Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Perito Moreno Glacier


Today was spent getting to know the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina's Glacier National Park (accessed via El Calafate in the southern part of Argentina). It was really quite an experience! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the only glacier in the world that you can climb on and view from almost 360º. It's not the biggest in the world, but it's massive and gorgeous, and there's nothing like getting up close to it from all sides. We started by taking a boat across the lake so that we could go glacier-climbing on the left edge of the glacier in this photo. We weren't very lucky with the weather, since it was mostly overcast and we were rained on for about the first hour. Nevertheless, it was thrilling.


This is the view of the glacier as we were passing by in the boat. It must be several hundred feet high and is more than a mile wide. Note the deep blue colors in the fissures. The glacier advances about a foot a day or more, so it is continually calving into the water. They say it takes the ice about 500 years to wind its way down the mountain (the glacier's origins are 25 miles or from this point). Note the color of the water (a muddy white, typical of glacier lakes), which is part of Lago Argentino, Argentina's largest lake. It it only about 800-900 feet above sea level.


Walking up the glacier was a kick. We made it almost to the top of the glacier and spent a few hours wandering around and peering into chasms and fissures.


At the end of the tour, our guides served us some Argentine scotch using ice and water taken directly from the glacier. 8-year old scotch on 500-yr old ice!


Later we went back to the other side of the lake and walked along some incredible walkways that the government recently finished. They stretch for well over a mile and allow you to get some magnificent views of the glacier from head-on and from all sorts of angles. The dark spot on the glacier in this photo is at the point where, when the glacier advances enough, it reaches the other side of the lake and forms a dam. That can raise the level of one part of the lake by as much as 60 feet, but then the water pressure starts undermining the dam and the whole thing collapses in a gigantic rush of water and tons of falling ice. That happens at random (multi-year) intervals and to see it is supposedly breathtaking. There is a video of the dam rupturing here (not sure it's the best, but it can get you started if you're interested). If you are ever going to go to great lengths to see a glacier, this is the one. Argentina has two attractions that we've seen that rate as world-class natural wonders in my book: Iguazu Falls (in the north, on the border of Argentina and Brazil), and Perito Moreno glacier. Both should rank high on your bucket list, and both are very well run and organized for the international tourist. I only wish the Argentine government could do everything this well. 

Time to get dressed for dinner, which is going to be barbecued Patagonian lamb!

10 comments:

Bill said...

Spectacular pictures Scott. It reminds me of our trip to Glacier National Park last summer combined with our cruise to Alaska several years ago. I'm not sure, but I do think you can walk over the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, but it's not as pretty as the Perito Moreno. How are the Argentinos coping with the high oil prices?

Scott Grannis said...

Gasoline has traditionally been very expensive, relative to salaries for Argentines—much more so than for Americans, for as long as I can remember. So the latest rise is not a disaster at all. Taxes account for the lion's share of gasoline prices. Same as in Europe.

Dr William J McKibbin said...

Awesome...

Family Man said...

Thanks for this piece of beauty.
Re oil prices, I just spoke with a lady who came back from Venezuela, she misses 4 cents/l gas.
So driving along its 2800 km long coastline would strip me off 11.2 USD gas bill.

Public Library said...

Stunning beautiful!

larry said...

I noticed the pretty widespread use of CNG in cars (particularily taxis) in Buenos Aires when my wife and I were there two years ago. Is CNG used throughout the country?

Benjamin said...

Wonderful pix. Makes me want to get there, or at least scamper around the Sierras.

Scott Grannis said...

larry: lots of cars (especially taxis) in Argentina have been modified to use CNG. It usually requires a huge cylinder in the trunk. A friend of mine showed me how he could switch from CNG to regular gasoline fairly easily. But you lose a lot of the trunk space.

Mike@ said...

Scott, remember that the main reason for such a large government investment on the Calafate area, is because we're talking about the Kirchners' town.

It's a gorgeous place, enjoy !. The Spegazzini glacier & Puerto Vacas is another amazing tour around the area, by the way..

Scott Grannis said...

Mike: nobody I've talked to likes the Kirschners. From what I can see, however, things work well because they have to. There is a steady stream of international tourists here who demand that things work well. The free market sees to it that they get what they want.