National Geographic : 1930 Dec
THE WORLD'S HIGHEST INTERNATIONAL TELEPHONE CABLE peace monument, the Christ of the Andes, which stands more than 12,000 feet above sea level, on the Chile-Argentine frontier. Far below, though still at 9,000 feet ele vation, Inca Lake is set among the peaks. Still descending, your train creaks, squeals, and winds in and out among mountains of infinite majesty, dignity, and distance, rattles over bridges that span roaring cas cades, to emerge at last into fertile, green valleys of Chile. AN ASTOUNDING PANORAMA FROM A LUXURIOUS PASSENGER COACH In clean, safe, steam-heated trains, this is a fascinating trip. You may sit com fortably at lunch and look out through plate-glass windows at one of the world's most astounding panoramas. But you merely see it. The workers out there along the track, in skating caps, ear muffs, and mittens-the engineers on snow shoes and the crew driving the rotary plow against the drifts-they not only see but they feel and smell the Andes. And they hear the voices of the high passes, the hiss of snow and shriek of winds around the crags, the roar of ava lanches. Down the smooth, steep, snow-covered slope of one mountain, plainly visible from the train, an avalanche had slid. Count less tons of rock, dirt, and snow, coasting straight down from the very clouds, had left a long, perpendicular scar. "What is that funny trail down the mountain side ?" asks a solitaire player, looking up from his cards. No one answers. To save their cable from these slides, the telephone engineers buried it in the rocks all the way from Las Cuevas, on the Argentine side, over to Juncal, in Chile. "When we picked out the route for lay ing our cable over the Andes, it was not with the view of keeping close to roads and trails," said an official of the Ameri can-owned telephone and telegraph com pany. "What we sought was a path that would give the cable the most shelter and minimize the danger of breaks from ava lanches, landslides, or earthquakes. "But always we had to carry the heavy cable on the last lap of its hard journey up steep mountains and over cliffs, to where we had blasted a sunken way for it. Only picked men could stand this tre mendous physical ordeal. We chose only those who had worked for years in high altitudes. Even the blasting and digging of our cable's underground path over this roof of the world, a ditch many miles long, was a back-breaking task." ANOTHER BARRIER DWINDLES Once the Andes separated Chile and the Argentine not only physically and in a commercial way, but also formed a barrier against intellectual, social, and artistic re lations. Now, by this new cable, friendly intercourse is easy; and not only can San tiago talk over the Andes and across the far pampas to busy Buenos Aires, but by a 66-mile cable under the great River Plate she can talk to Montevideo, in Uruguay, and from there on by radio telephone to Europe, the British Isles, and the United States. When the Airplane Survey party, which was sent to South America a few months ago by the National Geographic Society, reached Santiago de Chile, one of its mem bers called The Society's headquarters in Washington, D. C. Over thousands of miles of sea, jungle, plains, and Andean snows this long-dis tance dialogue was held as easily as if the speakers had been face to face. What a contrast since doughty old Tu pac Yupanqui, the Inca warrior, braved these Andean passes! Probably it often took him weeks to get his runners through. Now, when the passes are free of dan gerous storm clouds and fogs, planes fly every week between Santiago and Men doza. A highway more or less parallel with the railway has been blazed across the Andes, and automobiles can make the trip, barring snow, washouts, and land slides. If thefybreak down now, they can telephone for help! The Andes are as high, cold, and vast as ever. They only seem less so now be cause trains and planes are faster than mules and llamas, and because our voices on the new telephone cable carry farther than the voices of General San Martin and old Chief Tupac Yupanqui shouting across the canyons.