An ice age
Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina
When people say that something moves a ‘glacial speed’, I’ve never really known what to imagine. Obviously it means something is moving slowly, but how slowly? The expression conjures up images of cold and unrelenting progress that, although gradual, is inevitable and unstoppable.
When people talk about this kind of speed, it’s normally in the negative – a criticism of something that is taking too long or is painfully slow. I can now tell you from firsthand experience that there is nothing painful about a glacier. It is one of the most beautiful sights you could see in Patagonia.
Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park has almost fifty glaciers within its boundaries but there is one that really is the icing on the cake (so to speak). The Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate is the largest of them all and by far the most impressive to see up close.
The face of the glacier stretches across for more than five kilometres. From the front, where tourists get the best view, all the way to the back of the ice is more then thirty kilometres. To give you a sense of the scale, the Perito Moreno Glacier is three times the size of Manhattan!
Ready for a collapse
It’s also quite noisy. That seems strange, because you expect the huge mass of solid ice to be quite peaceful, but there are a lot of unseen forces at work here. There is enormous pressure within the glacier and, as we all know, pressure eventually needs a release. A constant cracking and crashing of ice occurs at the front of the glacier as chunks fall off into the lake.
Crack – the sound echoes across the lake and bounces off the nearby mountains. The splash into the water is just as loud and the sound seems to carry for kilometres. The silence of everything else only accentuates the moment.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most popular tourist stops in southern Patagonia. Busloads of people come in and out of the site every day and it’s one of the main reasons travellers bother to stop in the nearby town of El Calafate (although it is actually quite a nice place in its own right). In fact, the whole region seems to be going through a tourist boom at the moment and visitor numbers are definitely on the rise – and not at a glacial speed!