Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina – colossal ice wall 2

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 from afar, Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier from afar. Photo credit: Benjamin White

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.

The Wall, Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

The Wall. Photo credit: Benjamin White

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.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Photo credit: Benjamin White

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.

Perito Moreno Glacier remains of ice dam, Argentina

The remains of the ice dam. Photo credit: Benjamin White

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.

Perito Moreno Glacier ice dam, Argentina

Time lapse of the creation of the 2004 ice bridge. Photo credit: Benjamin White

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.

Practical Information:

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.

More on Patagonia:

El Chaltén

The hike to Refugio Otto Meiling

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