What do glaciers do at a latitude between Britain and northern Europe, and at an altitude not exceeding 1,500m?” one asks oneself whilst looking at a map of Patagonia. Some glaciers even descend to the sea, such as the famous San Rafael Glacier!
The answer is in the wind…with the Roaring Forties. These winds, with their high moisture content, come from the west, from the Pacific, and the only obstacle that they encounter on their passage is the Andes Mountains. The Andes, despite its low altitude, stops these winds on their incredible journey and records spectacular record rainfall and snowfall; this is how these enormous ice caps are formed, called the “north and south icefields”, with some 17,000 km2 of ice from the north to the south of Patagonia.
The south icefield is, with its length of 360km, after the Antarctic and Greenland, the third largest ice surface in the world.
Perito Moreno Glacier
In this wild and uninhabited land that used to be Patagonia in the 19th century, some explorers and geographers were tasked with discovering this new land and drawing its first maps. This was the case of Francisco Moreno who has carried out numerous expeditions in Patagonia; his name has been given to one of the region’s most beautiful and impressive glaciers. With a blue ice front of over 5 km in width and stretching thirty or so kilometres as far as the “south icefield”, Perito Moreno Glacier still offers a grandiose and unique spectacle. It has the specific feature of being one of the only glaciers which moves forward at a time of global warming where all glaciers are receding.
Can other glaciers be observed?
Perito Moreno Glacier is the best known, but, with both national parks of the region, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, being on the boundary of the “south icefield”, the southernmost icecap, it is possible to observe other ice giants: Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine National Park as well as Upsala and Viedma Glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park.