One of the most outstanding attractions in Argentine Patagonia is undoubtedly the Perito Moreno Glacier. This massive glacier spans over 97 square miles and is over 200 feet tall in some areas, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world to witness its unique beauty.
But every few years, something truly spectacular happens – the glacier ruptures, or “calves,” creating a stunning display of nature’s power. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about the rupture of the Perito Moreno Glacier, from the science behind the phenomenon to the best ways to witness it firsthand. Join us as we delve into this awe-inspiring natural event and uncover its secrets.
What Is the Perito Moreno Glacier Rupture?
The Perito Moreno Glacier is an impressive advancing glacier that maintains a state of equilibrium. Occasionally, it forms a natural ice dam, blocking the flow of water from the Brazo Rico/South to the Argentinian Lake through the Canal de los Témpanos. Take a look at the image below:
Here is how the process unfolds: First, the Brazo Rico/South is dammed, causing its water level to rise. As the water pressure builds up against the ice dam, it reaches a point of equilibrium with the weight of the dam, in accordance with Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy. At this critical juncture, the ice detaches from its rocky support, creating a gap through which water begins to filter. This marks the beginning of the irreversible breaking process.
The breaking process is not caused by mechanical ice fracture but rather by the formation of a sub-glacial canal. Initially, water filters through a small subglacial canal, which then gradually widens by melting the tunnel walls and floating basal ice. As the water pressure continues to erode the tunnel, large chunks of ice detach from its vault, causing the tunnel to rapidly expand. The water then rushes like a torrent from Lake Rico to the Canal de Los Témpanos. However, the formation of the ice dam and the start of the process does not necessarily indicate “the Rupture.” This is merely the initial stage, and the duration of the process depends on various factors. It can last for several months before reaching the final stage of Rupture.
The Formation of the Perito Moreno Glacier
The formation of the Perito Moreno Glacier began around 20,000 years ago during the last glacial period. The glacier is a part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is the third-largest reserve of freshwater on the planet. The ice field is fed by snowfall from the Andes Mountains, and as time passes, the accumulated snow and ice compress and thicken, forming a glacier. The Perito Moreno Glacier is particularly noteworthy because it is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still advancing, which means that it is growing longer and thicker. The glacier is approximately 30 kilometers long, and its front face towers about 60 meters above the water level of Lake Argentino.
When Was the Last Rupture of the Perito Moreno Glacier?
The last rupture of the Perito Moreno Glacier occurred in 2019. This is a natural phenomenon that cannot be accurately predicted when it will occur. While there may be general estimates based on previous patterns, there is always some variability, and the rupture may occur at unpredictable moments. Furthermore, it is essential to remember that the rupture of the glacier is an awe-inspiring event of nature, and its occurrence should not be seen as something guaranteed or scheduled.
The Best Times to Witness the Rupture of Perito Moreno Glacier
If you’re planning to witness the Perito Moreno Glacier’s rupture, here are some tips to increase your chances of seeing this spectacular event:
- Visit during the summer months: The best time to see the glacier is from December to February when the weather is more stable, and the days are longer, providing better visibility and photo opportunities.
- Go during mid-day: Ruptures are more likely to happen when the sun is at its peak, and the temperature is warmer. This is when the ice melts faster, creating more pressure and tension that can lead to a rupture.
- Watch during a full moon: The gravitational pull of the moon can create higher tides and more pressure on the glacier, increasing the likelihood of a rupture.
- Patience is key: Seeing a rupture can be a matter of luck, and it may take several hours of waiting before it happens. Therefore, it’s essential to be patient and enjoy the stunning scenery while waiting for the magical moment to happen.
Keep in mind that ruptures are unpredictable, and there is no guarantee that they will occur during your visit. However, seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier in all its grandeur is an unforgettable experience that should not be missed.
Viewing Points and Tours to Observe the Rupture of Perito Moreno Glacier
There are several viewpoints from where you can see the rupture of the Perito Moreno glacier. Here are some of the best viewpoints to enjoy this unique phenomenon:
- The Glacier Balconies: These are the most popular viewpoints and offer a spectacular panoramic view of the glacier. There are several balconies at different levels, and visitors can watch the glacier from a safe distance. You can see and hear the ice cracking and breaking off from the glacier, creating a truly unforgettable experience.
- Boat Tours: You can also take a boat tour to get up close to the glacier and see the rupture from a different angle. Some tour operators offer boat tours that take you to the base of the glacier, where you can witness huge chunks of ice falling into the water.
- Walking Trails: There are several walking trails around the glacier that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the glacier itself. The most popular trail is the footbridge that leads to the Glacier Balconies, but there are other trails that take you closer to the glacier and offer unique views.
- Perito Moreno Glacier Viewpoint: This viewpoint is located on the opposite side of the glacier and offers a different perspective of the rupture. From this viewpoint, you can see the glacier in its entirety, and it’s a great spot for taking panoramic photos.
No matter which viewpoint you choose, witnessing the rupture of the Perito Moreno Glacier is an awe-inspiring experience that you will never forget.
If you have a special interest in this phenomenon, inform yourself about the advances and the situation of the glacier. Although the exact moment cannot be predicted, the glacier is advancing towards the peninsula, and when the two sections of the lake are separated, it is understood that we are entering the final phase of preparation for the rupture.