Exploring Chile’s eerie ghost town in the driest place on earth; AnneMarie McCarthy; Lonely Planet

Chile – Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works

The vast Atacama desert in northern Chile is one of the driest places on Earth; some spots here have never seen rain. The 100-kilometre strip of land is largely deserted, but adventurous travellers can find 170 abandoned towns in the middle. Australian photographer Chris Starling recently visited one of these, Humberstone, to capture these stark, eerie images.

Humberstone was established in the 1800s to exploit the rich mining opportunities of saltpeter, a chemical used to make fertiliser. When the use of saltpeter became obsolete in the late 1920s after the discovery of synthesised ammonia, it sparked a collapse of the industry. Due to its remote location in the middle of the desert, residents chose to completely abandon Humberstone and its neighbouring towns.

Chris captured stunning images of deserted classrooms, empty swimming pools and forgotten graffiti.

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