In the 1920’s, Villa Epecuén and its delightful salt lake were a popular tourist retreat for Buenos Aires vacationers.
Arriving by train, as many as 5,000 visitors at a time could relax in lavish quarters after taking advantage of the therapeutic waters of Lago Epecuén.
The mountain lake was usual in that its waters were saltier than any ocean—in fact, it was second only to the Dead Sea in salt content, and people suffering from depression, diabetes, and everything in-between came to soak in its healing waters—the very waters that would eventually harbor the village’s ruin.
In what can only be described as a freak occurrence, a rare weather pattern developed over Villa Epecuen in 1985, causing a seiche in the lake.
The seiche broke a dam, and then shoved its way through the dike. While the devastation was slow, it was thorough—the inevitable flood gradually devoured the entire village, submerging it under more than 30 ft. of briny waters. 280 businesses and countless personal dwellings disappeared under the surface like a modern-day Atlantis.
It wasn’t until 2009 that drier weather allowed the waters to retreat enough for the town to reemerge.
The damage total, the village was deemed a disaster area offering no incentive to rebuild.
What remains now is an eerie ghost town with rows and rows of dead, naked trees, decrepit buildings, and an entire landscape seemingly bleached out and stripped to bone by the once-healing salt waters that ravaged everything in sight.
Llallawavis scagliai. Image credit: H. Santiago Druetta.
Phorusrhacidae (the so-called terror birds) were a group of extinct terrestrial carnivorous birds that are known mainly from the Cenozoic of South America, but also from the Plio-Pleistocene of North America and the Eocene of Africa.
These birds had a very large body mass, up to 70 kg, and were 0.9 – 2 meters in height.
They were the predominant predators during the Cenozoic and certainly one of the most striking groups that lived during that period.
The new species, named the Scaglia’s Magnificent Bird, is the most complete terror bird ever discovered, with almost 100 percent of the skeleton exquisitely preserved.
The scientific name of the bird is Llallawavis scagliai. Llallawa means magnificent in the Quechua language in reference to the nature of the terror bird’s remains, and avis means bird.
The species name honors Galileo Juan Scaglia (1915–1989), naturalist and director of the Museo Municipal de Ciencias Naturales Lorenzo Scaglia in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during 1940–1980.