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The Moreno Glacier

 

The Moreno Glacier

Photographs and article by TJ Phillips

The Moreno Glacier in the far south of Argentina must be in the running for one of the natural wonders of the world. It's certainly the main attraction in the Los Glaciares National Park. It must also be the only glacier in the world to have been subjected to a major bombing mission. The reason for this bizarre event was a change in the climate on the Patagonian Ice Cap causing the glacier to advance, dam Brazo Rico lake and create the potential for a massive deluge. The bombing mission was a dismal failure, the explosives making virtually no impression on the millions of tons of ice. The predicted flood never actually occurred as the glacier gave way over a period of a few weeks, still a spectacular event but fortunately not disaster for the local population. This damming of the lake still occurs approximately every four years.

The stopping off point for visiting the Moreno is the isolated settlement of Calafate. A desolate windswept place, eking out a living from the tourists visiting the park. Most tourists only get a few hours at the glacier- on our visit we stopped for two days. The glacier had a mesmerizing effect on us with it's amazing textures, colours and power.

50 miles along dirt tracks from the Calafate a small group of buildings sits on the shore of the lake that the glacier ceaselessly attempts to dam. Every day a few bus loads of tourists are dropped off here and walk the short distance to the viewing platforms above the lake shore. The best viewing time is December when the warmer weather causes frequent and spectacular collapses along the 60 Metre high 3 mile wide front of the glacier. We sat in tee shirts amongst the beech trees waiting and watching for the next wall of ice to fall into the lake.

We came to recognise different kinds of collapse from whole walls crashing down, to monumental blocks which would then float around in the lake with the other huge 'bergs. These 'bergs created as much interest as the glacier at times. One in particular had us mesmerised as a huge overhanging section fell off into the "Canal de los Tempanos" (The channel of the 'Bergs). This collapse caused the 'berg to became unstable and ever so slowly it rolled over revealing fabulously shaped translucent blue ice which sparkled in the Patagonian sunlight.

Because of the danger of the backwash caused by the falling ice visitors are no longer allowed down to the shore, however special platforms have been created to allow good safe viewing of the glacier. During our visit we spotted someone down by the shore, dwarfed by the wall of ice. A park official soon spotted them and they were soon escorted back to safety.

If you ever get the chance to visit Patagonia make sure you visit the Moreno Glacier. It's an experience you'll never forget. 

 


1) Ice collapse
2) The crystal 'berg
3) Ice meets forest
4) Skunk 

Pictures - click on pictures for full size images

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