Allison Dale is Smithsonian Journeys’ intrepid marketing intern this summer. She is majoring in English at Georgetown University, and in her past travels she has explored North America, South America, and Europe. Here, she tells us about her adventures in Patagonia.
From the plane I watched the vibrant city of Buenos Aires disappear beneath the clouds. Upon landing in El Calafate, a small town in the Patagonia region of Argentina, the bustling city avenues of Buenos Aires were replaced with milky water tributaries and imploring street vendors were replaced with knowledgeable guides. With two friends, I struck out on an adventure to see one of the world’s most endangered land masses: a glacier. El Parque Nacional de los Glaciares is a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the Perito Moreno glacier, only one of three glaciers in Patagonia in equilibrium with its surroundings despite the change in the world climate.
A bus ride, a boat ride, and a short walk later I stood in front of a wall of ice soaring 240 feet above the surface of Lake Argentino. This wall of ice, through sheer natural force, carved its way through the surrounding mountains over thousands of years and now spans an impressive 19 miles in length. Never in my life had I seen such evidence of nature’s power and beauty. The milky blue waters of the lake reflected the morning light onto the crystalline blue wall of the glacier, exposing the swirls of sediment the ice collects as it advances and recedes foot by foot, year after year.
Suddenly, I heard a sound like a gunshot or a car backfiring. From the rickety, man-made boardwalk I watched as massive blocks of ice the size of houses calved from the glacier wall and thundered into the tranquil lake below. The sound of the impact between water and ice echoed off the valley walls. Nature was truly showing off her power for us that day and we looked on in awe.