Exploring the Patagonian Fjordlands: Pia Glacier

 

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.

Capture
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.

01 Pia Glacier

02 Pia Glacier

03 Pia Glacier

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!

04 Pia Glacier

05 Pia Glacier

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.  

07 Pia Glacier

09 Pia Glacier

08 Pia Glacier

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.

10 Pia Glacier

12 Pia Glacier

13 Pia Glacier

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. 

14 Pia Glacier

16a Pia Glacier

17 Pia Glacier

18 Pia Glacier

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.

Here are some more views from our elevated vantage point:

19 Pia Glacier

20 Pia Glacier

22 Pia Glacier

23 Pia Glacier

24 Pia Glacier

We descended carefully, a challenge as it was slippery.  My eyes were drawn again and again to these small apple-shaped berries that grew along the trail.  I'm not sure what they're called or if they're edible, but there were lots of them around.

25 Pia Glacier

We returned to the Australis and then continued on to the next leg of our adventure.

26 Pia Glacier

27 Pia Glacier

28 Pia Glacier

Next post in two weeks:  Glacier Alley

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Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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