Siddhesh Joshi

Aysén Region

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Country  Chile
Capital  Coyhaique

Area  108,494.4 km2
Population  94,271
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Destinations  Coyhaique, Aysen - Chile, Puerto Aysen, Chile Chico, Cochrane
Points of interest  San Rafael Glacier, San Rafael Lake, Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Cerro Castillo, Monte San Valentin

The XI Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo Region (Spanish: Región de Aysén or XI Región Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo), often shortened to Aysén Region or Aisén, is one of Chile's 15 first order administrative divisions. Although the third largest in area, the region is Chile's most sparsely populated region with a population of 100,417 as of 2002. The capital of the region is Coihaique, the region's former namesake.

Contents

Map of Aysén-Region

The Aysén Region is the least populous of Chile's fifteen regions. The landscape is marked by several glaciations that formed many lakes, channels and fjords. The region still contains icefields including the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the world's third largest after those in Antarctica and Greenland. Laguna San Rafael National Park, reachable only by boat or plane, is one of the region's most popular tourist destinations. Until the construction of Route 7 (the Carretera Austral, or Southern Highway) in the 1980s, the only overland routes from north to south through the region were extremely primitive tracks.

Demography

The Coyhaique region was the last to be joined to make the country, long after even the southernmost region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica. Its geographical location and transport difficulties explain the lack of interest aroused in the nineteenth century for these lands, to the point that no one even thought of colonizing them with immigrants, as happened with the other southern regions. Following the signing of the Boundary Treaty with Argentina in 1881, settlers came from the Pampas to the valleys that cross the Andes from east to west. The anonymous and private effort led to the spontaneous creation of cities in Puerto Aysen in 1904, Balmaceda Coyhaique in 1917 and 1929. The oldest of the towns is Melinka (the local legend says that it is "darling" or "lovely" in Russian, but it is not), established by mid-nineteenth century, on Ascension Island, the archipelago of the Guaitecas.

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The native population was not abundant, if not scarce. In the insular region the Guaitecas and Chonos inhabited the Islas del Chonos. They are believed to have become extinct in the 20th century. In the archipelagos south of the Gulf of Penas and to Tierra del Fuego lived the Alacalufes or Kaweshkar, also fishermen. Both groups were quickly decimated by disease and attacks by settlers in the late 19th century coming from southern Chile and Europe, a great number were from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, former Yugoslavia, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom. Large numbers of Russians, Croats, Scots, Welsh and Irish arrived by government invitation and land sale programs to assist in the population of southern Chile and to reduce the number of indigenous peoples.

Region XI, Aysen del General Carlos Ibanez del Campo, is the least populated of the country. According to the 2002 census there were only 91 492 inhabitants in an area of 106,990.9 km ². The population density is 0,85 inhabitants per km ². For the time elapsed since the last census to date, it has been estimated an average growth rate of 0.9 per 100 inhabitants.

The largest cities are (2002 census): Coyhaique (44.850 hab.), Puerto Aysen (16.936 hab.), Chile Chico (3042 hab.). Puerto Cisnes (2517 pop.), Cochrane (2217 pop.); Melinka (1411 hab.) and Mañihuales Villa (1401 pop.).

Climate

Aysén Region climate's is classified as a cool oceanic climate with low temperatures, abundant precipitation and strong winds. The relief found throughout the region results in different types of climate zones in the western and eastern parts. There are 4 distinct climate zones found within the region. Coastal areas to the west have a cool temperate climate. The coastal areas receive abundant precipitation throughout the year with mean annual precipitation that can reach 4,000 millimetres (157 in). For example, Puerto Aysen receives 2,940 mm (116 in) of precipitation per year while on San Pedro Island, it receives 4,266 millimetres (168.0 in). Most of the precipitation are associated with strong winds from the northwest and the north. The winter months are usually the wettest months. Mean annual temperatures are between 8 to 9 °C (46.4 to 48.2 °F) with January being the warmest month. Temperatures decrease with latitude although owing to maritime influence which is reinforced with strong westerly winds throughout the year, temperatures are not extremely low compared to inland areas. As a result, mean temperatures rarely fall below 4 °C (39.2 °F) in the coldest months, while the diurnal range is small, averaging 5 to 7 °C (9.00 to 12.60 °F). Owing to the high precipitation year round, relative humidity is high, averaging 87% with no months averaging below 80%. High cloud cover dominates the coastal areas year round.

In more inland areas to the east (about 40 km (25 mi) to the east of the coastal areas), precipitation is much lower, averaging 730 mm (29 in) in Cochrane to 1,200 mm (47 in) in Coyhaique. Precipitation is the highest from May to August, which receives 50% of the annual precipitation. During periods of cold temperatures, precipitation can fall as snow during these months. Being located inland and farther away from the maritime influence, the climate is more continental than coastal areas. Mean temperatures average between 8 to 10 °C (46.4 to 50.0 °F) which tends to be 1 or 2 °C (1.80 or 3.60 °F) lower than coastal areas at the same latitude. With lower precipitation, relative humidity is lower, averaging between 71% to 74% in Cochrane and Coyahique respectively. Cloud cover is lower and there are more clear days in inland areas than coastal areas.

Corresponding to the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which are located at higher atltidues, temperatures are cold enough to maintain permanent ice fields. These two ice fields receive abundant precipitation year round, particularly in the west facing slopes of the Andes that descend to the ocean and fiords. The climate is very windy. No meteorological stations exist in the ice fields so it is estimated that the average high, average low and mean temperatures are below 0 °C (32.0 °F) in all months to maintain permanent ice fields.

The easternmost parts of the region have a cold steppe climate. Precipitation is significantly lower than the other parts of the region with mean monthly precipitation below 40 mm (1.6 in). Precipitation is concentrated from May to August where these months are responsible for 55% to 65% of the total annual precipitation. Snowfall can occur during these months owing to colder temperatures. Mean annual precipitation ranges from 300 mm (12 in) in Chile Chico to 612 mm (24.1 in) in Balmaceda. Mean temperatures are lower than areas to the east, averaging between 6 to 8 °C (42.8 to 46.4 °F). Mean summer temperatures can exceed 15 °C (59.0 °F) in Chile Chico, which permits agriculture, similar to the one in the central parts of the country. This is due to the moderating influence of General Carrera Lake which prevents temperatures from dropping too low. The vegetation is mostly shurbs owing to the low temperatures and precipitation. Relative humidity is lower, with mean annual values varying between 62% to 71%.

Economy

The primary sector dominates in the regional economy, which focuses on the exploitation and processing of marine, mining, forestry, and animal resources. Aquaculture is also an important activity and the region contributes 80% of Chile’s salmon output.

An industrial park, devoted mainly to producing frozen and, to a lesser extent, canned, products has developed around Puerto Chacabuco, Puerto Aisén, and Puerto Cisnes.

Although mining, based on polymetallic deposits of zinc, gold, and silver, makes a small contribution to Chile’s total mining GDP, it is significant in regional exports.

Exploitation of forests and the production of yard timber, plywood, and panels for furniture is mostly geared to export markets. Animal husbandry focuses on beef cattle, sheep, and sheep’s wool, part of which is exported.

Government and Administration

Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo Region is subdivided into 4 provinces in which each province is divided into municipalities (communes). There are a total of 10 municipalities in Aysén Region.

References

Aysén Region Wikipedia


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