A colossal wall of ice, bigger than you can possibly imagine – unless you’ve watched Game of Thrones, in which case just think of the Wall. From afar, from the safe distance of the tourist viewing decks, the terminal face of Perito Moreno Glacier doesn’t look all that massive. Maybe twenty metres tall, maybe thirty, it’s a little hard to tell. It certainly doesn’t look anywhere near its true height of 75 metres – equal to a 22 storey building.
Perito Moreno Glacier, which is thirty kilometres in length, and an arm of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, is constantly moving, constantly advancing, constantly pushing into Argentino Lake. This, at a time when the vast majority of Earth’s glaciers are shrinking.
Glaciers are ususally docile things, but if you stick around the terminal face of Perito Moreno Glacier for a while, and you won’t have to stay long, five to ten minutes should do it, you’ll be able to watch the glacier in action. A hunk of ice will suddenly peel off the glacier, and tumble down into the lake below. The ice hunk will look the size of the bowling ball, but in reality will be closer to that of a VW beetle. It’ll hit the water with a crack like a gunshot; the noise will take a second or more to reach your ears.
If you’re lucky you’ll be present to see an entire serac (ice ridge) sheer off from the glacier and slump into the lake below, triggering a mini tidal wave, and producing a noise like that of a detonating bomb.
Every few years – it varies between one and ten – Perito Moreno Glacier pushes its way across to the far side of Argentino Lake and forms an enormous ice dam, and sometimes an ice bridge. Eventually the dam will rupture, and/or the ice bridge collapse, usually in spectacular style. The glacier receives 24 hour national media coverage when the rupture/collapse is imminent.
The southern tip of Argentina is a long, long way to go to see a glacier. But to see one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, to see a glacier hurling small-car-sized pieces of ice into the lake below, to see the Wall, now that’s worth travelling to the opposite end of the globe for.
Perito Moreno Glacier is located in Los Glaciares National Park in southern Patagonia, Argentina. The glacier terminal face is 75 kilometres from the town of El Calafate.