Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Enjoy Chile's Glaciers from Safety of Ship; Cruising Gives the Best View, Writes David Potts

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Enjoy Chile's Glaciers from Safety of Ship; Cruising Gives the Best View, Writes David Potts

Article excerpt

THERE'S always a sense of expectancy when you are camped in front of a massive glacier awaiting the inevitable thunder of ice breaking away and crashing into the sea.

But glaciers don't work to your timetable. You can wait in vain.

Today is another of those days as we sit in our cruise ship a kilometre or so away from PIO X glacier in the Chilean fjords awaiting a "calving". We hear the throaty groan and tearing sound of ice parting from ice. But it is some distance behind the glacier face.

In moments of silence, we also hear the soft crackle of scattered bits of ice - ice known as growlers and bergy bits - in the water around as it melts and cracks.

Like ice music.

Captain David Box swings our great P&O ship, Adonia, in a slow sweep.

We watch - and listen - from our cabin balcony.

As we scan the glacier, hoping for some action, we follow some dolphins who happily play in the calm water around us.

PIO X glacier, 64km long, up to 6km wide and 80m high, is the biggest glacier in South America, as big as Chile's capital Santiago, with a surface area of 1265sq km. It's reputed to be the only glacier in Patagonia that keeps growing - at the rate of an astonishing 50m in height, length and density every day.

We've have sailed up the Chilean fjords, along the Beagle channel from Cape Horn in the south, into glacier alley, beneath the towering grey and barren mountains in one of the most remote, lonely, wild-but-beautiful parts of the world.

It is known as the Ring of Fire: a loop of glacier-clad volcanoes.

With almost 2000km of scattered islands of great beauty, channels and deep fjords, snow- and glacier-capped mountains, magnificent collections of lakes, dense forests and thermal springs, the Chilean fjords between Patagonia's Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas are comparable in size to the expansive fjord coastline of Norway.

Yesterday, we steamed past the Amalia glacier but Mother Nature chose that day to cloak the glacier and surrounding mountains in misty rain (Amalia glacier, in contrast to PIO X, has dramatically retreated many kilometres). …

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