Starry starry ….. morning?

12th May 2013 by Helen

Perito Merino Glacier

Perito Merino Glacier

We awoke and arose to stars in the sky – not how I normally like to view them, I much prefer to admire the stars before I go to sleep!  Still, it did give us the rare opportunity to admire the sun rising on the snow capped mountains around us before the clouds settled over us firstly dispensing their rain and then their sleet before we went into the Perito Merino Glacier National Park.

The trees alongside the road gleamed in shades of red, orange, brown and gold.  The mountains in front of us shone white with snow.  Then we caught our first glimpse of the massive wall of ice that forms the glaciers here.  Sixty metres high even as the glacier reaches the lake, and miles long for further than the eye can see.  Millions of years of ice formation creeping forward at a rate measurable only in millimetres.  One of the fascinating ‘edges’ of the world we live in.

Having reached the café and tourist shop at the end of the road we set off to walk down as far as we could to the glacier’s edge.  As we approached there was a loud roar and a chunk of ice the size of Brighton Pavillion appeared from underneath the edge of the glacier, turning and rolling like a beaching whale, composed of ice through shades of dark blue through to pure white, while the bottom carried layers of sediment brought down from the mountains.  Over the next few hours this iceberg slowly floated away from the towering front edge of the glacier before being blow back again by the wind until it became wedged on the lake bottom near the shoreline.  Here it remained as the wind and current began their steady erosion of the edges and the first small piece from one end broke away.

There were several loud bangs from around the front of the glacier.  To our left we saw the white spray as a large shard of ice crashed into the sea, breaking up and spreading out as in a plume across the water.  Elsewhere smaller cracks sounded as seemingly tiny chunks of ice, probably the size of garden shed, took several seconds to fall into the water.  As the tide pushed these chunks one way the wind pushed them in the opposite direction and over the course of the day a blockage of ice on the lake surface began to be created between the edge of the glacier and the shoreline.  No doubt as the winds and temperatures change these will continue to move and disperse.

The drizzling rain eventually forced us back into the café again for a fortifying hot coffee, from where on occasion we watched the snow falling until it was time for us to leave the National Park.  By now the glorious colours of the trees alongside the road were peppered with the white of the snow fall.

Back at the campsite in El Calafate we prised open the tent, now frosted with ice.  After a week of comparatively mild weather, temperatures have plummeted sufficiently in the last couple of days for this to now be decidedly cold!

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