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Where in the World?

Each month or two we post on this page one or two images of something, somewhere in this wonderful world. We invite members and guests to submit their guess, or more hopefully their knowledge, as to what in the wide world the image shows and where it is located. We will post the answer and the name of the first person to correctly identify the image and its location here at the end of each month.

Where in the world (and what) is this?

Photograph: John Bliss       

 

 Click here to submit your answers.  This will take you to the Contact Us page.  Submit your answer on the Contact form with the subject heading "Where in the World".  We will tell you the answer and the winner next month.

 

The last Where in the World photographs were taken at the Glacier Perito Moreno in Southern Patagonia, Argentina.

Photographs: Colin Sale                                          

In Los Glacieres National Park, adjacent to the town of El Calafate, in Argentina’s Patagonia division, is one of the most famous glaciers in the world - the Glacier Perito Moreno, named after Perito Francisco Moreno, the explorer and naturalist who in 1877 discovered and named Lago Argentino, the country’s largest lake. He never actually saw his glacier but the Government decided to name this wonderful natural feature in his honour. Quite uniquely, it is regarded as a “stable” glacier – neither advancing nor retreating, but wasting at approximately the same rate as its forward movement. It is best observed from viewpoints at the end of Magallanes Peninsula which juts out into Lake Argentina, The Moreno is just one of several big glaciers descending from the South Patagonian Ice Cap, the third largest in the world, extending over 13,200 sq km.

                           

The Moreno Glacier has a surface area of 257 sq km and, although it is 50 km long, only the last 14 km are visible from the viewpoints. It has an ice front 4.5 km wide, rising about 55 m above the lake’s surface; but it doesn’t float - it sits instead on the lake bottom 180 m down, and it moves over bedrock for the whole of its length. As a highly “active” glacier, it is advancing at the very fast rate 700 m per year at its centre (less at the sides), with this being due to the very high precipitation of snow in its source region (the ice cap), but it is wasting at approximately the same fast rate (which works out to be about 2 m per day); and this creates a very spectacular sight as large sections of the ice front continually break off. Ice falls are seen frequently and/or heard in this process called “calving”, with this causing the lake to become literally littered with beautiful icebergs. Because it scrapes the bottom, it calves its ice bergs in relatively small pieces, and frequently - about every 10 minutes (unlike the nearby floating Upsala Glacier which calves enormous sections - even the whole front in one piece - but less frequently). Moreno’s calving occurs in two ways – either by pieces falling off from above and crashing into the water, or by pieces breaking from the bottom and jumping up to float (these ones being the bluest icebergs).
However, the Moreno Glacier is unique not only for being both stable and very active, but also because it occasionally advances sufficiently to extend right across to the peninsula that is opposite to it (the Magallanes Peninsula where the viewpoints are) and, when this happens, it creates a dam for the drainage water entering the lake south of the glacier.

When the glacier was first seen in 1881 (by an Englishman), and again in 1900, the front was about 750 metres from the land opposite, but in 1917 it was seen for the first time having reached the peninsula and having created a dam with an enlarged lake behind it the level of which was 30 metres higher than the main lake on the other side. It flooded a huge area of land and had a completely different overflow channel into another part of Lago Argentino. Between 1917 and 1938, there are no records of what the glacier did, but in the 50 years from 1938 to 1988, the Moreno Glacier was found operating in a 4-year cycle. It was found taking two years to grow and fill in the gap between glacier and peninsula to create a dam and a new lake 27-30 metres higher while inundating a huge area of grazing land, and then two years to build up sufficient pressure to push out or erode away the ice dam to recreate its former channel again, and drain the temporary lake to its original level (ie 2 years to close the gap with a dam, and 2 years for the water to rise and break the dam). In 1929, as the story goes, local sheep farmers lobbied the government to do something to prevent them losing their grazing land to the rising waters, and the air force spent three days bombing the glacier without any effect (the ice was too strong and/or the air force too weak). However, after 1988, it seems that the cyclical system abruptly ended when the ice dam broke for the last time on 17 February of that year; the glacier then changed its behaviour, and it developed a new balance between annual forward movement and annual wastage, with the front stationary and the channel between glacier and peninsula remaining open; studies showed that the weather appeared to be one C degree warmer than previously.

But in the winter of 2003, for unknown reasons after 16 years, the ice advanced and closed the gap once more, and the water began rising up to 10 metres to flood much grazing land. However, a natural break was predicted to occur in March of the following year; and many people came here and waited to see it happen. It did what was expected at 7.09 pm on 13 March, 2004 - “an 80 m long, 200 m wide bridge of ice fell and caused other blocks to fall in a ballet-like
sequence lasting 2 minutes”, but a large piece of the glacier was left behind on the peninsula, and is still seen there today. The photos of the Moreno on the previous page were taken in 2011.

For those who may like to explore this area in Google Earth or similar, the images were taken from about 50.470°S, 73.032°W, looking north west and south west respectively. Just copy these coordinates into the search box.

You can always revisit past Where in the World items in the Where in the World category in our Resource Library.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

 

 

This page last updated:  2 February 2016