Oficina salitrera de Humberstone, Pozo Almonte, Iquique, Chile.

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Patricia Santini on March 9, 2011

"Esta Oficina Salitrera comenzó a elaborar salitre con el nombre de La Palma en el año 1872, siendo su propietario The Peruvian Nitrate Company. Hacia 1877 elaboraba salitre con el Sistema de Máquina, es decir con inyección abierta de vapor de agua en los cachuchos. Fue vendida al gobierno peruano por un monto de 325.000 soles y concluida la Guerra del Salitre o del Pacífico la firma Gibbs & Company la rescató mediante la devolución de los certificados recibidos por su venta anterior. Esta transacción de rescate dio origen, en 1890, a la empresa The New Tamarugal Nitrate Company Limited, la cual reanudó la puesta en funcionamiento de esta Oficina Salitrera dotándola con la implementación del Sistema Shanks para elaborar salitre o nitrato. En el año 1932 paralizó sus actividades debido a la crisis salitrera de esos años. En 1933, debido a una reorganización de la Industria Salitrera, la tomó a su cargo la Compañía Salitrera de Tarapacá y Antofagasta (COSATAN) sometiéndola al año siguiente a una reestructuración total de sus instalaciones productivas además de reconstruir y modernizar su Campamento. El 21 de noviembre de 1934 con motivo de inaugurar estas nuevas instalaciones, fue re-bautizada con el nombre de Santiago Humberstone en homenaje al destacado Ingeniero Químico inglés del mismo nombre. A partir de entonces y hasta 1940 la Oficina Salitrera Humberstone alcanzó su máximo desarrollo, llegando a albergar una población de 3.700 habitantes. Paralizó definitivamente sus actividades en el año 1960. Fue declarada Monumento Nacional en enero de 1970. Durante los meses de noviembre de cada año celebra su tradicional Fiesta Pampina".

Patricia Santini on November 29, 2011

Humberstone and Santa Laura are located 48 km east of the city of Iquique in the Atacama Desert in the Region of Tarapacá in northern Chile. Other saltpeter works or "nitrate towns" include Chacabuco, Maria Elena, Pedro de Valdivia, Puelma and Aguas Santas among many others. Chacabuco is a special case since it was also used as a concentration camp during Pinochet's regime, and to this day remains surrounded by lost landmines.

In 1872, the Guillermo Wendell Nitrate Extraction Company founded the saltpeter works of Santa Laura, while the region was still a part of Peru. In the same year, James Thomas Humberstone founded the "Peru Nitrate Company", establishing the works of "La Palma". Both works grew quickly, becoming busy towns characterized by lovely buildings in the English style.

While La Palma became one of the largest saltpeter extractors of the whole region, Santa Laura did not do well, as production was low. It was taken over in 1902 by the Tamarugal Nitrate Company. In 1913 Santa Laura halted its production until the Shanks extraction process was introduced, which enhanced productivity.

However the economic model collapsed during the Great Depression of 1929 because of the development of the synthesis of ammonia by the Germans Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, which led to the industrial production of fertilizers. Practically bankrupt, both works were acquired by COSATAN (Compañía Salitrera de Tarapacá y Antofagasta) in 1934. COSATAN renamed La Palma into "Oficina Santiago Humberstone" in honor of its founder. The company tried to produce a competitive natural saltpeter by modernizing Humberstone, which led to its becoming the most successful saltpeter works in 1940.

Both works were abandoned in 1960 after the rapid decline that caused COSATAN to disappear in 1958. In 1970, after becoming ghost towns, they were declared national monuments and opened to tourism. In 2005 they were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Description from UNESCO World Heritage Site web site

Humberstone and Santa Laura works contain over 200 former saltpeter works where workers from Chile, Peru and Bolivia lived in company towns and forged a distinctive communal pampinos culture. That culture is manifest in their rich language, creativity, and solidarity, and, above all, in their pioneering struggle for social justice, which had a profound impact on social history.

Situated in the remote desert Pampa, one of the driest deserts on earth, thousands of pampinos lived and worked in this hostile environment, for over 60 years, from 1880, to process the largest deposit of saltpeter in the world, producing the fertilizer sodium nitrate that was to transform agricultural lands in North and South America, and in Europe, and produce great wealth for Chile.

Because of the vulnerability of the structures and because of the impact of a recent earthquake, the site was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, to help mobilize resources for its conservation.

Luis Maderuelo on February 8, 2012

Me agrada el encuadre que le diste, el cruce de diagonales, juego de luces y sombras. Más allá del valor documental de la foto, por supuesto. Saludos! lm

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 8, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Patricia Santini
    • Camera: SONY DSC-H7
    • Taken on 2011/03/04 12:28:16
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 5.20mm
    • F/Stop: f/5.600
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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