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Thursday 13th June
Chile Facts
The Republic of Chile is an unusually shaped country - long and relatively narrow.

The Andes Mountains run along the entire length of Chile.

The highest point in Chile is Nevado Ojos del Salado (6,880 m).

Chile has some of the world's highest active volcanoes.

Chile's Atacama Desert, in the north of the country, is one of the world's driest regions.

The Fell and Pali Aike Caves near the Strait of Magellan were used by some of the early inhabitants of the region, possibly around eleven thousand years ago.

The north of Chile was inhabited by the Atacamenos, the Aymara and the Changos. These pre-Columbian cultures were related to the Incas.

The Mapuche were early inhabitants of central and southern Chile.

Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Inca Empire stretched from Ecuador, through Peru and Bolivia, to northern Chile.

The Strait of Magellan, at the tip of South America, is named after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who passed through the Strait in 1520.

Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to sail along the coast of Chile.

The island of Tierra del Fuego, separated from the rest of the country by the Strait of Magellan, is divided between Chile and Argentina.

Pedro de Valdivia, the Spanish conquistador, founded Santiago in 1541.

Valdivia was captured by the Mapuche and executed (1553).

Following Spanish rule German colonists settled around Lake Llanquihue, one of the largest lakes in Chile.

In 1817 the Spanish were defeated by the revolutionary forces of Bernardo O'Higgins and Jose de San Martin, the liberator of Argentina.

Bernardo O'Higgins studied for a while in Richmond-Upon-Thames (UK). He lived at 2 The Vineyard and a blue plaque commemorating his stay was erected by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission in 1994.

In 1884, following war with Peru and Bolivia, Chile added Tarapaca (Peru) and Atacama (Bolivia) to its territory.

Easter Island was annexed by Chile in 1888.

Easter Island in the South East Pacific was named by Admiral Roggeveen, a Dutch explorer, who came upon the island on Easter Sunday. Easter Island is famous for giant stone statues that were carved from the rock of an extinct volcano and then dragged across the island and set up on platforms.

Undeciphered script (Rongorongo) on wooden tablets found on Easter Island is evidence of the development of an independent writing system.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the British assisted the commercial development of nitrate fields in northern Chile.

The first tramway in South America was built in Santiago by William Buchanan, a British engineer.

In May 1960 an earthquake occurred in Chile with a moment magnitude of 9.5. Over two thousand people were killed and three thousand injured. The earthquake triggered tsunamis which travelled from the coast of Chile to the west coast of the United States, the islands of Hawaii and even as far as the Philippines, Japan and New Zealand.

In 1970 Salvador Allende became the President of the first elected Marxist government in South America.

The Allende government was overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973.

Pinochet retired as head of state in 1990 but remained commander-in-chief of the army.

Pinochet was put under house arrest in 2005 after the Supreme Court upheld a formal charge for alleged human rights offences. He died at the end of 2006.

In January 2008 Peru filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice over long-standing disputes with Chile over maritime territory.

Chaiten Volcano, estimated to have been dormant since about 7400 BC, erupted in 2008: two Patagonian towns were evacuated.

In September 2008 eight people died in heavy rain and flooding which occurred in parts of southern Chile.

In February 2009 President Bachelet become the first Chilean leader to visit Cuba in nearly forty years.

In October 2009 Chile staged a military exercise close to the disputed border with Peru, further straining relations.

In January 2010 right-wing candidate Sebastian Pinera defeated former president Eduardo Frei in presidential elections, becoming the first right-wing president since the departure of Dictator General Pinochet in 1990.

In February 2010 an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, Chile’s biggest in 50 years, caused widespread damage and killed hundreds.

In October 2010 33 miners were trapped deep underground for 69 days. All were rescued, watched by TV audiences worldwide.

In 2015 October two new marine reserves were created in the South Pacific, one around Easter Island.

At the end of 2019 Chile signed an agreement with the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership. This programme aims to support Chile's Strategy for Climate Change and Vegetation.

Earthshot prize winner Protect and Restore 2023: Accion Andina, a grassroots, community-based initiative working across South America to protect native high Andean forest ecosystems; they aim to protect and restore one million hectares of high Andean, native forest ecosystems across Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

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