January 2: Flight to Buenos Aires

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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First leg of the journey was actually a flight from San Francisco to New York on New Year's Day. My fianc´┐Ż and I had been visiting my family in the Bay Area. Here's sunset from the plane. We landed at JFK: she caught a flight back home to Syracuse and I linked up with my three partners, Maarten DeWitt, Roy Kligfield and Richardson (Pitch) Allen for the flight to Buenos Aires

We took off at about 11 P.M., joking about flying right down the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. A couple of hours later we flew over a dazzlingly lit city which I guessed had to be San Juan, Puerto Rico. As Orion climbed higher in the sky, I wondered if any new southern stars were visible. I craned my neck close to the window and spotted a brilliant yellowish star. I guessed it was Achernar but it actually turned out to be Canopus. I dozed, woke up, spotted oil flares on the coast of Venezuela, and dozed some more.

We woke up in a universe of clouds. I had hoped to see the Amazon by daybreak but it was not to be. Even at 35,000 feet there were thick clouds on both sides of us. Looking up through occasional breaks I saw still more clouds. Looking down through holes: more clouds. There were at least four decks of clouds: two above us, two below. I thought this must be what a trip to Jupiter would be like.

Eventually, and fairly abruptly, the clouds ended and we had clear views of the ground. We're over the Mato Grosso of Brazil, about on the drainage divide between the Amazon and Parana basins, so there are few large rivers in view.

The next two shots are probably the closest you can come anywhere on Earth to a true theoretical old-age landscape. We're 3000 km (2000 miles) upriver from the Atlantic: the Pleistocene sea level changes did not affect the valleys this far inland. The climate has been tropical for millions of years. The crust has been stable. Nothing has happened here but weathering (to at least 100 meters deep). The landscape is absolutely flat except for a few resistant hills (monadnocks). And from 35,000 feet, there is not a sign of human activity anywhere in the picture. The small lake is Laguna Mirin near the border of Bolivia and Brazil.


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Created 15 February 2000, Last Update 16 November 2011

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