Chile Geography

By | December 1, 2021

Name and extension. – The genesis of the name is to be found in local traditions but the positive elements are vague and the news is confused. The opinion prevails that the name derives from the Quechua word tchili “snow” or chiri “cold”, an appropriate name for a country dominated by the Andean peaks, or from the word chili which means “the best of the earth”, which would have indicated the very fertile Aconcagua valley, later cradle of the Chilean nation.

The country consists of a strip of territory between the Andes and the Pacific, a strip that extends to a maximum of 360 km. at the 23rd parallel, but which generally remains between 150 and 200 km. wide, while it extends from S. to N. between 17 ° 15 ′ and 55 ° 59 ′ of southern latitude, that is to say for over 39 degrees, that is for about 4300 km. of length. No other state in the world extends so much in the meridian sense (the extension in latitude is roughly equivalent to that between the foot of the Alps and the Gulf of Guinea in Africa).

The territory of the republic, which includes an area of ​​751,605 sq. Km., Finds its eastern border naturally marked by the watershed line of the Andean chain, a limit which however corresponds only to the political border with Argentina; this was marked on the ground after very laborious negotiations by a mixed commission (see argentina). Further to the North. the same chain determines the border with Bolivia, while the northern border is less precise, a source of political complications. Here Chile had provisionally held since 1883, after the Peruvian-Chilean war, the province of Tacna and Arica. The repeated disputes between Peru and Chile for the definitive settlement of this province were resolved by a treaty of 1929, which established that the border line starts from the coast from a point that will be called Concordia and is parallel to the Chilean route of the Arica-La Paz railway, 10 km. to N. of said railway. So Tacna remains in Peru and Arica in Chile. Peru has the right to obtain the water needed by the towns of the Tacua province from the Chilean region. For Chile travel information, please check

Explorations. – Diego de Almagro (see almagro) in 1535 in Lapo of a small expedition, he was the first to penetrate Chile through the high regions of the Bolivian Andes: after his death, Pedro da Valdivia began the conquest of the country and in 1541 he founded the city ​​of Santiago; subsequently he reached the Bío-Bío river, at whose mouth he established the city of Concepción and discovered the Río Valdivia below 40 ° S. His lieutenant Alderete penetrated the territory of the Araucani and founded the city of Villarrica. The northern and middle area of ​​Chile was later organized into a general captain, but Araucania remained impenetrable for a long time.

In the colonial period the scarce geographic and economic knowledge was summarized and systematically expounded by the Jesuit Alfonso d’Ovalle in his Histórica relación del reyno de Chile, etc. (1646) and, over a century later, by the other Chilean Jesuit Gio. Ignazio Molina in the Compendium of Geographical and Civil History of Chile (Bologna 1776) and in the Essay of Natural History of Chile (Bologna 1782). They date back to the century. XVIII the observations of L. Feuillet (1709) and the survey of the coasts of the continent, of the Chiloé island, of the ports of Valdivia and Valparaiso, carried out by the Spanish expedition led by the Italian Alessandro Malaspina (1790).

The scientific exploration of the country and the Andean region began after the emancipation of Chile, around 1825. We will remember first of all the English expeditions commanded by Parker King and Fitz Roy (1827-36); from 1828 to ’42 the Frenchman Claude Gay traveled the northern and central regions and the Chiloé Islands and later published a Historia física y política de Chile (voll. 24; Paris-Santiago, 1844-54). At the same time, the German Eduard Poppig (1826-32) explored the southern and central provinces and was the first to detect the upward movement of the coasts north of Chiloé. Between 1850 and ’70 the geological and cartographic works of A. Pissis (’48 -64), the observations on the coastal course of the Moesta (’58), the travels of J. Tschudi, GE Cox and especially of RA Philippi considered the father of scientific geography of Chile. After 1870 we must remember the work of Hans Steffen, P. Stange, P. Krüger and Fischer who, between ’93 and 1900 minutely explored the west side of the Andes to the South. of the 40th parallel to solve the question of border with Argentina. Finally, we mention the

Fauna. – The Chilean fauna is very characteristic: it is rather similar to the Patagonian one, while it differs greatly from the Brazilian one which also extends into Bolivia and northern Argentina. There are no monkeys and insectivores in Chile. Carnivores are represented by pumas, spectacled from the bear (Tremarctos ornatus), various dogs and foxes as Canis amblyodon, located in Valparaiso, the Chile maullinicus, the Chile Trichodactylus, the Chile torquatus, bandaged or fox, who lives in Puerto Montt, the Chile magellanicus, which also inhabits Tierra del Fuego; the jaguar and the raccoons are missing. Rodents, so abundant in South America, are scarce: we remember the common chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera) and the Lagidium cuvieri, in the high Andes, the degu (Octodon degus), the Myopotamus coypu with aquatic habits and the Dolichotis patachonica, which can be found in southern Chile. Among the ungulates there are many noteworthy deer including the Pudua humilis the size of a hare and the Cariacus chilensis, as well as the guanaco (Lama guanacus). In the southern part of Chile there are some armadillos and in the northern part some varigas.

The most common birds in the northern part are Dinca grisea, Hylactes megapodius, a parrot (Cyanoliseus Byrani), Agelaius thilius, Leistes superciliaris, Phytotoma rare feared for its devastation; in the southern region there are a woodpecker (Ipocrantor magellanicus), a parrot (Hemicognathus leptorhynchus), Pteroptochus rubecula, etc. American ostriches live throughout the region up to the Strait of Magellan. Reptiles and amphibians are scarce, especially in the southern part.

Chile Geography