Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina – My First River of Ice

11 01 2012

From Torres del Paine we head into Argentina, across the empty Patagonian steppe to El Calafate. It’s the lodging headquarters for those visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier. El Calafate is the biggest town for hundreds of miles around.

We stay in the centrally located Calafate Hostel. Its guests are all visiting the outdoor spectacles in the area. Lago Argentina, a 1,640-ft deep, twenty mile wide glacial lake sits to one side of this town. This lake is as deep and much larger than Lake Tahoe. It is 566 sq miles in surface area, and Tahoe is 191.  This morning, we head to the dining area and things are not going well. The coffee is just about un-drinkable, the milk is hot. There are not enough coffee cups or cereal bowls or anything. Yaap complains to the staff. And again, the fruit is canned. I make up my mind to bring my own stuff tomorrow, I cannot stand it. I love breakfast and this is hard. Still, a surprise! An attractive young woman comes to sit at my table. We introduce ourselves, and she is from my home town in NY! Her name is Andrea, she works in Australia. She’s really excited to see the glacier today and will be on my bus! We talked all the way to the glacier.

I’ve never seen a glacier of this magnitude. The Southern Patagonian Ice Sheet feeds 300 glaciers in Argentina, including Perito Moreno. This is a famous glacier because it moves 10 feet per day, and calves ice bergs all day long. It’s also got viewing decks built along its face so you can see it up close. Saskia, our guide, says it’s really exciting to watch.

So without further adieu, here are some nice photos of this magnificent force of nature!

This is the left half of the mile-wide glacier terminus.

The terminus of the glacier is three miles wide, and 16 stories tall. It dwarfs tourist boats coming to view it. It’s one of three in the world that is growing. It’s 580 feet thick. It’s a sky blue color! Riddled with dirt. The front is 16 story tall saw tooths of ice. Utterly un-walkable. We take walks all along the decks built to people can view. It’s incredible how tall the wall of ice is.

I can see down more than 100 feet and yet the glacier towers above me.

A view along the north side of the glacier shows how wide it is. On the viewing platform there are places to sit. Many are having lunch, some writing, but most are watching the glacier, because this one is known to send off ice bergs all day long. I sit down and wait. I can hear explosions all around. Those are cracks in the glacier which appear as it moves over the ground.

Several times I see ice falling off the glacier, and it slams into the water, as if in slow motion, and then bobs up only to reveal maybe 10% of itself once it floats. Ivo was able to catch one of the moments with a fast action camera, and put together this compilation! Enjoy! It’s fantastic.

Ans, Margaret, Monique P, Anne Marie, Monique

The ice field behind the glacier, and the glacier itself, make their own weather. Several miles away from the glacier, the weather turns sunny again. In the days to come we’ll see again and again how the ice sheet affects this part of South America.

The lake, which is probably a hundred miles long,

is peppered with ice blue glaciers from these glaciers.


At the parking area, I see some friends from Bariloche! It’s Matt and Rob, our British friends who are doing the walking tour! They took a ride down here, but plan to walk back to Bariloche. Nice to see them!

After we get back to Calafate, we stroll the town in search of dinner and a drink. It takes a while, but we find an outdoor table in the sun. Of course, it’s popular, but we manage to grab a table. As this town is a magnet for the outdoor seekers in Patagonia, it’s got visitors from all over the world.

We meet two guys at the next table, who are from Reunion. If you know where Reunion is, you are a geography buff! It’s off the coast of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean!

Enjoying a cold one after a day outdoors



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