Throughout the day, the blade of ice moves through the color wheel, first dense white, then pale blue, and now, at the peak of the day’s heat, it almost glows aquamarine green. As it changes colors, it changes shape, dagger edge drawn closer to us, precipitous in its angle, too-good-to-be-true in its promise of a stellar show, glacier calving the likes of which most of us will never see, have never seen, will never see again.
Of course, like any good show, it is long past its start time, half of us caught up in conversations with the French dudes we first meet in Ushuaia, they, too, here on their northern trip, more hardcore in their hitchhiking ways, for they keep pace with us, fee-paying bus riders, with seemingly more flexibility and definitely less dinero.
The ice sheet goes, the sound of dagger separating from slab, pulling at its base, ripping fibers of frozen water as it teeters, teeters, topples, towers, and …
Nose-dive into the minty water, the ice dagger collapses and drops like dead weight, disintegrating into a glacial dust as the water churns to produce its version of an icee, slush and sludge the only remnants of its knife-edge nose.
We are in awe, and I cannot believe I almost miss this moment, happy, at least, to capture the inevitable, even with old dude in line of sight.
We are in for the day, the 130 Argentinian peso entry fee granting us a full-access pass to the blue, red, green, and yellow circuits, platform trails we dawdle along, most of our time spent watching and waiting, from our arrival at 10 AM to our departure six hours later.
Strangely, time flies, the glacier captivating and mesmerizing, a living block of ice and snow and water fourteen kilometers deep, five wide and sixty meters tall. Like a row of shark teeth, its army of ice knives march down the valley into the water, the sun bringing out shades of blue as the ice morphs from hard to soft to hard again, bending light and refracting it every which way, a brilliant tapestry of neon blue and soft pinks and laser greens by the time the afternoon calls the curtain.
For, in the morning, the glacier yawns and stretches, noisy with the sound of crashing ice and rushing water, motionless, betraying our ears, for surely, something this loud must have movement, but, no, it all happens within, contained in the beast, a universe of crevices and internal rivers the likes of which to blow my mind.
As the sun rises higher, the glacier reacts, more boisterous, popping, bellowing, thundering, crashing, waterfalls of disintegrating ice and moisture careening into Lago Argentina, a marvel, for all that the glacier sloughs in a day, it maintains its stature, neither shrinking nor growing, sustained.
The most impressive, I think, are the ricochets, mini sub-glacial tsunamis undulating under and through the glacier, epicenter visible like a pebble dropped in a pond, the catalyst a dagger drop, the ripples moving across the facade and into unknown caverns and wormholes deep within, waves of energy manifested as motion and as sound, the reverberation metallic as waves bounce into a wall and back again.
Stunning, really, the call of the Perito Moreno, its song unique and eternal, a collaboration of booming depth and twangy notes, something so surreal, the giant betraying its insides with a stoic facade.
That is, until high noon hits, unleashing it all for the best ice show I’ve ever seen.