Friday, August 31, 2012

The Marvels of Coquimbo Bay—30º South Latitude, Chile

The Port of Coquimbo lies on the southern shores of Coquimbo Bay in central Chile on one of the best-sheltered harbors in the country. The port rests in a peaceful natural bay and is surrounded by beautiful clean beaches. It has little rain and an average temperature of about 57° F, the Port of Coquimbo, with its well-protected harbor, is the winter refuge for the Chilean navy.

Coquimbo means “Place of Still Waters,” and the name came from the beautiful quiet bay upon which the city overlooks. These calm waters are the result of the ocean winds and currents being almost non-existent off the coast and of the air basically blowing up and away from the area.

Indigenous peoples used the natural harbor as a port long before the Spanish conquerors arrived, and today is an important export center for gold and copper. It has two major wharves with a total length of 1240 feet, and an alongside depth of 33 feet.

The south side (foreground) of the bay is well-protected from the sea by an extension of land of the La Gruta Peninsula (Grotto), at Punta Tortuga (Tortoise Point) and along the Fuerte (Fort) coastal area into the bay. La Senena is along the north side of the bay, with Elqui Valley to the east of La Serena

Cloquimbo is surrounded by land with natural richness from mountains to the sea, and is 7.4 miles from La Serena, the argricultural center of central Chile. 1.2 miles to the south, on the other side of the Peninsula, is La Herradura Bay, and smaller, but extremely well protected bay, with calm waters used today for swimming, diving, and windsurfing. On the north side of Coquimbo Bay is Las Tacas, a beach of fine, white sand that slopes softly to the sea, and is a surfing, diving, and sailing center. The weather here is remarkable, with calm, warm air nearly year round, and shirt-sleeve nights, much like Southern California.

Left: La Serena looks much like Southern California with its palm trees and mild, Mediterranean Climate; Right: Elqui Valley stretches in between two low mountain ranges moving east away from La Serena

La Serena (The Serene One) is located on ocean terraces visible from the coastal area, and the vibrant Elqui Valley, a geographic configuration, which is unique in the world, would be to the east. The latter is a narrow, but fertile strip of land where vegetables, papayas, lucuma, cherimoya trees (custard apple), and grapes grow alongside the hillsides, covered with cacti, of the semi arid desert. The river Elqui provides irrigation for this fertile valley, where vineyards of Mosfcatel and Torontel grapes are made into Pisco, the local drink, and the valley is full of an abundance of fruit, vegetables and vines under full sunshine and clear skies.

According to the Continental Shelf Resewarch and the Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, the Bay of Coquimbo receives seasonal freshwater discharge that makes it behave as a low-inflow estuary, similar to those of a Mediterranean climate. Its estuarine conditions make the bay, calm, sheltered and shallow, and as such, a favorite site for human settlement.

A ship “driven forth before the wind” would approach Coquimbo Bay from the south and, rounding Point Tortuga, would enter the Bay from the West, and would be immediately protected from any winds or sea by the point. The ship would probably land somewhere around present-day Port Coquimbo (arrow), or further in toward the beach

Coquimbo Bay lies between two prominent points, on the north by Punta Teatinos (or Teatinos Point) and to the south by Punta Tortuga (or Tortuga Point), which points play an important role in shaping the flows that enter and leave the bay. The mean depth is approximately 80 feet and slopes gently to a maximum depth at the entrance of about 165 feet. The tides vary in a range of about 3 feet, with winds predominantly from the southwest throughout the year, though in June and July a wind from the north, though light, is about equal in strength. The temperature of the waters in the bay is best described as warm year round.
Point Teatinos, on the north of Coquimbo Bay, looking southeast toward La Serena. The opening into Elqui Valley is on the left background in front of the mountains. Pt Teatinos is basically a lartge rock outcropping that juts out into the sea, forming the northern end of Coquimbo Bay
Along a 4,000 mile rugged coastline, with surf that seems to explode against the rocks lying at the feet of high bluffs, a more perfect place to land a ship in 600 B.C. could not be found. Here the temperatures averages 65º F in La Serena, with an average low of 52º F, with January and February the hottest at 72º F, and June through August at the lowest 46 to 48º F. The rainy season is May through August at about 0.5 to 1.22 inches per month, for a total of 3.78 inches per year.
A rather ideal place for the Lehi Colony to land and set up their first community. The weather was perfect for them to survive the first winter in a new land, the Mediterranean Climate and soil types provided the perfect place to plant their seeds "brought from Jerusalem," and the fishing was ideal, with the upwelling of waters from the Humboldt Current making it one of the greatest fishing troves in the world.
The Humboldt Current is a large Marine Ecosystem, and one of the major upwelling systems in the world, supporting an extraordinary abundance of marine life, which produces 20% of the world’s fish catch. Pelicans thrive here all year round as the fish come to the surface for easy pickings 
How did Frederick G. Williams know? Maybe what he wrote about Lehi landing at the 30º South Latitude in Chile was more than just his doodling on a piece of paper as almost all other Land of Promise Theorists would have us believe.

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