Argentina page 8
In the background, you can see one of the "tributaries" flowing into the glacier. The andean ice field which supplies all the glaciers in the Los Glaciers national park is the third largest in the world, after Antarctica (a clear winner there) and Greenland (which is not so green...). Over those hills is Chile and the pacific ocean... the ocean is actually closer to where the boat is right now than Calafate
Ooohhh.. icebergs. Now we wouldn't want to get too close. Mind you, we haven't jinxed this ship by claiming that it is unsinkable so we're probably pretty right.
Here is a good example of two icebergs at the opposite ends of the iceberg-spectrum. On the left, we have a nice fluffly white/blue iceberg which most likely broke off from a part of the glacier near the top and, on the right, we have a gritty, dirty iceberg which came from the bit of the glacier which rubs against the bottom of the glacial valley, picking up dirt along the way. It is difficult to see here, but the dark glaciers melt more quickly than the lighter coloured ones because the darker colours absorb heat more readily. On some icebergs, where there are dark bits and light bits (no dirty jokes, please) the dark bits, absorbing more heat, melt more quickly, making those icebergs look a bit like giant white blocks of cheese with holes in them.
Our captain doesn't seem too concerned about our proximity to the glaciers...
The Upsala glacier. Named after a Swedish town whose university led one of the first extensive studies of this glacier. The Upsala is one of the largest glaciers in the region and actually splits and has two fronts. This is the western front... and its pretty quiet. According to recent research (looking through old photos), this glacier's front was where the boat is right now... as recently as 20 years ago (which, in glacier-time is about equivalent in human terms to the blink of an eye). If that isn't cause for alarm about climate change... then I don't know what is.
Luckily we weren't the only tour boat out on the water that day, the other boat conveniently sailed very close to the front of the glacier, giving me a good opportunity to take this shot, which gives you some idea of just how big this thing really is. The surface area of the Upsala glacier is about five times that of the Buenos Aires metropolitan area... which is pretty darn big.
About two thirds into the day, we disembarked... much to my relief (I don't like boats... although this one wasn't too bad and it was a fairly calm day). Our plan was to have a little picnic at the side of a small lake.
Of course, "small" is a relative term... it was much smaller than the Lago Argentino... but it was still of a non-trivial size. It had also just frozen over... like... in the last day or so. Ordinarily, three glaciers flow into this lake... but due to the glacieal retreat that I was talking about earlier, only one of those three actually gets to the lake. The other two are "hanging" glaciers.
Two of the glaciers can be seen here. The one on the left flows out of the same valley as the Spigazzini glacier and can almost be considered another "front" of that glacier. Anyway, it is huge... not quite as big as the Upsala... but this shot is catching it at quite a sharp angle so it doesn't look as big as it is.
Forest gives way to rocks... which gives way to lake... frozen lake... which is filled with icebergs. I can't begin to describe to you how cool all the icebergs looked being totally motionless in the frozen lake. Then I realized that, since all my photos are still anyway, those who read this website who haven't seen lots of icebergs before (most of you, I think) probably won't appreciate just how weird it was to see a lake full of totally motionless icebergs.
I maintain that Autumn is one of the coolest times of the year for photographs. The leaves were still falling which meant that they were layered in the frozen puddles near the lake... and there were even freshly fallen leaves on top of the ice... priceless.
Not to be outdone by the leaves, the ice has a bit of a photogenic moment.
...because everything was *just* starting to freeze over, most of the puddles and small streams surrounding the lake only had very thin layers of ice on them where one could observe the patterns of crystalization (is that even a word?)
Leaf falls on paper-thin, newly formed ice. A few minutes later, the leaf, warmed by the sun, caused the ice immediately under it to melt so it started to sink... by tomorrow, it will be, like the many leaves around it, halfway in the frozen puddle...
Look! rocks and snow and ice reflected in... rocks and snow and ice...
As we journeyed back to the port near Calafate, I was thankful that it had been such a calm day and that I managed to avoid being seasick once again. This mountain is a mere 2000 something metres above sea level (not much, this is the Andes) and it is nicknamed "devils horns". Apparently, Argentina and Chile have a bit of a border dispute issue. It isn't violent... but if you buy a map over here, then cross into Chile and buy a map there, the borders on each of the maps will be slightly different. I guess nobody could be arsed constructing a fence (especially since the border is the Andes mountain range).
On this relatively warm day... the flamingoes were out in force in the shallow part of the Lago Argentino... most of the lake is very deep, its deepest point is almost 800m deep I think... about 9000 years ago, all those glaciers extended all the way past the end of the Lago Argentino...
...starlight, star bright... first star I see tonight... I wish I may, I wish I might... learn more about astronomy so that I can tell the difference between a star and a planet (this is Venus, being brighter than Sirrius, Canopus (sp?) and Alpha Centauri, is often mistaken for a star)). An american guy on one of these tours once asked me whether this was the north star - polaris. WTF!!!??? I can understand mistaking Venus for a star, that is a very common mistake... but we're in the southern hemisphere, well below the 45th parallel... I dunno... it seemed a silly thing.
Bariloche (27/5/07 - 30/5/07)
San Carlos de Bariloche... if Argentina is a South American country with an identity crisis, then Bariloche is a prime example of this. Situated between a picturesque lake and a handful of very high mountains, including Cerro Cathedral - the largest Ski Resort in South America and the fifth largest in the world, this town seems to think that it is somewhere in Switzerland.
Lago Nahuel Huapi... still in the lakes district I see...
Now I've heard of water features in shopping malls... but a lawn?