One iceberg drifts past. Then another. One mishap and we will go the way of the Titanic. The ship’s radar is our guardian angel, warning the captain of potential danger.
The icebergs produce a cold breeze, as if we’d poked our head into a freezer cabinet. They are a spectacular turquoise blue, with fresh white snow sprinkled on top. When white light travels through ice, the red, orange, yellow and green components are absorbed, with blue light traveling the furthest. White light therefore turns blue as it travels deeper into the iceberg, illuminating it with a gorgeous azure hue.
Icebergs fill more and more of Lake Argentino as we approach Upsala Glacier. The ship’s captain studies their location and depth with utmost caution. The glacier has been rapidly retreating since 1999, and as it calves into Lake Argentino, its melting icebergs give way to more of the lake. A total of seven glaciers, born out of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, calve into the Lake. The ice field–the largest after Antartica–covers 6,500 square miles of the Austral Andes and gives birth to 48 major glaciers and a couple of hundred of smaller ones.
Perito Moreno is deservedly the most famous glacier in the area. Over thirty miles long and still growing, it ends in Lago Argentino. The sheer pressure of the advancing ice causes its 3 miles wide terminus to regularly rupture. Huge blocks of ice then fall into the lake to spectacular effect, and to the sound of thunder.
We strap crampons to our walking boots and go trekking on the glacier, carefully keeping away from the edge of giant crevasses and craters that split the ice formation here and there. We quickly get the hang of the flat-footing technique, gently tapping our feet onto the ice to ensure a good grip. As we reach at the top of the glacier, the view stretches across Lake Argentino and its sea of blue icebergs.
No risk of crashing into one of them from up here.