Patagonia – September 5th, 2008
Patagonia is a geographic region containing the southernmost portion of South America. Mostly located in Argentina and partly in Chile, it comprises the Andes mountains to the west and south, and plateau and low plains to the east. The name Patagonia comes from the word patagon used by Magellan to describe the native people who his expedition thought to be giants.
Patagonia is for the most part a region of vast steppe-like plains, rising in a succession of abrupt terraces about 100 meters (330 ft) at a time, and covered with an enormous bed of shingle almost bare of vegetation. In the hollows of the plains are ponds or lakes of brackish and fresh water.
Towards the Andes the shingle gives place to porphyry, granite, and basalt lavas, animal life becomes more abundant and vegetation more luxuriant, acquiring the characteristics of the flora of the western coast, and consisting principally of southern beech and conifers.
The high rainfall against the western Andes and the low sea surface temperatures offshore give rise to cold and humid air masses, contributing to the ice-fields and glaciers, the largest ice-fields in the Southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica.