Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Glacier Perito Moreno


On Monday morning we took a guided tour of Parque Nacional de los Glacieres.  We drove from the town of El Calafate west around much of the southern shore of Lago Argentino.  As we drove our guide, Paula, explained about the wildlife of the area, like why there aren’t too many cows grazing the area (the weather is too severe,) why the crested hawk is called a caracara (that is the sound they make,) and that there are rheas native to the area (we thought we saw ostriches on our way to El Chaltén a few days back.). 
Paula teaches us about the rupture phenomenon.

Paula also told us a lot about glaciers, specifically about the Perito Moreno glacier we would be viewing that day.  Perito Moreno is the most famous one because of how dynamic it is and because of its location next to a peninsula, making it easy to view.  There are 47 major glaciers in the Patagonia Ice Field.  And if I understood correctly Perito Moreno is one of the three glaciers in Patagonia that is growing (or at least not receding.)  We learned that it both grows and calves at a rate of 1-2m a day!  It is considered stable and at equilibrium because the same amount of ice falls off the front that it accumulates.  (Danny and I are still pretty fuzzy on this though.  The whole process is pretty mind boggling.)
Harper explains the finer points of glaciology to Grandpa Bob.
Cal contemplates ablation vs. accumulation.
Some facts I am sure about: Perito Moreno is 19 miles long and 3 miles wide.  Its ice has a height of about 350 ft. above the lake’s water level and a total ice depth of almost 600 ft.  Currently the Perito Moreno glacier has advanced to touch the Peninsula Magallanes creating a dam between the two arms of the L-shaped Lago Argentino.  With no way for the water on the Brazo Rico arm of the lake to flow, the water level on this side rises and creates a huge buildup of pressure against the glacier.  The water level on the Brazo Rico side can rise by almost 100ft. above the level of the main lake but right now it wasn’t quite this high.  Eventually the pressure will break the dam and create a huge show of crashing ice, rushing water and loud cracking sounds called a rupture.  We wish we could have been the lucky ones to view this powerful phenomenon.  The last one occurred in 2008, but from our uninformed eye,  it seems it will be a little while still before it comes down.
Perito Moreno touching the Magellanic Peninsula creating the dam on Lago Argentino
View from the north side of the dam- you can see the water slowly breaking it down and the glacier folding over itself on the rocks.
Inside the national park we hiked along a brand new walkway from overlook to overlook observing the beauty of the south face of Perito Moreno.  Danny, Harper and I could have stayed all day just listening to the cracking in the ice and waiting anxiously for the next chunk to fall.  Harper spent a while observing the icebergs and giving us detailed explanations about the shapes she saw in the ice.  Cal enjoyed the glacier but was just as happy climbing the railings and jumping off the steps.  There were a lot of other visitors at the park but we were able to find a few viewpoints where we were the only ones sitting and watching the glacier calving.  It was peaceful and exciting at the same time.  We all were pretty mesmerized by the glacier’s blue ice, the lake’s milky green water and the sun’s warm bright rays. 

This iceberg quacked off a few days earlier.  Ha Ha.

After the walk we all met up at the visitor center and we found Shirley and Bob chatting away with a family from Buenos Aires.  They both are picking up more Spanish everyday and using it every chance they get.  Harper and Cal love to give them pointers; Harper corrects pronunciation and Cal thinks their mistakes are hilarious.
Glacier love
Our catamaran

After that we took a boat out to the north face of the glacier.  Just as we motored up, a huge chuck of ice crashed down about 100 yards in front of us.  It sent a beautiful swell of waves our way and all the passengers on the boat sounded like children oohing and ahhing with glee.  We took tons of pictures and a couple videos to attempt to capture its magnificence.  Danny, Bob and I spent the boat ride outside on the deck, while Harper, Cal and Shirley were happily hanging out inside most of the trip.
Viewing the glacier up close was pretty spectacular.  A few days earlier Danny and I were a little bummed out about not getting the chance to trek on the ice, but we were all smiles after a lovely sunny day at Perito Moreno.  

Kay Linda takes in the view.
Picture of a picture- An aerial photo of the glacier showing its enormity.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! I'm translating a text about Los Glaciares National Park and came across your blog.