The widow of American billionaire Douglas Tompkins has begun talks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet over the donation of a vast nature reserve in southern Chile.
Kristine McDivitt Tompkins said she had formally offered Chile 400,000 hectares of land in Patagonia to be made into national parks.
The negotiations are expected to take two years.
Douglas Tompkins, who died in December 2015 in a kayaking accident, caused controversy in the 1990s by buying up land in southern Chile and Argentina to preserve it.
Last month, Kristine McDivitt met the new Argentinean President Mauricio Macri to donate to the country 150,000 hectares of threatened wetlands near the border with Brazil, with the aim of creating the Ibera National Park.
Douglas Tompkins was a globe-trotting rock climber and skier in his youth who was the co-founder of the outdoor clothing company The North Face.
In the early 1990s Douglas Tompinks got divorced, abandoned corporate life and moved to isolated southern Chile.
With his second wife Kristine, a former CEO of outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc, he began buying up land in order to protect an ancient forest in Patagonia.
Over 25 years Douglas and Kristine Tompkins invested more than $375 million in conservation, donating part of their lands in Chile and Argentina to create four national parks.
After the meeting with President Michelle Bachelet, Kristine McDivitt said that the donation of the latest tranche of land to Chile was being made on condition that it would be used to create national parks which people could freely visit.
“The process will take a long time,” she said.
“We won’t be deciding the timing and I know there will be a compromise both sides will have to make to work through all the stages that will be necessary.
“We want people from all over the world to be able to visit these places. With the donation of these parks, Chile will be able offer a historic legacy to the world.”
In 2005, Douglas and Kristine Tompkins donated another tranche of land to Chile, 294 hectares near the Corcovado volcano, creating the sixth largest national park in Chile – the Corcovado National Park.
Chile has opened a new investigation into the death in 1973 of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.
Government spokesman Francisco Ugas said there were indications that Pablo Neruda could have been poisoned.
Tests on Pablo Neruda’s exhumed body in 2013 found no trace of poison but more will now be done. His death certificate says he died of prostate cancer.
Pablo Neruda died 12 days after the military coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power.
Photo AFP/Getty Images
Although he was best known for his poetry, Pablo Neruda was a lifelong member of Chile’s Communist Party, a lawmaker and a former ambassador to France.
Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.
New forensic tests on Pablo Neruda’s remains will be looking for inorganic or heavy metals to try to determine a direct or indirect cause of death, officials said.
The investigation will focus on detecting if chemical agents caused any cellular or protein damage.
The previous tests looked specifically for the remains of poison.
“There is initial evidence that he was poisoned and in that sense the signs point to the intervention of specific agents,” Francisco Ugas, who is head of the government’s humans rights department, said.
Pablo Neruda’s body was exhumed in April 2013 to establish whether he died of poisoning, as his driver Manuel Araya and others suspected.
Manuel Araya said Pablo Neruda, who was 69, had called him from hospital in Santiago, and told him he was feeling sick after having been given an injection in the stomach.
Some believe Pablo Neruda was poisoned because he was a staunch supporter of deposed President Salvador Allende and it was believed he would become a leader of opposition to the dictatorship.
Northern Chile has been hit by an 8.2-magnitude earthquake, triggering a tsunami alert and killing at least five people.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake struck at 20:46 local time about 52 miles north-west of the mining area of Iquique.
Waves of up to 6ft have hit some areas in Chile, and there have been power cuts, fires and landslides.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated in affected areas, where a state of emergency has been declared.
Chilean TV broadcast pictures of traffic jams as people tried to leave.
Officials said the dead included people who were crushed by collapsing walls or died of heart attacks.
Iquique Governor Gonzalo Prieto told local media that in addition to those killed, several people had been seriously injured.
While the government said it had no reports of significant damage to coastal areas, a number of adobe homes were reported destroyed in Arica.
Chile has been hit by an 8.2-magnitude earthquake, triggering a tsunami alert and killing at least five people (photo ABC News)
Further damage may not be known until dawn. The tsunami warning in Chile will last at least until 05:00 local time.
The quake shook modern buildings in Peru and in Bolivia’s high altitude capital of La Paz – more than 290 miles from Iquique.
At least eight strong aftershocks followed in the few hours after the quake, including a 6.2 tremor.
Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo told Chilean TV that some 300 women inmates had escaped from a prison in Iquique. The authorities are reported to have deployed a planeload of special forces to guard against looting.
He said President Michelle Bachelet was being kept informed. She is to travel to the affected area.
“We have taken action to ensure public order in the case of Iquique, where we’ve had a massive escape of more than 300 female prisoners, so that the armed forces and police can coordinate and provide security to the residents,” Rodrigo Penailillo said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (TWC) issued an initial warning for Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama.
However, all warnings, watches and alerts were later lifted except for Chile and Peru.
Tsunami watches – in which the danger of tidal waves is deemed to be less serious – had been in place for Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras.
“Everyone along our coast should be alert and ready,” Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said on Twitter.
Ecuador later reduced its alert but maintained a high level of vigilance for the Galapagos Islands.
High waves hit parts of the Chilean coast within 45 minutes of the quake. Pisagua, Patache and Iquique all saw big waves.
“We have asked citizens to evacuate the entire coast,” Chilean home office minister Mahmud Aleuy said.
Evacuations were also ordered in Peru, where waves 6.5ft above normal forced about 200 people to leave the seaside town of Boca del Rio near the Chilean border, police said.
The area close to the epicentre is mineral rich, but none of the major copper companies reported any break in production.
Chile is one of the most seismically active countries in the world.
A 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit off the northern coast of Chile on Sunday evening, prompting a brief evacuation of part of a coastal area but not causing any injuries or significant damage.
The strong quake – originally measured as a 7.0 – was centered 37 miles west-northwest of Iquique and struck at a depth of 12.4 miles, the US Geological Survey said Sunday. It hit at 6.16 p.m. local time.
A 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit off the northern coast of Chile on Sunday evening
An emergency office said there was no major damage resulting from the quake, except for two small roadside rock falls in the Arica and Parinacota region.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said no tsunami was expected.
A second quake, a 5.1 at almost the exact same location, followed 10 minutes later. An aftershock at 6.2 followed about six hours later.
The whale graveyard found beside the Pan-American Highway in Chile is one of the most astonishing fossil discoveries of recent years.
Now scientists think they can explain how so many of the animals came to be preserved in one location more than five million years ago.
It was the result of not one but four separate mass strandings, they report in a Royal Society journal.
The evidence strongly suggests the whales all ingested toxic algae.
The dead and dying mammals were then washed into an estuary and on to flat sands where they became buried over time.
It was well known that this area in Chile’s Atacama Desert preserved whale fossils.
Their bones could be seen sticking out of rock faces, and the spot acquired the name Cerro Ballena (“whale hill”) as a result.
But it was only when a cutting was made to widen the Pan-American Highway that US and Chilean researchers got an opportunity to fully study the fossil beds.
They were given just two weeks to complete their field work before the heavy plant returned to complete construction of the new road.
The team set about recording as much detail as possible, including making 3D digital models of the skeletal remains in situ and then removing bones for further study in the lab.
Identified in the beds were over 40 individual rorquals – the type of large cetacean that includes the modern blue, fin and minke whales.
Among them were other important marine predators and grazers.
The whale graveyard found beside the Pan-American Highway in Chile is one of the most astonishing fossil discoveries of recent years
“We found extinct creatures such as walrus whales – dolphins that evolved a walrus-like face. And then there were these bizarre aquatic sloths,” recalls Nicholas Pyenson, a palaeontologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The team immediately noticed that the skeletons were nearly all complete, and that their death poses had clear commonalities. Many had come to rest facing in the same direction and upside down, for example.
This all pointed to the creatures succumbing to the same, sudden catastrophe; only, the different fossils levels indicated it was not one event but four separate episodes spread over a period of several thousand years.
The best explanation is that these animals were all poisoned by the toxins that can be generated in some algal blooms.
Such blooms are one of the prevalent causes for repeated mass strandings seen in today’s marine animals.
If large quantities of contaminated prey are consumed, or the algae are simply inhaled – death can be rapid.
“All the creatures we found – whether whales, seals or billfishes – fed high up in marine food webs and that would have made them very susceptible to harmful algal blooms,” said Dr. Nicholas Pyenson.
The researchers believe the then configuration of the coastline at Cerro Ballena in the late Miocene Epoch worked to funnel carcases into a restricted area where they were lifted on to sand flats just above high tide, perhaps by storm waves.
This would have put the bodies beyond marine scavengers. And, being a desert region, there would have been very few land creatures about to steal bones either.
A lot of the fossils at Cerro Ballena are perfect but for a few nicks inflicted by foraging crabs.
The researchers are not in a position to say for sure that harmful algal blooms were responsible for the mass strandings. There were no distinct algal cell fragments in the sediments; such a presence could have amounted to a “smoking gun”. What the team did find, however, were multiple grains encrusted in iron oxides that could hint at past algal activity.
Cerro Ballena is now regarded as one of the densest fossil sites in the world – certainly for whales and other extinct marine mammals. The scientists calculate there could be hundreds of specimens in the area still waiting to be unearthed and investigated.
The University of Chile in Santiago is currently working to establish a research station to carry this into effect.
The Smithsonian has put much of its digital data, including 3D scans and maps, online at cerroballena.si.edu.
Michelle Bachelet has won Chilean presidential election for a second time, defeating her run-off rival Evelyn Matthei by a wide margin.
With nearly 90% of the vote counted, leftist Michelle Bachelet had 62% to 38% for Evelyn Matthei, a former minister from the ruling centre-right coalition.
Michelle Bachelet first served as president between 2006 and 2010, after which she was obliged by electoral laws to stand down.
She narrowly missed out on outright victory in the first round last month.
“I am happy with the result and victory and I shall be a president for everyone in Chile,” Michelle Bachelet, 62, said as she received a congratulatory telephone call from outgoing President Sebastian Pinera, according to Reuters.
At a speech to supporters, Michelle Bachelet said: “I am proud to be your president-elect today. I am proud of the country we’ve built but I am even more proud of the country we will build.”
Michelle Bachelet has won Chilean presidential election for a second time, defeating her run-off rival Evelyn Matthei by a wide margin
She is now set to become the first leader in Chile to serve two terms since the military rule of General Augusto Pinochet in 1973 to 1990.
Upon hearing the news, her supporters have been celebrating on the streets by waving flags and sounding car horns in the capital Santiago.
“It is clear at this point. She won. And we congratulate her. Later on, I will go speak with her personally,” Evelyn Matthei, 60, told reporters.
Official results of Sunday’s run-off are expected soon. Turnout appears to have been lower than expected.
A pediatrician by training, Michelle Bachelet won 47% of the vote in the first round on November 17. Evelyn Matthei secured 25%.
Michelle Bachelet leads an alliance of her Socialist Party, Christian Democrats and Communists and has campaigned on policies designed to reduce the gap between rich and poor.
Chile is one of the richest countries in Latin America, but millions have staged protests over the past few years to push for a wider distribution of wealth and better education.
Michelle Bachelet wants to increase taxes to offer free university education and reform political and economic structures dating from the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Evelyn Matthei, 60, entered the race after two candidates of the centre-right alliance resigned earlier this year – one for alleged financial irregularities, the other one after struggling with depression. She has called for a continuation of the policies of outgoing President Sebastian Pinera, asserting that Chileans are “better off” now than when he came to power four years ago.
A coalition of 15 states, members of European Union, has announced plans to build the biggest telescope in the world.
The mirror inside the telescope will measure 39 metres across – four times wider than today’s biggest telescope – and it will be so powerful that astronomers will even be able to observe dark, rocky planets far beyond our solar system.
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) project is supported by 15 members of the European Union and has the catchy name “European Extremely Large Telescope”… even if it will be built in Chile’s Atacama Desert, to avoid light pollution.
The twin infrared/optical telescope will sit on top of a 3,060 metre mountaintop, giving unparralled views of the sky above, and should hopefully come online in 2022.
Astronomers hope the observatory will help provide insights into the formation of galleries and the nature of black holes
They also hope to shed light on two of the biggest mysteries of our universe – the formation of “dark matter”, which cannot be directly observed but is hypothesized to make up most of the mass of the universe, and “dark energy”, which appears to driving the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.
ESO project is supported by 15 members of the European Union and has the catchy name “European Extremely Large Telescope” even if it will be built in Chile's Atacama Desert, to avoid light pollution
ESO agreed to the optical/infrared telescope in Garching, Germany, (E-ELT) Programme, pending confirmation of final referendums.
All of ESO’s member states have already expressed very strong support for the E-ELT project.
At the council meeting, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland voted in favor of the start of the E-ELT programme.
Four further countries voted in favor ad referendum: Belgium, Finland, Italy, and the UK.
The project has an estimated cost of 1,083 million Euros ($1,320 million).
ESO director general, Tim de Zeeuw said: “This is an excellent outcome and a great day for ESO.
“We can now move forward on schedule with this giant project.”
2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ESO. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
The team operates three observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor.
At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes.
Relatives of victims of General Augusto Pinochet’s military rule in Chile have protested against plans to pay homage to the late dictator this weekend.
They held a rally in Santiago, calling for the screening of a new pro-Pinochet documentary to be banned.
The relatives say it is insensitive, but the government says it is a private event and it will not intervene.
More than 3,000 people disappeared or were killed during General Augusto Pinochet’s rule, which ended in 1990.
Relatives of victims of General Augusto Pinochet's military rule in Chile have protested against plans to pay homage to the late dictator this weekend
General Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the South American nation for 17 years, died in 2006.
The protesters held a rally at a former detention and torture centre in the Chilean capital.
Many wore photos of their relatives.
“In Chile, state-sponsored terrorism existed. Forced disappearances existed. Torture existed. Executions. And the systematic violation of hundreds of Chileans. We cannot allow this. We can’t allow a tribute to this,” Alejandra Arriaza, of the Corporation for the Promotion and Defence of People’s Rights was quoted as saying by the AP news agency.
The documentary, Pinochet, will be screened in a theatre in Santiago on Sunday.
The organizers say it aims to show General Augusto Pinochet as he really was, and not as the media portrayed him – as a ruthless dictator.
Right-wing politicians and former members of the Chilean military have been invited.
The controversy shows how divisive General Augusto Pinochet remains, nearly four decades after the coup that brought him to power.
For some he was a hero who saved Chile from Communism, but for others he was as brutal murderer who should be reviled, not applauded.
A plane of Chile Air Force, having 21 people aboard, including a popular local television host, crashed in the Juan Fernandez Islands off the country’s Pacific coast, authorities said.
Leopoldo Gonzalez, Juan Fernandez’s mayor said the plane tried without success to land at the islands’ airport, which is 515 miles from Chile’s coast.
A Chilean air force plane with 21 people aboard, including a popular local television host, crashed in the Juan Fernandez Islands off the country's Pacific coast
“The accident must be accepted as a fact,” Gonzalez said in an interview with Television Nacional de Chile.
Rescuers were searching for the wreckage of the plane but so far they have only found some equipment, the mayor said.
Andres Allamand, defence minister said searchers faced “particularly adverse” conditions, adding that the plane’s status was still listed as missing.
Felipe Camiroaga, one of Chile’s most popular television presenters, was on the flight, Mayor Gonzalez said.
Felipe Camiroaga, 44, worked for the state TV channel’s Good Morning Everyone programme, and was travelling to the islands for a story on the reconstruction following the 27 February magnitude-8.8 earthquake and tsunami that wiped out its main town.
Felipe Camiroaga, one of Chile's most popular television presenters, was on the flight
Also on board was businessman Felipe Cubillos, who had been working on post-earthquake reconstruction efforts.
The Chilean air force plane took off from the capital, Santiago, at 2:00 p.m. local time and lost contact with air control almost four hours later, according to a statement from aviation authorities.