Glacier Grey, Patagonia, Chile

Getting up close to a glacier has been on my “bucket list” for several years. I am not an intrepid adventurer, and if there were an Aman near a glacier, I would have done it that way… but I still wanted to see one. So on our recent trip to Patagonia in Chile, we arranged for a tour on boat that would take us close to Glacier Grey, which was less than an hour from our hotel, the Tierra Patagonia.

A brief walk (a kilometer or two) to our boat and a 30 minute cruise to the glacier brought us to the most magnificent and awe-inspiring views I have experienced in a while. At over 25 kilometers long, 6 kilometers wide and almost 30 meters thick, this more than 200 square kilometer hunk of ancient ice was a beauty to behold.

The glacier forked off into two leading edges and the surface was craggy and treacherous looking. The ice, a wonderful shade of light to royal blue (it has something to do with how ice refracts lightwaves), is apparently made of slightly bigger crystals and should take longer to melt in one’s drink… yes, they fish out calved pieces of glacier and serve it with your Diet Coke if you would like. The draft of air coming off the top of the glacier seemed particularly frigid and it hit you several hundred meters off the glacier’s edge.

Our boat, which was substantial in size, kept a rather respectful distance from the glacier. I was wondering if they would go closer (I had seen photos from other expeditions around the world where little dinghies seemed to be almost grazing distance from the glaciers) but I figured they knew what they were doing. I wondered about the calving, and could imagine a piece say the size of a car breaking off with a rather big splash into the water…

…but what I didn’t know then was that one of the most massive chunks (almost ten hectares in size!) of the Glacier Grey would break off just weeks after our visit, see here, and it is the biggest portion to calve off since the 1990’s!

Overall, despite choosing not to trek over a glacier and carefully avoid falling into its crevices, the visit to Glacier Grey was definitely one of the highlights of our South American trip last Fall…


8 Responses

  1. Gave away my copy of Pigafetta’s chronicle of Magellan’s voyage so I can’t exactly recall and cannot look up how he described their passage through the treacherous currents and unpredictable winds that linked Southern Atlantic to the Pacific through that now eponymous stretch of water. It must have been pretty much what you have witnessed although it was farther toward the South, in winter and half a millennium ago when global warming was unheard of.

  2. Footloose, Mrs. MM was utterly thrilled after our landing at Punta Arenas, that our van headed north to our hotel (4 hours North!) and we passed by the Straits of Magellan (oddly to our right or East, and we pondered what it must have been like to be in such a desolate, treacherous, inhospitable yet utterly stunning and beautiful part of the world. I can barely take a banca on a one hour crossing from island to island in medium rough seas, I would so fail on a galleon with crappy food, smelly peers and limited toilet facilities…

  3. I know what you mean. We had the thrilll of our lives last June when we saw the mighty Hubbard Glacier, Alaska, close and personal I guess all glaciers are impressive.

  4. Excuse my Northern hemisphere mind set, it was actually summer down there but still frightfully frigid, as you experienced, due to the area’s proximity to the South pole. And no less perilous, exacerbated by the ragtag and scurvy-ridden crew. I would be mutinous too if I were rationed with hardtack biscuit day in and day out. As to their galleons, they were pitiful, primitive and barely seaworthy specially when compared to Cheng He’s contemporary flotilla that boasted galleys that turned out beansprout dishes taking care of the crew’s requirement for scurvy-forestalling Vitamin C.

  5. You are fortunate to have seen this glacier. Given global climate change, these magnificent geological features may not be around for your children or grandchildren, especially as certain governments seem incapable of understanding the risk analyses provided by science.

  6. kurzhaar, yes, fortunate indeed. We are encouraging our daughter to visit Patagonia soon as well, before it changes dramatically… farida, it was so worth the lengthy journey to get to… Footloose, it was supposed to be well into Spring when we were there. But it was snowing in Punta Arenas the day we arrived!



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