Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ruptured Ice, Information by Design & the Politics of Train Wrecks

Today’s entry covers the anticipated rupture of Argentina’s Moreno Glacier, the renovated headquarters of Chile’s national tourism service, and supplementary analyses of the recent commuter train wreck in Buenos Aires.

The Glacier’s Gonna Break
In 2004, while traveling in Patagonia, I missed the rupture of the famous Moreno Glacier – an event that happened 15 times in the 20th century - by just a few days. It happened again in 2008, when I was several thousand kilometers north in California and, from the look of things, it’s due to recur any time now in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. With that in mind, visitors are starting to crowd the gateway town of El Calafate and, presumably, camping out in anticipation of the spectacle – even though, strictly speaking, no camping is permitted in that part of the park. For a current image, visit this link which, however, does not refresh automatically.

I’m closer this time than I was in 2008, but still a couple thousand km north in Santiago de Chile where, even though there’s snow visible on the Andean summits to the east, today’s forecast high is 92° F (33° C). The only readily available ice should be chilling mojitos, caipirinhas and other mixed drinks in the bars of Barrio Bellavista and elsewhere (Chile’s own national cocktail, the pisco sour, comes chilled but ice cubes would be a desecration).

Late Update: According to the Buenos Aires daily Clarín, the glacier finally ruptured between 3 and 4 a.m. this Sunday morning, March 4, in the midst of a storm. So nobody actually got to see it this time.

New in Santiago: Sernatur Modernizes Its Digs
Yesterday I had a meeting with a friend in the marketing department of Sernatur, Chile’s national tourism service and, almost as an afterthought, she took me to the utterly renovated quarters in which they receive the public. What was once a drab bureaucratic hall where indifferent staff passed out maps and pamphlets is now a cheerful visitor-friendly facility that’s drawn praise for its innovative design.
There are touch-screen computers everywhere, comfortable seating, and informative displays that encourage visitors to roam about while waiting their turn to talk to an attendant when things are crowded. Being a geographer, I particularly enjoyed the mural map of Santiago that points out its liveliest neighborhoods with circles imposed on the city’s grid. In the borough of Providencia, midway between the Manuel Montt and Pedro de Valdivia Metro stations, it’s a useful service for any Santiago visitor.

After the Train Wreck
Last week I wrote about the fatal train crash on the dilapidated Sarmiento Line that serves the Buenos Aires station of Once from the city’s western suburbs. More recently, two Buenos Aires Herald columnists, James Neilson and Martín Gambarotta, have written extended analyses of the background and political implications of the event that are well worth reading – their conclusions are similar to mine, but they offer much more detail than I was able to do at the time. What seems certain, sadly, is that nothing positive is likely to emerge in the aftermath.

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