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Amalia Glacier - Patagonia Chile


Amalia Glacier in Chilean Fjords

Today we are sailing in the Chilean Fjords toward the southern tip of South America. Sometimes called Skua Glacier, Amalia is a tidewater glacier, meaning that it flows through a valley and ends in the ocean. Amalia Glacier is located in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, which is the largest protected area in Chile, named after the republic’s first head of state.


Now you might find it strange to find a good Irish name like O’Higgins in Chile. And you would be right. There are not many Irishmen in this part of the world, but it turns out that O’Higgins' father was born in Ireland but later moved to Spain. He was a junior officer in the Spanish military and was sent to Chile which was then a Spanish territory. O’Higgins was born illegitimately and never actually met his father, although his father provided for his education while growing up. His father became the Spanish governor of Chile and later viceroy of Peru.


At seventeen Bernardo O'Higgins was sent to London to complete his studies. There, studying history and the arts, O'Higgins became acquainted with American ideas of independence and developed a sense of nationalist pride.


O'Higgins returned to Chile in 1802, adopted his biological father's surname, and began life as a gentleman farmer. But the seeds for independence were planted and through the following years he was involved in a number of efforts to declare independence eventually leading to his exile. But while in exile, O'Higgins met the Argentine General José de San Martín, and together the men returned to Chile in 1817 to defeat the royalists and O’Higgins became the leader of the newly independent Chile, establishing markets, courts, colleges, libraries, hospitals, and cemeteries, and began important improvements in agriculture.

Sailing in the Chilean Fjords

But I digress, back to Amalia Glacier. Amalia’s ice flow journeyed here millennia ago from the heights of the Andes Mountains – a fractional segment of one of the world’s largest continuous ice fields, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This sheet of ice covered the entirety of southern Chile during the Ice Age. The glacier reaches four hundred Twenty feet above the water and is about two miles across its face.


Cruising past the glacier allows us to see it up close and take in the rugged ice’s majestic beauty. Glacier ice is unlike regular ice – it stretches and bends instead of shattering and breaking and, perhaps most strikingly, has a bright blue appearance. This is because the sheer weight of a glacial mass means that the bubbles of air that are normally present in ice are compressed out of it, making it denser and lending it that brilliant blue color.



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