eso0044 — Organisation Release
The Paranal Metamorphosis
20 December 2000: Some years ago, the Paranal mountain was still a remote and inhospitable site, some 12 km from the Pacific Coast in the dry Atacama desert in northern Chile. Few aircraft passengers flying along that coast would notice anything particular about this peak, except perhaps that it was one of the tallest in the steep coastal mountain range. Already in the early 1960's, pioneer astronomers crossed this desolate region in search of suitable sites for future observatories. One of them, Jürgen Stock, did notice the Paranal peak as a possible candidate. However, without any water in this extremely dry area, how could any people, even hardy scientists, ever live up there? He then went on to discover La Silla, where ESO decided to build its first observatory in 1964.