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Revealing Peru’s Hidden Energy Source

National Geographic Young Explorers Grantee Andrés Ruzo is back in the field doing research to create the first geothermal map of northern Peru. Follow along as his collaborator and wife Sofia reports from the field about their ensuing adventures.

 

Setting the Scene

“Can you believe we’re actually here again?”

“Nope.”

My geologist husband/National Geographic Young Explorers Grantee Andrés Ruzo and I are sitting outside in the garden of our “home away from home” in Lima, Peru. Andrés has just returned from an early morning meeting at an international petroleum company, one of many he’s organized since we’ve been back in Lima. We’ll only be here a week, but in that time, he has to meet with at least twelve oil, gas, and mining corporations to explain what we are doing here and why they should care about our project.

Map showing Lima, Peru, the starting point of the Ruzos' expedition. Map courtesy National Geographic Maps and Esri.

The Background

As he plops down on the couch beside me, I put down my ukulele (a bit of summer I brought with me for winter below the Equator), and we think back to our first Field Season in Peru exactly a year ago, when we spent seven months traveling throughout the country introducing private, public, and academic institutions to the concept of geothermal energy, and letting them know that Andrés will be creating the first-ever Geothermal Map of Peru. Andrés and I spent most of our time in the desert, lowering a thermometer down abandoned oil and gas wells, measuring the temperatures as we cranked the thermometer down 400 meters (1,312 feet).

The still heat of the desert, reaching above 130 degrees F, and the dusty, cracked terrain that pelted us daily were a far cry from Andrés’ sterile laboratory and my spotless office back in Dallas. But after we learned to accustom ourselves to the rough conditions (and decided not to bring any more sweet lemonade, which once caused a swarm of bees to alight on our camping ground), we grew to care for the oil workers, see the beauty in the creviced valleys, and consider the sand pelting us to be a free exfoliation treatment for our entire bodies.


Here I am lowering the thermometer down in one of the abandoned wells. Photo by Andrés Ruzo.

The New Mission

As we prepare to embark on our second sojourn into the desert, things have changed a bit—Andrés has decided to focus his studies on Northern Peru in an effort to produce a data-rich, highly accurate map rather than a general overview of the entire country. Moreover, he’s writing a manual (in Spanish) that he’ll make free of cost for governmental entities so they can learn how to create heat flow maps on their own.

Andrés annotating the heat measurements in his log; behind him is the Peruvian flag we carry into the field. Photo by Sofia Ruzo.


I have added a new DSLR  to the video camera I will be using to record our expedition, and am excited to write of our research and adventures here on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal, and about the historical and cultural significance of Peruvian gastronomy (and share a few recipes) on NG’s Intelligent Travel blog for the “Food Fridays” series.

Peruvian sashimi--the sushi here is to die for! Photo by Sofia Ruzo.

 

Next week , I’ll be writing from the deserts of Talara, where vultures are our daily companions and evening showers leave our bathroom floor with an inch of sand from our day in the field. Until then, saludos desde Lima!

 

Learn More

National Geographic Young Explorers Grants

Andrés Ruzo Profile

Peru Photos