Mar 2013

Blog, South America

DISCUSSION 10 Comments

Falling Buildings and Tidal Waves

Brad and I had waited a long time to see this place, and now, as we sipped our Nescafe, we peered into the distance in awe.  Butterflies raced in my stomach and my mind was filled with anticipation.  The feeling wasn’t so much caused by the view, but by the set of vocal pipes on this thing.  It creaked and moaned yearning for our attention, attempting to resist the pressure of the ice pushing its massive body forward.  Creak, pop, crash!  We were teased to come closer.

We followed the catwalk through the forest until we broke through the barrier of green and were left with an open and uninterrupted view of the glacier.  We were dumbstruck.  It was truly like nothing I had ever seen in my life. As far as the eye could see, it stretched back into the nethermost regions of the mountains, eventually coming to a standstill before us, bold and beautiful.  It was hard to grasp its immensity; it seemed impossible that it could be any larger.  My central and peripheral vision were at capacity.  Yet, from a bird’s eye view, we were only seeing the very tip of this glacier.

This massive tongue of ice stretched 18 miles into the mountains, its width 3 miles, and it towered into the sky like a solid row of 22 story buildings, having an average height of 240 feet.  I felt like an ant on the sidewalk; small and insignificant; in an instant I could be swallowed whole in one minor crevasse of its mass.  And the colors!  The glacier was a swirl of white and blue; the blue formed from densely compact ice, while the white from trapped air bubbles after numerous melting and freezing cycles.  If the glacier hadn’t stolen the view, surely the milky grayish blue water of Lake Argentina would have. The strange color was the result of the sun’s rays diffracting against unsettled sediment of “glacial flour” in the water.  Simply spectacular.

Perito Moreno is famous in the world of glaciers.  It is a fighter and one of the few glaciers in existence that is still advancing; stretching forward an average of seven feet a day.  However, while it is advancing; simultaneously, building-sized chunks of ice are breaking from the face. Its growth, counteracted by the ice sloughing off of its face, make this one of the few stable glaciers in a time of global warming.

We watched for hours, unable to pull away.  We listened to the creaks and pops while we waited, frozen in place, for the glacier to calve off 240 foot high chunks into the water, releasing an instant rippling tidal wave.  Like lightning and thunder, there was always a split second between the belly flopping of a hunk of ice and the explosion of sound in our ear drums.

Amazing views in Patagonia were not exclusive to Perito Moreno; they seemed to exist in all directions.  In the South, on the Chilean side of the Andes we visited Lago Grey, where chunks of pockmarked icebergs floated in the water, and where Torres del Paine’s 3000 foot tall vertical shafts of basalt jut up into the sky.   At its base, shiny rock faces stream with water, draining into a crisp blue glacial lake below.

Farther North we visited the other half of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, with Mount Fitz Roy stealing the show.  We met up with wonderful friends, hiked in the mountains, camped, and explored the many eating and drinking establishments in the tiny town of El Chalten, which serves as a basecamp for Fitz Roy.  Before we left town, Brad assisted some of our new friends in the age old tradition of a Vanagon push start.

Finally, after having our fill of glaciers and National Parks, it was time to finish this thing off.  We boarded Nacho and pointed his big white nose southward.


  1. Lenella

    Absolutely beautiful! And your description was very vivid as well. I know as you stood before the glacier, it was awe inspiring and breathtaking. Another lifetime memory. :-)

    Comment by Lenella on March 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm

  2. mashoud


    What an amazing gift you have to capture what you see and to give it life for the audience to feel what you feel…nothing short of incredible.

    I also meant to write to Brad with his “One that got away” episode ..He had me in stitches with laughter. It was worth every bit to be published in some popular angler’s magazine and sure to become an historic classic.

    Keep safe and stay well…


    Comment by mashoud on March 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm

  3. Brian

    You need a side-by-side picture of Nacho and his long-lost yellow coloured brother ;)

    Comment by Brian on March 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm

  4. nathan

    Fantastic. It kinds seems like Argentina & Patagonia is giving you your Second Wind on this long journey

    Comment by nathan on March 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm

  5. Markus

    Awesome blog! I love reading about your experiences & adventures. One day, I am hoping, I’ll be able to travel around South America, myself. — Does that yellow Vanagon have BC plates by any chance?

    Comment by Markus on March 8, 2013 at 1:43 am

  6. @Markus – that VW does indeed have BC plates. It belonged to Hadleigh and Paula from Australia and New Zealand.

    Comment by Brad on March 8, 2013 at 8:40 am

  7. @Brian: So true – I wish we would have gotten a photo with the yellow Vanagon but once they started moving, they weren’t stopping again. :)

    @Lenella and Mashoud: Thanks so much for the kind words!!

    Comment by Sheena on March 8, 2013 at 10:05 am

  8. ernesto

    que afortunados que son trato de imaginar toda esa belleza y no logro dimensionar lo que puede ser verlo en vivo…………..

    Comment by ernesto on March 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

  9. Jamie

    Sheena and Brad,

    So happy to see you guys made it to Torres and Perito Moreno! We met you on the streets of Puerto Natales and you graciously gave us your guide books and we exchanged our stories of the W trail and the wonders of Torres del Paine. Your pictures and descriptions are amazing and it looks as though you have made it to the tip and are off to Asia now.
    Safe travels and best wishes from San Francisco!! – Jamie and Josh

    Comment by Jamie on March 12, 2013 at 11:58 am

  10. Sheena

    @ Jamie – Great to hear from you! The parks in Patagonia were nothing less than spectacular! We enjoyed ourselves so much, despite the general all around cold and rainy weather. I guess that is Patagonia for you though. :) We are a tad behind on the website but are just one blog away from being caught up…and Asia is up next! So excited. Take care you two! Sheena

    Comment by Sheena on March 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm

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