March 14, 2006

Argentina’s “White Giant” glacier sheds huge chunks

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - Huge chunks of ice have
tumbled off Argentina's Perito Moreno glacier -- a rare
spectacle that prompted a vigil by hundreds of tourists.

Argentine television stations interrupted regular
programming with live coverage of the break-up of the glacier
known as the "White Giant," which was caused by building water
pressure in the lake that it extends across.

For days, tourists huddled on a platform facing the
glacier, located in the far south 78 kilometers (48 miles) from
the town of El Calafate. Pieces of the glacier finally broke
off late Monday night.

"It was dark so we couldn't see it, but we heard it," said
Carlos Corvalan, the head of Argentina's National Glaciers
Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Perito Moreno, which Argentine officials say is the world's
only expanding glacier, spreads across a large swathe of
southern Patagonia, ending in a translucent blue wall of ice
along the Lago Argentino. Many of the world's glaciers are
retreating as a result of global warming, scientists say.

Perito Moreno forms a natural ice dam extending across a
part of the lake. Occasionally, rapidly flowing water beneath
the ice leaves a fragile bridge that eventually collapses.

In 2004, a 200-foot (60-meter) high wall of Perito Moreno
fell off. It was the first time the glacier had shed a
significant piece since 1986, Argentine officials said.

Argentina's National Glaciers Park is home to more than 200
glaciers and is the biggest continental ice extension in the
world after Antarctica, according to the park's Web site.