Perito Moreno Glacier

The thrill of watching ice melt.

El Calafate

I take my last bus ride in Argentina to El Calafate, a hub for tourists visiting Los Glaciares National Park. It's one of the stranger towns I've been to, half American suburb, half middle-of-nowhere outpost.

Some neighborhoods have neat little houses with manicured lawns lined up in a row along cleanly paved roads. Others look half built, a collection of half constructed homes interspersed between finished ones. I'm told some houses are "build-as-you-go". Someone will build a few rooms to start a construction. As more money rolls in, they'll add more rooms, maybe a second floor, etc.

The edge of town is visibly delineated as well separating the developed areas from the rest of wild Patagonia. This is the frontier.

Lawn care.

A painted fence separates developed and undeveloped El Calafate.


Broad avenues and a many power lines.

Sunset over Lago Argentino.

The expanding glacier

Numerous buses make the 40 minute trip to Glaciar Perito Moreno. While most glaciers around the world are shrinking, this one's expanding. It's inconclusive as to why.

The first stop our bus makes is the Glacarium, a museum about glaciers and geology. It's a unique structure in the middle of a desolate field that overlooks Lago Argentino.

It gets quite a bit chillier near the glacier. The weather also changes. Thick clouds cover the valley we're approaching.

The glacier from a distance.

A dense fog covers much of the glacial valley and doesn't lift until later in the afternoon.

A decade ago the glacier connected to the landmass visitors stood on to watch the glaciers. That changed after "the rupture" of 2004 when a huge chunk of the glacier calved, opening a channel wide enough to support a new ferry route.

So if the glacier's still growing, why hasn't it connected with the landmass we're standing on? Much of it has to do with its slow advance. That and the fact that the glaciers calve at the edge regularly. When I'm there, I watch it attentively, waiting for some part or another to fracture and break into the water below. It happens more frequently than I would have expected.

It takes me several tries, but I'm finally able to capture a decent burst of images of calving in action. You can watch this spire, tall as the glacier is deep, in this gif (8.3MB). Highlights below.

A spire breaks off.

The top of that same spire making the plunge (increased contrast for visibility).

A large splash (increased contrast for visibility).

Valley of ice.