20 meters under the sea

Do not be deceived by the word "desert," for you are about to discover a landscape full of life...

An illustrated travel story developed for Amniota Dive Center, for a different intake on scuba diving at the coastlines of the Atacama Desert, Chile.

The truck driver lets me open the window as he slows down for me to take pictures of the guanacos and foxes that  roam quietly among the cacti, on our way to the coast. A four hour drive through the gates of Atacama, and collection of native animals that begin to fill in the memory space of both my head and camera, until we reach the sea. Penguins and a variety of pelagic birds nest among the rocks of the islands, on their best efforts to care for their young amidst a choir of howling sea lions. Further out at sea, the big whales await us. In abundance of biodiversity, the Pingüino de Humboldt & Isla Chañaral biological reserves may be explored by land or water, revealing themselves as an otherworldly oasis in the midst of the desert.

Who would have thought the existence of a parallel universe within this planet?  Myths of the underworld have echoed throughout history… they are true. Below the horizon line, the one that cuts through the sky and the sea, there are forests and marine jungles inhabited by creatures beyond our imagination. A different lighting scheme, another color palette. A musical cadence different from the rhythms we’re used to dancing on top of the Earth's surface. Schools of fish choreograph to the beat of the tides... suddenly changing their pace, as if each fish had felt the same spontaneous impulse at once. 

If you stop to look closely between the kelp, you might make eye contact with a shy resident peeking through.They spy on us. They hide. They swim past us indifferently. And the truth is, for a change, us humans are not really the protagonists here. In the underwater world, we are the humble foreigners.

To dive is to cross a threshold. In the vastness of the ocean, we submerge without ego, slowing our breath down in an act of utmost humility. There is no human presence, yet in the infinity of the underwater landscape, we will never be so connected with our own selves...

A note from the author & Amniota Dive Center:

This project intended to go as deep as our diving. 

Amniota Dive Center is located in Reserva Biológica Chañaral (Chañaral Biological Reserve), an area of high ecological value due to its outstanding biodiversity, dangerously threatened at the same time by controversial mining projects striving to succeed in northern Chile.

In a joint effort with local community, scientists and other artists and illustrators, this project was intended as a contribution to developing creative strategies that foster sustainable, low scale tourism, local businesses and emphasize on the high ecological value of the area.

We are proud to say that up to this date, these initiatives have succeeded in creating consciousness amongst Chilean citizens and have had determinant political repercussions in the voting of the mining projects viability.  

LOCATION Chañaral de Aceituno, Chile YEAR 2019  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Amniota Dive Center, Flavio Olivares.

This story was originally written in Spanish and published in Ladera Sur.

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