Spanish Version

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Patagonia: The end of the Earth

Patagonia is a large Andean region in the southernmost part of South America that covers parts of Chile and Argentina. Its name comes from the word "patagón" (in Portuguese big foot) used by Magellan to describe the native people of the region. They were tall people (over 5'11", 1.80 m) with big feet and this is possibly the reason why Magellan took the name.
Due to its climate and location this region has preserved its ecosystem and we can still enjoy amazing sights and wildlife.
Between the animals that can be seen, we find whales, rodents, birds, rheas and camelids like the guanaco's.

One of the typical features of this area is the quantity and dimension of lakes of glacial origins. This is the reason why several European have chosen this place to settle because of its similarity to the Alpine region.

Charles Darwin in his famous trip to this region studied the guanaco, found fossils of large animals and possibly got all the knowledge to develop later the concept of evolution. This shows how this region can impress any person who visits it. It is a great chapter of the big book of Earths Nature.

The next blogs will be dedicated to Patagonia in order to show the different places and/or animals typical of this region. Due to the amazing views, some panoramic photos will be included in order to better describe the landscapes.

Glaciers: Perito Moreno, the blue gem

Panoramic view of Perito Moreno Glacier (Click in the picture to enlarge view).

Perito Moreno Glacier is located in the "Los Glaciares" National Park in the Santa Cruz Province at the Argentino Lake. It is unique in its class due to its natural beauty and has been declared a World Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  It is important to note that this region has its ice masses at a very low altitude, between 1500 and 200 meters above sea level (5000 to 650 ft), allowing an easy access to them in comparison to other glaciers.

Foot of the glacier

Another characteristic of this glacier is its constant movement, which is part of its advance and recess cycle with a velocity of 2.3 meters/day  (7.5 ft/day) with spectacular ice falling s in its front that has a length of 5 km (3.1 miles). This is just one more reason why this glacier is considered a natural wonder. It is a show to see and hear the tremendous noise of the ice falling to the lake.

Series of photos from an ice falling.

Additionally, the glacier is part of one of the largest reservoirs of drinkable water in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. Other very special characteristic is that the whole ice mass has not changed in time during the last years despite the global warming that has affected any place in the planet.

The intense blue color of the ice is the result of the snow compaction, which alters the internal structure and also changes the refraction planes of light. This results in the better reflection of the blue color. The snow compaction is reached in time and the experts estimate that the ice of the foot of the glacier has more than 10000 years.

Close-up of the glacier and details of the ice formations and its colors. Much effort has been done in the processing of the photo to preserve the exact tone of the ice.

The rupture of the glacier is an extraordinary phenomenon, which occurs after several years when the glacier crashes into the peninsula forming a natural dam avoiding the flow of water from one arm of the lake to the other side. The water level increase its height and the pressure also rise until the ice is broken and the communication between both arms is restored with a tremendous explosion.

Front of the glacier at Argentino's Lake

One of the characteristics of the area is the great number of lakes of glacier origins. This can be one of the reason why so many Europeans have chosen this place to settle due to the similarities to the Alpine region.

Argentino's Lake. In the background you can see the ice blocks floating and in the foreground you find the typical plateau of Patagonia.

An intact ecosystem

Between the flora of the region, we have the andean patagonic forest that is also called the Valdiviense's rainforest. It is incredible to find at this latitude a place full of live and plants. This forest is part of the humid and mountainous area of the Patagonia.

Patagonic forest near Chalten town.
If you pay attention, you can see beautiful animals like the ones below:

Magallanic woodpecker (Campephilus robustus)
Sturmella loyca. It hits the glasses of the constructions when a storm is approaching.

Trekking is a great option available and is one of the main activities of the tourists. The Chalten town is the so called capital of trekking and the Fitz Roy mountain is the most famous mountain of the region. The name was in honor of the captain of the vessel in Darwin's voyage.

Air photo of Fitz Roy's mountain, the goal of many mountain climbers.

Mountains close to El Chalten.

Be a follower of the site because in the next blog the story will continue with other interesting places and animals of the "end of the Earth".