Volcán Copahue, Argentina
As part of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes instrument development team one of the goals was to validate our nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) extraction and sequencing protocols in the field. The one expedition I was able to participate in was to Volcán Copahue, Argentina, an active volcano harboring natural acid hydrothermal systems analogous to Meridiani Planum on early Mars.
Arriving in Neuquén, Argentina
We flew Boston to New York City, New York City to Buenos Aires, and Buenos Aires to Neuquén totaling about 20 hours of air travel 😭
Pockets full of cash
From Neuquén we had another 8 hours of driving ahead of us to reach the town of Copahue-Caviahue (and Volcán Copahue) up in the Andes mountain range. Internet connectivity was expected to be scarce and payments are cold hard cash money.
First stop groceries!
While the others went grocery shopping I stayed in the parking lot to guard our 4x4 truck loaded with equipment.
8 hours to Caviahue-Copahue
Migos had just dropped the Culture album… Pass the aux cord, Chris!
Land of the Giants
Chris would not stop the car.
Town of Copahue
During the summer, the average population of Copahue is ~400. This can grow to 10,000 during ski season!
Unpacking in the hotel room
Organizing before we headed to the volcano and surrounding acid springs.
Chris wondering why we’re not in the room, working.
Land of the dinosaurs (seriously)
The area surrounding Copahue-Caviahue is famous for its Araucaria trees that have existed since the Jurassic. Sauropods used to snack on these trees!
View of Cerro Caviahue
Volcan Copahue (Top Left)
Those aren’t clouds! Its steam and gases from the active caldera!
The pH was about 1! Don’t stick your hand in there.
Volcán Copahue rim
One of the locals mentioned that he had spotted mysterious flying objects zooming in and out of the caldera 🛸 Unfortunately, we never witnessed anything of the sorts. To be honest, I would have probably cried in terror if we did 👽
There are actual mountain lions in Copahue
This guy was friendly though.