Chilean President Michelle Bachelet Visits Columbia Research Ship

January 10, 2017
Chile President Michelle Bachelet on Columbia University's Research Boat

President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, at podium, visits Columbia University's research vessel the Langseth with Karen Poniachik (left), Director of the Santiago Global Center. Photo by Carlos Díaz / Columbia Global Center Santiago

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet visited the R/V Marcus G. Langseth on Jan. 9 when it docked at the port city of Valparaiso, touring the ship—which is operated by Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory--on its months-long voyage to map the occurrences of earthquakes and tsunamis in the region.

Bachelet received a tour of the ship’s high-tech control room, met with the captain and officers as well as the researchers better understand its mission. She is no stranger to Columbia, where she has spoken at several World Leaders Forum events and in 2012 gave the Commencement address at the Mailman School of Public Health.

The ship, a pioneer in marine seismology, sailed along the coast of northern Chile from Oct. 23 to Dec. 7, collecting information for a database of images of the Chilean seismogenic zone where earthquakes take place. The second half of its journey begins in mid-January, as the vessel begins to map out the Chilean margin, a submerged continental shelf that extends the length of South America. The largest earthquake ever recorded occurred there in 1960, triggering a tsunami whose waves reached Japan 17,000 miles away.

The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, includes scientists from the U.S. and Chile.

"This project represents a milestone in collaboration between scientists in our country and those of Columbia University,” said Karen Pohiachik, who directs the Columbia Global Center in Santiago. “In addition to working together on the way we face the threats of earthquakes and tsunamis, it creates ties of medium and long-term academic cooperation, which will result in more programs,exchanges and joint research."