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NOLS Patagonia Update

Chilean Earthquake Information

UPDATED: March 12, 2010 - 1:30 p.m. (MT) 

On March 11 another series of earthquakes rocked central Chile. The most powerful of the quakes was 6.9 magnitude and apparently there has been substantial damage to the city of Rancagua. The quakes were felt from Region V as far south as Region IX. The Chilean regions are numbered from north to south. NOLS operates in far southern Chile in Region XI and they did not feel anything.

A precautionary tsunami alert was posted for coastal areas from Regions IV through X. There have been no reports of tsunami activity and the alert has been canceled.

Updated March 12, 2010 at 1:30 PM--NOLS has one sea kayaking section on the water. They called in today. They had neither felt the quakes, nor noted any changes to oceanic conditions.

Updated March 12, 2010 at 1:30 PM--Santiago Airport is running at 80% of capacity according to Lan Chile.

The thoughts and prayers of all of us at NOLS are with our friends and colleagues in those areas devastated by February 27th’s earthquake.

Below is a status update of each course that NOLS has in the field at this time:

Semester in Patagonia, started on 1/11/10, section 1—Sea kayaking, they called in and did not feel or see any sign of the earthquake.

Semester in Patagonia, started on 1/11/10, section 2—Mountaineering Lago Plomo area, we do not anticipate hearing from them until March 20. This area has not been impacted by the earthquake according to every piece of information that we have from our staff, local NOLS contacts in the area and from the four other NOLS groups that have been in the area. Update 3/4 1:15 p.m.-- This course called in and all is well. They had not felt the quake. They had been informed of the earthquake on Saturday 2/27 by a local pablodor (rancher).

Semester in Patagonia, started on 1/19/10—Update 2/28 at 3:50 PM-- This group arrived at Lago Plomo for their re-ration as scheduled. They had not felt the quake.

Patagonia Year, Section 1—Rock climbing at Puerto Ibanez(south of Coyhaique, further from the earthquake) Updated 3/2 at 9:00 AM-- NOLS staff met with Patagonia Year, Section 1 students and staff on the evening of 3/1.They had not felt the quake, but had heard about it.

Patagonia Year, Section 2—Sea kayaking, they called in and did not feel or see any sign of the earthquake.

Updated March 3 at 4:15 PM--The Chilean Educator Course and the Chilean Mountaineering Course have departed the NOLS Patagonia facility and are in the city of Coyhaique working the phones trying to make arrangements to get home.

These all-South American courses were nearly entirely enrolled with students from areas devastated by Saturday’s earthquake. While they were in the wilderness honing their outdoor skills and developing their leadership their families faced the most challenging of circumstances. Thankfully, they lost no loved ones to the devastation. Now these NOLS grads are returning to communities literally ripped apart by the forces of the 8.8 magnitude quake.

Our thoughts and prayers go with these newest NOLS grads as they re-enter a world significantly different than the one they left behind when they came to NOLS.

Lago Plomo and Puerto Ibanez are south of Coyhaique, further away from the earthquake area. We have spoken with our contact in Lago Plomo which is within a few miles of the Semester in Patagonia mountaineering sections. He reports that the quake was not felt here and it had no effect on the area. 

Update 3/3 at 4:30 PM--Our NOLS Patagonia director indicates that Coyhaique and the surrounding area continue to be entirely free of aftershocks.

Click Map for larger view

Upcoming Courses--Lan Chile Airlines indicates that they will be operating 15% of their flights to and from Santiago through March 4. Priority will be given to those returning to their point of origin.

Patagonia Backpacking and Fly-fishing Course scheduled to start March 6-- Updated 3/2 at 11:45 AM-- NOLS has cancelled the Patagonia Backpacking and Fly-fishing Course.

Patagonia Sea Kayaking scheduled to start on 3/13-- Updated 3/4 at 1:15 PM-- NOLS has cancelled the Patagonia Sea Kayaking course

NOLS Grads Are Active in Humanitarian Aid

In 1998, Tom Turley was looking for a change in direction. His job as logistics coordinator for AmeriCares, a non-profit humanitarian aid organization, was fulfilling, but at age 33 he thought there might be something else, perhaps a career working with youth at risk. While at the Outdoor Retailer Show, where he was meeting with outdoor suppliers that donated gear to help AmeriCares carry out their mission, Tom discovered NOLS. The following spring Tom arrived in Lander, Wyoming for his Semester in the Rockies. After three months backpacking, kayaking and climbing across the Mountain West Tom’s new life direction was determined. He wanted to do—humanitarian aid!

Tom’s career with Americares continues. In recent years he has been in Banda Aceh in the wake of the 2004 tsunami, California for the 2007 fire season and currently he is in Haiti helping with earthquake relief there.

Tom is just one NOLS grad that we have heard from who is “in the thick of it”:

  • Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) grad, Sara Nelson wrote recently, “Just got back from two weeks in Haiti, working at a field hospital about 45 minutes outside of Port-Au-Prince.” Sara is an ER doctor in Maine.
  • Graham Brant-Zawadzki a WMI grad is heading to Haiti this summer with a group of physicians, nurses, and med students to work with and help train Haitian heath care workers.
  • Shane Young headed to Haiti soon after the earthquake struck and is hoping to either use his WEMT skills or his background in construction and heavy equipment.
  • David Edson, a 2008 Semester in Patagonia grad is on his way back to Chile with the non-profit relief organization, Convoy of Hope.

You Can Help!

AmeriCares is focusing on the delivery of critical medicines and medical supplies to help earthquake survivors in Chile. Learn more:

Convoy of Hope is bringing water treatment systems for aid Chilean communities. Learn more:

Un techo para Chile is a Chilean NGO that is building houses in Chile. To learn more visit:



We will post further information as it becomes available.

| Posted by Bruce Palmer on Feb 28, 2010

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