Today we drove 70km from El Calafate to visit the Moreno Glacier. The road wound and twisted through the National Park and we had first little tempting glimpses of the river of snow & ice. The Moreno Glacier is quite special as it moves relatively fast, advancing several metres per day (it is one of the Earth’s few advancing ice fields). The result of this is that huge multi-storey building sized chunks of ice from the 60 metre high leading edge continually break off & come crashing down into Lago Argentina – a sight worth seeing as wave upon wave of sharp ice peaks advance in a phalanx down to the lake to die in spectacular fashion.
We parked the car and walked down the narrow approach paths to the viewing galleries. The whole experience was like approaching the front line on a battlefield – we could actually hear the action before we saw it. First there were the odd rifle shots as we heard the ice cracking. Occasionally these would merge into a staccato of machine gun fire as a fissure forms when the cracks all join up. Finally there was the heavy artillery when a huge chunk would break off & smash into the lake. The sounds served to heighten the anticipation of seeing the glacier in action.
We were not to be disappointed. The first impression was how amazingly blue the ice is – with every shade & hue of the colour represented. The waves of ice are formed from individual peaks, which in turn are stretched and holed creating an impression that you are looking up lots of crazy giant upturned snobby nostrils poking out into the sky for air. All in all it was quite a breathtaking sight to behold but a little strange to take it all in. We couldn’t really comprehend how massive the beast was as you can actually see it all – it just fits into the full peripheral of your vision and this has a diminishing effect on the scale. The viewing galleries contribute to this sensation as they are set well back placing you eye to eye with the glacier (you used to be able to walk up to it but there were a number of deaths from falling ice so they built the galleries at a safe distance). I think the first give away as to the size was when one of the huge chunks broke off – we saw it fall & splash before we heard it (light travelling faster than sound)! Then a tour boat approached and it was like a bathtub toy bobbing against a New York skyline of jagged ice. We spent a few hours at the galleries just staring at the Moreno and watching the spectacular ice-crashes, which occurred roughly every half hour. There were a lot of visitors (but not crowded) and everyone was strangely silent in awe and respect of this lethal majesty. It was a very peaceful and humbling encounter and as we left the park we both felt elated at having witnessed this vivid, dynamic piece of nature in action.