The Sound of Thunder
While sitting on the tour bus traveling the 70-kilometer (43.5-mile) distance from El Calafate, the nearest town to Los Glaciares National Park, I was full of expectation, wonder, and anticipation. Leonardo, our amazing tour guide, did not help very much with those feelings since listening to him so lovingly describe the Perito Moreno Glacier made me want to get there even faster! Luckily, time flew by, thanks to the beautiful views streaming by my window and Leonardo’s comforting and steady voice relating interesting information and fun facts.
The Perito Moreno Glacier stands in the glacial lake named Lago Argentino, and from the surface of these waters the glacier's walls can reach up to 70 meters (230 feet) high. Like me, you might not be able to grasp this scale while appreciating it from the walkways, which always happens when facing a panoramic view. But if you get closer on a boat cruise, you’ll feel very much like an ant!
Another fun fact about the glacier is that the water in Lago Argentino looks blue or turquoise from far away, but when you get close enough, you will be surprised to see that it actually has a milky color. This is due to the mineral particles that are so tiny they cannot settle on the bottom, and consequently they remain suspended in the water.
Also, if you like adventure, there are incredible trekking tours where you can walk on top of the glacier (which I highly recommend). And if you think this experience couldn’t be any cooler, just wait! Did you know that you can bring along your empty bottle or canteen and fill it up with glacier water? Yep, it is completely safe to drink and is delicious too!
There are a lot of things that I’ll take away from this trip—one being how lucky we are to have such beauty in our world and how much more appreciative we should be. But maybe the most important thing is what Leonardo reminded us of before we got off the tour bus.
Right when we were about to see the glacier in all its glory for the first time, he told us of the importance of taking mental pictures before digital ones. And, funnily enough, while he was saying that, I was in the middle of taking my phone out of my pocket in preparation. I was about to see this wonder through the lens of my camera first without even thinking about it! And then the bizarreness of it hit me—that someone has to remind us to not just see nature, but experience it.
So, when I stepped off that bus, I made a new resolution that I hope to keep from now on for all my trips: I will experience nature with my own eyes first before looking through a lens. And to tell you the truth, at least on this trip, it was so easy to do! Such powerful immensity in front of my eyes demanded that I be present and connect with my surroundings. It was at that time, in that moment, that I closed my eyes and heard the sound of thunder.
What does this sound mean? Was a storm coming?
This constant sound of thunder in the air is a friendly reminder of how this glacier is very much alive. There are always large chunks of ice breaking away from the glacier. This is called ice calving. If you are lucky enough to see ice calving, you will witness the most incredible show the glacier has to offer. So keep your ears open for this sound of thunder because it means ice calving is probably about to occur!
This magical glacier is the only one in the world that keeps growing every day (approximately two meters, or 6.6 feet, per day). So regardless of how many ice chunks it loses, it will recuperate the same amount of mass lost.
As the Perito Moreno Glacier advances, every three to four years it will reach its maximum growth, and thousands of tourists will flood the walkways of the Los Glaciares National Park to witness the most incredible ice calving of all, known as la ruptura (the Rupture). I have never seen it in person, but there is always a lot of media coverage from Argentina’s local news, and we can almost always watch it live from our homes. And I can tell you it's an amazing spectacle!