The first written record is from Hesketh Prichard who, in 1901, called it The Giants Glacier… But it was in 1908 when a Swedish expedition baptized it as Upsala Glacier, and this name was catchy enough to stick. That said, the first expedition that traveled along it was the one of Padre D Agostini, but that is a story I will tell you later.
The great land under the big gigantic sky with the pink clouds and gliding birds, would not and will never be the same without the massive piece of ice that is stuck upon it.
Crevasses furrow the pallid ice, denoting how long that ice has been lying there, present since 11,000 BC.
Smaller glaciers, called tributaries, join the main glacier’s ice flow, causing it to grow in size. Then, with the rising temperatures, the glaciers lose ice and consistency because of melting and evaporation. The water from the melted stream flows through tunnels and channels that we sometimes do not see. Thus, the first characteristic of a glacier is that the ecosystem of the place makes it possible to gain more snow in the form of ice and lose less ice in the form of water.
Glaciers have cycles. We are currently in a geologic period where glaciers are melting, though we can see that some glaciers are melting at a faster rate due to climate change.
The glacier that I would like to tell you about is a special one. It is a glacier that melts slower than most. It has an ice mother; it is a glacier that is always fed.
Glaciar Upsala is the third biggest glacier in South America. In 2014, the calculated surface was 839 km2, about 43 km long and 10km wide.
Glaciers have an accumulation zone and an ablation zone. The accumulation zone is where it is fed and the ablation zone is where it loses weight. Glaciar Upsala´s accumulation zone sits in the mother plateau of the Campo de Hielo Sur and adjoins the second and first biggest glaciers of South America, the Viedma glacier and Pio XI glacier. You can imagine the weather there with storms feeding the three biggest glaciers of the Andean range almost all year round.
As the glacier spans east, you can see where the mountains around it, Mr. Murallón, Cono and Bertacchi also leave their tribute, and the massive flow of ice begins to melt when it hits Lago Argentino.
Glaciar Upsala is a fortunate one, but it also bears the sentence of approaching death. Glaciers all over the world are melting so fast that it’s likely they won’t be around for the next generations to see them.
The Glaciar Upsala has not been an object of study for many scientists, but thanks to some new technologies with digital elevation models that track from space, it has become possible to develop high-resolution topographic maps. These maps show that the glacier’s surface decreased by 6.6 meters per year between 2000 and 2006, a rate that increased to 22.4 m per year from 2006 to 2009, and between 2009 and 2010 reached 25 m per year. Since 2010, the trend has only worsened with the surface melting four times the previous rate.
But as I said, the glacier is so big that the impending death sentence is not imminent. I believe that this glacier will still be here for the next generation to see, and the one after that. This glacier is now a Patagonian Emblem, but soon it will be the emblem of a time when the weather was so harsh that big pieces of land froze up through ages, cooling the earth and preventing it from burning.
Or maybe, it will be an emblem for those who are still striving for climate change awareness.