Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Perito Moreno Glacier

When I first learned about glaciers in school, I imagined this river of ice that slowly grinds its way down the valley between mountains, advancing so slowly that the human eye cannot detect its movement. Since then I have seen many glaciers, all of them on mountains, and none of them matched that initial image my mind had conjured up as a kid learning geography.

When I saw the Perito Moreno glacier though, it was as if that first geography lesson had come alive before me. This was exactly how I had imagined a glacier would be!

Glaciar Perito Moreno is located in the southern sector of Los Glaciares National Park, about 80 km by road from El Calafate. Several buses take visitors from the town to the national park, and we booked ourselves on one of those.

The road runs along Lake Argentino for the most part, so we had pleasant views of the beautiful lake throughout. Primarily fed by meltwater from the glacier, this lake's milky turquoise blue coloration is very unique.

We had a guide on the bus, and at a bend in the road she announced with a flourish, "ladies and gentlemen, here is Glacier Perito Moreno." And this is what we saw!

Glacier Perito Moreno is named after Francisco Moreno, an Argentine explorer who led several expeditions into the Patagonian region in the late 1800s.

This massive glacier has an area of 250 km2 (97 sq mi), and extends 30 km (19 mi) in length. The ice field is the world's third largest reserve of fresh water, and Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still advancing. Its immense size and power is hard to describe in words.

There is a well-constructed walkway about 300m from the edge of the glacier, from where one can have excellent views of its expanse. The walkway is like a loop trail that takes about an hour to finish.

The front edge of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 km wide, and it towers 60 m (197 ft) above the surface of the water. The walkway starts high up near the road, from where we can have a great view of the expanse of the glacier. But as it descends lower, we can really get a feel for how massive the glacier is.

Even from this distance, we can hear periodic loud cracks, like sharp claps of thunder, followed by huge splashes, as giant chunks of ice break off and crash into the lake.

The constant grinding and rumbling of the glacier also makes it seem like a living thing, slowly moving forward in this enchanted landscape.

There are a couple of interesting-looking ice tunnels at the base of the glacier. The walkway leading to a closer view of these tunnels was closed, so we had to be content with a distant view.

The red blossoms of Chilean Fire Bush add a splash of color to the beautiful landscape. Note how tiny the boat is in comparison with the glacier!

We were so thankful to have a clear and beautiful day for our visit. We walked around there for close to two hours, trying hard to soak in the sights and sounds of this marvel of nature, for recollection later. Is there a limit to how much a brain can retain? Mine was stretched to its limits, trying to capture and store all the information from this visit.

If one is not content with viewing the glacier from afar, there is one company that offers glacier treks. This is an opportunity to get an intimate feel for the glacier and experience it from up close. We got to go on one of these. More about that in the next post.


Sepiru Chris said...

The calving of glaciers is a magnificent sound, especially when it terminates in the slowly muffling aftershocks of a nearby water landing.

Wonderful post. Thank you very much for bringing us there.

Anonymous said...

I spent a lot of time around the Tasman Glacier in Mt Cook National Park in NZ, I lived there. I love glaciers, I love watching glaciers calve new icebergs off them, and the Tasman would calve some rippers, within moments of the the calving, the new iceberg would flip itself 180 degrees, so we had to be very vigilant to stay far enough away to avoid the large wave that always accompanied them. Oh I have so many stories about the time I got hypothermia in the lake at the snout of the Tasman glacier, and that was my second time of having hypothermia!!
I loved these photos and I love that you share your journeys with us. Thank You Bindu :)
This is one of the widest, and tallest glaciers I have seen and I have seen a lot of them!

Jude said...

Whoaw!!! Absolutely awsome, fantastic....... and more.
Thank you,

~ ॐ ~ said...

This is unbelievably beautiful !!!

and a bit scary too somehow, looking at the size of the glacier !

meb said...

Fantastic pictures bindu... thanks for sharing.

meb said... response to your comment re my picture... a bunch of us from a blog where we all met each other, were playing a joke on the person who keeps that blog. She has been posting pictures of Ornamental Kale since the fall and showing us how beautiful it is as it grows, even in cold weather.

There were so many pictures, we decided to each replace our avatar with a picture of Kale and see how long it took her to figure it out.

Wasn't long. I don't even know if I can find my kitten from before. Smile.

Shayla said...

Your excitment is contagious. Sounds Magnificent!

3rdEyeMuse said...

so wonderful that you had such a glorious day to explore the glacier & I am really looking forward to the actual glacier trek.

when I was 12, I was shipped off to the grandparents (in Germany) while the parental units divided the home ... my Omi & Grandpa took me to a glacier in Austria & I still recall the feeling (the day was gray & chilly) ... to me, it felt like walking on the moon (not the no gravity part, but the desolate quality I imagine). oddly inspiring, too.

yours is a refreshing view of a glacier for me. :)

dolphin said...

wow, the pictures took me to an altogether imaginative world. it is a treat for our eyes. thanks for sharing!

bindu said...

Chris - you're right. This was my first glacier of this kind, so it was fascinating.

Sweetmango - what an awesome place that must've been, to live in! Sounds like you have some very interesting stories from that time too. Would love to hear them. :)

Jude - glad you liked it!

Om - you're right! Standing near it, we were wondering how it would be if the whole thing suddenly melted ...

Meb - now I see. :)

Shayla - it really was!

3rdEyeMuse - that must have been quite an experience! I'd love to visit the mountains in Austria some time. Do you still go back often?

Dolphin - glad you liked it!

Vamsee said...

Oh WOW!! What great pictures!! I have seen glaciers in Alaska that look a little bit like this, but they are not so clean. There is a lot of mud and don't photograph that well.

Looks like had great weather too. That is always very important when you go to places like these. Loved all the pictures, especially one that shows the height of the glacier.

Blu said...

Totally incredible, wow Blu is green with envy. I do not believe that I have ever seen pictures or film of this amazing place. What powerful pictures.

Jarlin said...

Good one...

Sapna Anu B.George said...

It one of beautifully done photo's plus,exceptional write up too Bindu.....will be visiting you more often.

ArtSparker said...

Wonderful, possibly comparable to the grand canyon, the feeling of observing an unimaginably large beast. In the case of the grand canyon, sleeping, in this case, stirring in its sleep.

ArtSparker said...

Hello again - just to let you know, I linked to this post in my post today.

~vagabond~ said...

Beautiful photos...and once again, it was fun to travel through your post. :)

GMG said...

Wow! This is one of my dream trips: Patagonia! Like Chatwin, Sepulveda and others... One day! ;))
Wonderful post and excellent pictures!
Thanks for your comments at Blogtrotter.
Have a great Sunday!

Final_Transit said...

Hi Bindu,
It was fantastic reading your narration and the accompanying pictures were stunning! I would certainly love to spend months in South America!

Karine said...

It's so massive, beautiful and amazing!!! I have only seen one glacier, in Colorado, and it had shrunk to the point of looking like a snowfield, nothing more. Pales in comparison to these wonderful photos!

megha punater said...

bindu,you are tagged hope you will play along.

Barbara Martin said...

I have liked glaciers for a long time, since I first saw the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies.

It is very interesting to learn this glacier is advancing when others in the northern hemisphere are doing the opposite!

Excellent post, and thank you for sharing your photos.