Amalia Glacier, Patagonia

I'm like a first grader when it comes to a glacier. I was so excited to feel and see it up close that I could not wait to go out on the bow of the ship. I also took copious notes from our onboard travel guide. So blame my note-taking for any missing information, and blame our onboard travel guide, who happened to be standing by the bar while doing the narration, for any misinformation. So don't take the following information as academic research.

The Amalia Glacier is also known as Skua Glacier and is within the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, near the Canal Sarmiento. Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is the largest protected area in Chile, covering both the regions of Aysen, Magallanes and Antarctica Chilena.

Amalia Glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This ice field is the second-largest field of polar ice. It is the larger of two remaining parts of the ice in Patagonia covering all of southern Chile during the last glacial period, locally called the Llanquihue glaciation. This took place about 10,000 years ago. When the period of glaciation slowly approached its end, the glaciers began their retreat into the valleys. 

How big is Amalia glacier?
Amalia Glacier goes back to the valley many miles on its field of accumulation in the mountains.

How old is the ice on the front face?
The ice or under the ocean is approximately 150 years old. It is about 130 meters high above the water line and has over 3,000 feet wide at the face. Glaciers move through rock and soil as they carve their way down a slope.

Amalia Glacier is a tidewater glacier. Meaning a valley glacier that ends in saltwater (sea level).

Looking closely at the mountain, we could see countless lines. These lines are called ‘striations’ in the rock. We could see the valley through which the glacier flow and observe it as having a shape of a U. That's how well we could identify where the glacier has traveled and where water has caused typical erosion forging a V channel through the land, according to our guide.

Why are glaciers blue?
It's a function of light. It is extremely dense, the long wavelengths part of white light is absorbed by ice, and the blue (short wavelengths) light is transmitted and scattered. The light that has traveled some distance through the snow will be enhanced in blue.

The cloudy days are better for taking pictures, since the days of sun’s bright color stands out more.

Why does it look dirty?
The accumulation of sediment from the seabed and rock sediment fell on the glacier in the valley walls. This sediment actually has a name; it’s called "rock flour.”

Picture of tiny icebergs

NOTES:  All photos by the author



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