Thanks to a project funded by the National Geographic Society, the speleologists of "La Venta Esplorazioni Geografiche" will support a group of international research led by Jo De Waele, partner La Venta and lecturer of the University of Bologna, to explore and study the caves that are formed in the salt present in the Atacama desert in the "Cordillera de la Sal", in Chile.


The research project entitled "Reading the Salt Caves of Atacama" aims to explore these particular caves, studying their morphologies with innovative laser scanner techniques and drone 3D photogrammetry, carrying out secondary mineral samples and in particular studies and microbiological analysis. The samples will be analyzed by the University of Genoa (for minerals, Prof. Cristina Carbone), and the CSIC-IRNAS of Sevilla (microbiologist, D.ssa Ana Zelia Miller) with "Next Generation Sequencing" techniques to ascertain their microbiological diversity. Advanced techniques of microscopy (FESEM, 3D Tomography TEM, Cryo-SEM, CLSM) will allow to study their morphology and their interaction with the substrate.
The prestigious funding of the National Geographic Society will provide essential support to the team of researchers, who in recent years has collected important data on these interesting cavities.

The expedition, with a strength of 19 speleologists, will cover the period from 8 to 28 March 2018, and in addition to continue the scientific studies in caves explored previously, he is planning to explore the most remote parts of the Cordillera de la Sal, in places never visited before by man.

The first caves of the "Cordillera de la Sal" were discovered only in the 90s by French speleologists and in the last 20 years, thanks above all to the explorations of the friends of the Commission Caves Eugenio Boegan of Trieste, this long ridge now welcomes over 15 km of underground passages explored, and has become one of the most important karst areas of the planet. The presence of new minerals and unknown forms of life microbiological, adapted to these extreme conditions of aridity and salinity, present many similarities and characteristics with those present in the Martian underground.

This is the first scientific mission that will make detailed studies of microbiology in these caves, trying to identify extremophilous organisms in the deep obscurity of the salt, soon other news and discoveries from the departing team.

Participants: Jo De Waele, Stefano Fabbri, Laura Sanna, Vittorio Crobu, Carla Corongiu, Alessio Romeo, Riccardo De Luca, Umberto Del Vecchio, Tommaso Santagata, Marco Vattano, Norma Damiano, Patrizio Rubcich, Luca Pisani, Stefano Marighetti, Claudio Pastore, Salvatore Cabras, Andrea Meloni Roberto Ferrara, Roberto Cortelli.
Sponsor: Amphibious, DeWalt, Ferrino, Intermatica, Mytho, Tiberino, Scurion, ViGea.


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