souvenirs at home. In the end, however, all the fossils remain neatly stacked on site.

Textbook examples of faults in sedimentary structures show that during the shortening of the Andes, extension processes may have played a significant role.

The wind in the cordillere gets stronger and stronger. We reach Andachollo and for the first time we have contact with the indigeneous Mapuche with their traditional hats and ponchos. The proud Mapuche are very talented in dealing with horses and spontaneously show us their riding skills.

After a short break, we are searching for Tertiary units that are younger than the hitherto studied Jurassic and Cretaceous units. Finally, we find them in an old quarry pit, where talc was mined and extracted 75 years ago.

From a plateau we look down to sedimentary and volcanic sequences from the Cretaceous to the Tertiary. We are impressed by the erosion of the Neuquén River, which moulded an overwhelming canyon into the landscape. We feel as in the Wild West.

Text: Henry Wichura
Published online by: Agnetha Lang
Contact for the online editorial office: onlineredaktionuni-potsdamde

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