The Perito Moreno Glacier in the Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina, must be one of the most beautiful things in nature that I have ever seen. It was my first visit ever to a Glacier. One of the reasons I decided to visit Argentina back in 2007 was to see the Perito Moreno glacier before Global warming left its mark of destruction.
But in fact I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Perito Moreno is one of three Patagonian glaciers that is not retreating but still growing! That was wonderful news! Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most popular glaciers in the world. To get to the glacier you are transferred across the Lago Argentino (lake) in a ferry. It is a 20-30 minute ride if I can remember correctly.
From the ferry it does not look so big. But once up close you feel incredibly small. One of the things I´ve noticed was the colour of the water. It was a deep turquoise. Why? I am not sure. When I find out I will update my blog.
The glacier is 97 square miles (250 square km) and measures 19 miles (30 km) in lenght! But it is not all. In addition the glacier measures 3 miles (5 km) wide and a total ice depth of 558 feet (170 m). Just sit back for a moment and think about the statistics. That is a HUGE block of ice to say the least. The deepest part of the glacier is 2297 feet or 700 m! The ice field accounts for world’s third largest reserve of fresh water!
I will tell my story about our ice trekking expediton on the glacier in another blog. But I would like to tell you about my time alone with the glacier.
After our ice trekking excursion I broke away from the group and found a quiet spot on a big rock overlooking the lake and the glacier. The glacier is noisy! Big chunks of ice break away from the glacier and then drop into the lake with a bang. Anyone who has seen this before will tell you it is sheer pleasure to witness. The shudder sounds and the ripple effect of the waves is incredible.
I sat there, quiet as a mouse and I soaked up every tiny bit of detail. This was a feeling I couldn´t describe to anyone. After a while we transferred back and then we took a bus ride to the other side of the glacier. There are various lookout points and you cannot walk on the glacier. Photographers sit here for days in the blistering cold to capture the first rupture of the glacier. There are beautiful postcards for sale with photos of the rupture.
What is a rupture? Why does it happen?Periodically the glacier advances over the L-shaped “Lago Argentino” (“Argentine Lake”) forming a natural dam which separates the two halves of the lake when it reaches the opposite shore. With no escape route, the water-level on the Brazo Rico side of the lake can rise by up to 30 meters above the level of the main lake.
The enormous pressure produced by the height of the dammed water finally breaks the ice barrier holding it back, in a spectacular rupture event. This dam/rupture cycle is not regular and it recurs naturally at any frequency between once a year to less than once a decade. The glacier first ruptured in 1917, taking with it an ancient forest of arrayán (Luma apiculata) trees. The last rupture occurred in July 2008, and previously in 2006, 2004, 1988, 1984, 1980, 1977, 1975, 1972, 1970, 1966, 1963, 1960, 1956, 1953, 1952, 1947, 1940, 1934 and 1917. It ruptures, on average, about every four to five years.
The Perito Moreno glacier was named after the explorer Francisco Moreno, a pioneer who studied the region in the 19th century and played a major role in defending the territory of Argentina in the conflict surrounding the international border dispute with Chile. A very interesting video clip about the rupture in 2008. This couple waited 6 hours in the rain and snow to see the rupture! [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDHayMS33MA]