Having finished a hike in Tierra del Fuego and studied birds up close on Tucker’s Islets, we completed a memorable day with an evening of fine food, good companionship and restful sleep. During the night our ship re-positioned itself and the next morning’s excursion was a visit to Pia Glacier.
Pia Glacier is in the north-west arm of the Beagle Channel and lies on the Darwin Range. It’s an advancing glacier, meaning that the ice is building up and moving outward faster than it’s lost. The glacier is massive, about the size as Santiago, the capital of Chile (480 km2), and is one of the longest glaciers in the southern hemisphere. Pia Glacier is only accessible from the sea.
Pia Glacier is at the end of a relatively narrow fjord. You can clearly see where prior glaciers have gouged the rocky walls of the fjord. As we moved further towards the fjord’s cul-de-sac, we got our first glimpses of Pia Glacier. It was a misty drizzly day, but the view was nonetheless beautiful!
The Australis anchored and we were ferried by Zodiac to a lookout point very near the glacier’s base. Our boat journey took us through a field of broken floating ice that had fallen from the glacier’s face — mostly small stuff, nothing too dangerous here.
We landed very near the base of the glacier and got to see some great views of this massive sheet of ice. The people in the photos below seem ant-sized in comparison.
We hiked up the hill and gained a viewpoint that gave us a different perspective on Pia Glacier. The hike was over slippery mud and rock and wasn’t much fun, but the elevated view was mostly an unobstructed view from a rocky ledge and the scenery was quite lovely — exactly what you’d expect of Patagonia.
During our stay at the viewpoint, a large piece of ice calved from the glacier and fell with a huge spash. I didn’t have my camera ready to capture that, I’m sorry to say, but the noise of the cracking ice is startling, not unlike a clap of thunder.
We descended carefully, a challenge as it was slippery.
We returned to the Australis and then continued on to the next leg of our adventure.
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