The 4500 km² national park in Patagonia encompasses a unique landscape with glaciers, mountains and rocks. The most famous glacier is the 30 km long Perito Moreno, where large blocks of ice break off at regular intervals from the 60 m high and 5 km wide glacier tongue. In contrast to glaciers in the northern hemisphere, the Perito Moreno grows continuously.
Los Glaciares National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Los Glaciares National Park|
|Natural monument:||Part of the largest glacier area outside of Antarctica, area 4459 km²; 47 glaciers, including Upsala (595 km²) and Viedma (575 km²); Glacier movements mainly on Lago Argentino and Lago Viedma; since 1945 national park|
|Location:||southern Argentine Andes, in the southwest of the province of Santa Cruz|
|Meaning:||a landscape of extraordinary beauty with rugged mountains and extensive glaciers|
|Flora and fauna:||Patagonian-Magellanic rainforest with southern beech species and beech-leaved barberries; extensive areas of tussock grassland; isolated population of southern Andean deer; also Cuvier rabbit mouse, Argentine gray foxes and piglet sack as well as guanacos, which are among the South American small camels; 100 species of birds, including Andean condor and red-beaked tusk duck|
Where water and wind wear down the ice
According to ethnicityology, dozens of glaciers pour into the lowlands on both the Chilean and Argentine sides of the Cordillera. Sharply jagged, the mountain range sticks out into the sky when the view is clear; an overwhelming sight for those who come after a monotonous journey from the Atlantic coast to the steeply sloping edge of the Patagonian steppe.
Thanks to its unique location, the Perito Moreno glacier offers an extremely grandiose spectacle. Like an oriental muse, he dips his harmoniously curved forehead, five kilometers wide and sixty meters high, into a narrow arm of Lake Argentino. From the opposite bank you can experience how the glacier is alive and well; yes, hear how it cracks with tension in the barely perceptible, slowly creeping mass of ice. To the amazement and shudder of countless spectators, huge blocks of ice, weighing tons, tumble into the lake. They are lifted up with unrestrained elemental force, emerge from the depths of the crystal clear water and sink again before they have found their balance as floating bodies and slowly drift out into the open lake like the remains of a Gothic monument.
“From a distance we see an enormous white mass begin to lean, seconds later sink into the lake with a roar and trigger a storm wave that finally breaks on the bow of our boat,” writes the Argentine naturalist Francisco P. Moreno, an indefatigable Self-taught, on February 18, 1877 in his chronicle “Journey to Southern Patagonia” when he discovered the calving glacier. He enthusiastically paints a verbal fresco full of light and shadow in his diary: »Here there is neither the infamous pack ice nor the deadly fog like in Antarctica. On the other hand, immense masses of ice that glitter and tremble in the rays of an almost tropical sun (…). This Patagonian scene seems voluptuous to me when the squalls whistle over our heads, stir up the lake or spray ice sparks. ”
But what Moreno, who was reverently called “Perito” (“expert”) by his compatriots, could not know, happens every few years: The ice sheet pushes through the narrow part of the lake until it reaches the other bank and divides the water masses completely separated from each other into two basins: a smaller one, which is noticeably filled up by the continuous melting of snow and ice from the cordillera, and a larger one, in which the water level always remains about the same. The inflow on one side and the outflow on the other side of the glacier continue until the difference in water level has reached twenty to thirty meters and the pressure on the glacier tongue becomes overpowering. The breakthrough comes in a one to two day spectacle;
When the First World War was still raging in Europe, white settlers were the first to witness such a breakthrough in the Moreno Glacier. At that time, the residents of Lake Argentino called the army for help because they feared for their homes and their cattle. Since then, the glacier’s biorhythm has been repeated every three to ten years, with advances, congestion and breakthroughs. A few years ago, in the Argentine summer, the last victory of water over the ice so far took place, which was followed, filmed and photographed by a fascinated crowd. Even without this impressive natural spectacle, more and more curious people are drawn to Lake Argentino from year to year, including hikers and mountaineers, but also lovers of fauna and flora. Andean condors can already be observed during the journey, which are in the eternal, often swaying stormy westerly winds. With a little luck you will also see guanacos, South American small camels, or one of the shy and rare southern Andean deer. Between southern beeches, cypresses and calafate bushes, which put red and golden yellow splashes into the landscape, creeping and hiking trails run through the landscape, which here and there offer surprising views of the Moreno glacier.