The Perito Moreno glacier
country : Argentina
place : Patagonia
The fracture of Perito Moreno Glacier
A phenomenon that was already becoming one of the Patagonian myths and that most people thought would never take place again has just happened: since October 2003 the glacier’s ice wall started moving towards the shore, closing the flow of the water that drains through Brazo Rico to Canal de los Témpanos. This was the first step of the process, which resulted in the glacier fracture.
Finally, after a great deal of expectation and in front of over 17 thousand mesmerized tourists from all over the world, the Perito Moreno Glacier fell apart during a process that started thursday March 11th. and ended on sunday March 14th, at 7.09 PM, when the ice giant could no longer keep resisting the slow but unstoppable flow of water underneath.
What is the process like ?
Lake Argentino, in which Perito Moreno Glacier is set, has many branches. Two of them, Sur and Rico, are behind the Magellan’s Peninsula and they debouch in the lake through the Témpanos Channel. And from time to time the glacier's front ice tongue moves forward and joins the Peninsula, even climbing its coasts. This amazing natural dam makes the level of the Sur and Rico branches (which still keep getting water, ice and snow), raise their level causing a huge amount of pressure. This pressure eases when the water starts filtering through the places where the glacier touches ground and it digs a sort of tunnel underneath the ice.
Finally, when this hole gets too big and due to the water pressure, the enormous wall of ice falls apart causing one of the most overwhelming natural phenomenon that can be seen. The fracture of the glacier may last two or three full days. In this case, it was four days of an endless show of huge pieces of ice detaching from the glacier, until the final moment when it all fell apart.
A little history
In order to better understand the fracture that has made Perito Moreno Glacier so famous around the world it is good to review the facts we know about the history of this unmatchable event.
The first fracture registered occurred in 1917. After that, during the 20th century the phenomenon occurred 16 times, the last one being February 17th, 1988. As years passed, and given the fact that most glaciers in the world are in withdrawal, people thought that the Perito Moreno wouldn't close over the Magallanes Peninsula any more.
But nature surprises us again.
It is important to remember that this time, like every other the glacier fractured in the past, the water level difference between the branches and the lake has to be very important: from 16 to 30 meters. From the south catwalk, the show was imposing; it could be seen from a distance of only 30 ft. and even feel the cold it generated in one's skin.
Experts say that this kind of phenomenon is impossible to predict, reason for which we must feel very lucky for having been able to witness such an event and for having one glacier that is still going strong despite the global heating: the Perito Moreno Glacier.
Perito Moreno Glacier
This is the most spectacular and unforgettable excursion in all Patagonia.
At the beginning of the tour, you will skirt Bay Redonda of Lake Argentino as well as have the chance to see Isla Solitaire.
You will go through the Patagonia valley with its natural environment of species such as guanacos, ostriches, foxes, etc.
Afterwards you will enjoy many interesting spots: Cerro Comision o De Los Elefantes, river Centinela, Cerro Frias (guanacos site), many Patagonian farmhouses and, across the Mitre river you will get into National Park Los Glaciares.
Then, you will go 35 km along the coast of of Lake Argentino's Rico Branch, among vegetation of incredible trees such as ñires, lengas, notros and cherry trees.
At Curva de Los Suspiros you will get the first panoramic view of Glacier Perito Moreno.
An ice cloak, or glacial cap, covers this Protected Area of 600,000 hectares. Among the 356 glaciers, the Perito Moreno is the most outstanding one, having a front of 5 km long and a height of over 60 meters above the level of the water.
Known worldwide because of its process of fractures, the front of the glacier closes the running of the waters of Brazo Rico when it approaches the coast. This produces a kind of pond where the water goes up 20 meters over the level, creating the filtration that ends up in the fracture; the last time was in March 2004.
But show is never-ending. You can watch the detachment of ice blocks of different sizes from a short distance, hear the roaring they produce, and then watch them turned into wonderful floating icebergs.
Walking on the glaciers (see Minitrekking) or going along Lake Argentino to see the front of the other Glacier, Upsala, (see Estancia Cristina, ex Upsala Explorer) is an unique experience.
In 1981 UNESCO declared National Park Los Glaciares a World Heritage Site.
It is an unforgettable experience.But there's more: If you wish to obtain alternative views of this ice giant, from the Bajo de Las Sombras pier (8 km from the watching spot) you can hire the service called "Sailing Safari" that consists of sailing for about half an hour in front of the south wall of Perito Moreno Glacier. This add-on excursion is the only way to get to see this part of the majestic Glacier.
If you opt for not to take this extension, then the Tourist minivan will take you up to the restaurant that is right beside the catwalks. However, if you wish to spend less for your lunch, there is also a snack bar where you can have a hot soup, sandwiches, cakes and beverages.The Perito Moreno Glaciernear Calafate
Just far enough from the bounds of civilization and urban dwelling, veiled by towering mountains and an expansive lake, the Perito Moreno Glacier epitomizes the natural beauty and splendor of Argentina. Unique in a variety of facets, including its size, scientific significance, and accessibility, the glacier is an essential stop for any traveler to the region. Visitors spend hours exploring its wonders and taking in its breathtaking vistas, barely believing their eyes as they gaze upon the picturesque sight which lies before them.
At first sight, you will be taken aback by the sheer magnitude of Perito Moreno, one of the largest glaciers in both Glaciers National Park and South America. Its walls tower over two-hundred vertical feet (forty meters) from the ground, where the ice meets the Lago Argentino, or Lake Argentina. At this height, equivalent to that of a fifteen-story building, the glacier maintains a commanding presence for approximately five kilometers of horizontal distance. At times the glacier will form an imposing panoramic wall, stretching as far as the eye can see in either direction. This undeniable physical beauty is only amplified when one learns of the scientific significance that the formation brings to Patagonia.
The most notable feature about the Perito Moreno Glacier is its dynamic and ever-changing facade. Unlike nearly every other glacier on the planet, which recede and dwindle in size over time, the Peritio Moreno formation actually swells with each passing day. Deemed an "advancing glacier," the ice is continually growing and expanding outward, gradually occupying more and more territory.
While the glacier is said to move outward at a pace of up to seven feet each day, large chunks of ice falling from the walls make this growth a bit more subtle. This phenomenon also makes viewing the glacier all the more unpredictable and exciting.
There are many ways to experience the Perito Moreno Glacier, including Glacier Trekking and Viewing Cruises. Regardless of the option you choose, however, you'll never forget the time you spend exploring this one of a kind South American wonder.
Glacier trekking is the most first-hand way to experience the Perito Moreno formation. By mini-trekking across the icy surface, you'll feel the chill of Patagonia, hear the roar of falling ice blocks, and see beautiful vistas of Lake Argentina. This is typically a half-day tour, including a brief walk through the glacial forests, and introductory discussion on glaciology, and an hour long hike on the glacier itself. Because of the complex nature of the Perito Moreno Glacier, only guided tours are allowed to trek on the ice. Thus, travelers should remember to book their mini-trekking excursion in advance. Unfortunately, children under eight years of age are not permitted on the glacier trek.
Glacier Viewing Cruises
There are a number of boat excursions that allow visitors to observe the vastness of the Perito Moreno Glacier without actually setting foot on the ice's surface. While the boat will likely maintain a safe distance from the glacial walls, you'll still experience the exhilarating feel of rocky waters caused by the icy debris falling from the glacier. Atop a turquoise sea of chilly waters spotted with countless icebergs, your journey can last anywhere from a single hour to an entire day.
Accessing the Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located with the Los Glaciers National Park, on the shore of Lago Argentino about an hour and a half drive from El Calafate. Shuttles departing from the town of El Calafate provide the most convenient access to glacial tours, which depart at several times throughout the day. Visitiors are encouraged to leave early, however, to ensure ample time to explore the magnificence of Perito Moreno.