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Where in the World are You?...Gran Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Where in the World are You?
At first glance it appears that this vehicle is driving on water, depending on the time of year that could be a very real possibility. Though there is not always water to be found on the surface, during the rainy season a relatively close and a relatively large body of water overflows its banks and often time’s floods this normally brackish location.
The process that produced this peculiar location, all 4000 plus square miles of it, began thousands of years ago as part of an exceptionally large body of water. This one body of water metamorphosed into a somewhat different body of water, personally I don’t understand the difference but that’s beside the point. This secondary body of water then dried up, leaving more than one more which subsequently dried as well, leaving what you’re looking at now. Got it? No? Good.
The location is found on a high altitude flat terrain, where this particular mountain range is at its widest, covering parts of at least three different countries. This particular location, and a nearby location of the same geologic origin, consists of a top crust of varying degrees of thickness covering a lake that is made up of a solution of various other minerals, all in their chloride form. Of these various minerals found here, one is so concentrated that the country in which this location is found contains almost fifty percent of the planet’s supply of it.
We all know that exceptionally flat surfaces have a tendency to attract those intent upon setting land time speed records, this one is no exception. The difference in attitude of the entire 4000 plus square miles of this surface is less than three feet. The exceptional flat surface, while certainly conducive to traveling at high rates of speed, actually serves a much higher purpose here; when I say high, I mean HIGH. I will not, however be telling you specifically what it is because that would be giving away entirely too much information. Based on the paltry amount of information that I have provided, can you confidently tell me So…Where in the World are You?
Gran Salar de Uyuni; Bolivia
The world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni, is located on the Bolivian Antiplano of the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. Located where the Andes Mountains are their widest, the Salar serves as both a valuable transport route across the Andes but also as a valuable source of tourism income.
The Salar started as a part of a prehistoric lake that transformed into an ancient paleolake that again transformed into another prehistoric lake. Lost yet? Just wait. When this last prehistoric lake dried it left behind two modern day lakes and two salt flats, which includes the 4,000-plus square mile Salar de Uyuni. During the wet season, one of the previously mentioned modern day lakes overflows into the very large Lake Titicaca, which then floods the Salar de Uyuni.
The salt brine that sits beneath the crusty upper layers of the Salar is quite valuable to the country of Bolivia. The brine is rich in minerals, including: sodium chloride, lithium chloride, and magnesium chloride; in fact it is estimated that the Salar contains between fifty and seventy percent of world’s supply of lithium. Finally, the exceptional flatness of the Salar provides the world’s space agencies with the perfect location to calibrate their satellites.
And for one last interesting side note…within close proximity to the Salar de Uyuni one can find a literal train cemetery. Created when Bolivia’s mining industry collapsed in the 1940’s, the area is home to the rusting hulks of several train cars that had been used during the mining heyday in Bolivia.