Epic Four-Year Calving Cycle Begins at Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier

March 12, 2012 by

Sightseeing, Things To Do, Unforgettable Experiences

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina.

The glittering star of Argentina’s remarkable Los Glaciares National Park is the crystalline, 30km (18mi) river of ice called Perito Moreno Glacier. It is the planet’s third-largest reserve of fresh water and one of the continent’s only advancing glaciers. This photogenic natural wonder is also one of the most easily accessible glaciers in Latin America, and perhaps the most popular destination in Patagonia for visitors both mild and wild.

Whether you plan to appreciate the awesomeness of Perito Moreno’s sheer 70m (230ft) face from the comfort of a boat on Lago Argentino, or strap on crampons with the El Calafate Adventure Tour: Hiking Inside El Perito Moreno Glacier for a most challenging climb, the “White Giant” awaits all adventurers as it slowly pours—at a glacial pace—into the global water supply.

Where the glacier’s frozen face meets the relatively warm water, massive crevasses and caves, bridges and shelves riddle the ice, enhancing Perito Moreno’s famed beauty while undermining its structure. Here, it begins to crack apart, emitting deep sonic booms that observers can feel in their soles.

While Perito Moreno calves skyscraper-sized icebergs into the otherwise placid lake at a regular pace, scientists have noticed a pattern. Every four years the glacier overextends itself above the Brazo Rico, the natural channel connecting the lake to the sea, growing thinner and more fragile in the heat of the Southern summer. Come March, the relative warmth of the atmosphere demands tribute of the ice, and it crackles to a massive collapse.

With worldwide weather patterns shifting unpredictably, in the wake of what most believe is global warming, some scientists were unsure whether Perito Moreno would keep its usual schedule. They needn’t have worried.

Last weekend, the process of intense calving began, and enormous chunks of ice began breaking off the glacial body. Some 2,500 tourists, and every international media outfit with representation in the country, gathered to watch the spectacular ice cascade, safely removed from huge waves formed in their wake.

At press time, the fragile ice bridge across the Brazo Rico was still standing, but will likely have collapsed completely, in its typically dramatic fashion, toward the water by the time you read this post. Fear not: Los Glacieres National Park remains Patagonia’s crown jewel, with wonders enough to fill the average traveler with an awe that will last a lifetime.

-Paige Penland

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