Iquique was an insignificant Peruvian fishing settlement until 1830 when the export of nitrate began.
The Western Cordillera, overhanging the Peruvian coast, contains a long line of volcanic mountains, most of them inactive, but their presence is probably connected with the frequent and severe earthquakes, especially in the southern section of the coast.
In most parts ofithe Peruvian Andes the line of perpetual snow is at 16,400 ft.; but on the Cordillera Nevada, above the Callejon de Huaylas, it sinks to 15,400 ft.
But generally the low grounds are parched and rocky, presenting only a few thickets of Peruvian cactus and stunted shrubs, and a most uninviting shore.
The appearance of Drake on the Peruvian coast led to an expedition being fitted out at Callao, to go in chase of him, under the command of Pedro Sarmiento.