Ice arch collapse caught on film in Patagonia

March 10, 2016
Ice cracks from the wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier located at Los Glaciares National Park, southwest Santa Cruz Province, Arg
Ice cracks from the wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier located at Los Glaciares National Park, southwest Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, on March 10, 2016

A fragile arch of ice at the tip of a glacier in southern Argentina spectacularly collapsed into the water Thursday, a natural display that happens just once every several years.

Thousands of tourists had gathered at the Perito Moreno glacier hoping to see the collapse of the pale blue bridge that had formed between the glacier and the shore of Argentino lake.

Such arches form roughly every two to four years, when the glacier forms a dam of that cuts off the flow of around it into the lake—until the water breaks through, opening up a steadily wider tunnel that eventually becomes a narrow arch... and then collapses.

The phenomenon, which is not linked to climate change, is due to Archimedes's principle, which holds that the buoyant force exerted on a body immersed in fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced, explained Glaciarium, a research center and glacier museum in the Argentine Patagonia region.

"When that force causes the ice to detach from the shore, water begins filtering through and the process of breakdown begins, which is irreversible," said Glaciarium.

The last time such an arch collapsed was in 2012, but no images exist because it happened at 3:45 am.

This time, the bridge fell at 10:55 in the morning, drawing shrieks of excitement from the more than 3,000 tourists watching and training cameras, camcorders and cell phones on the mass of ice.

Ice cracks from the wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier located at Los Glaciares National Park, southwest Santa Cruz Province, Arg
Ice cracks from the wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier located at Los Glaciares National Park, southwest Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, on March 10, 2016

Luciano Bernacchi, director of the nearby Calafate Ice Museum, said the arch measured about 250 meters (275 yards) wide and 70 meters high.

The of the Patagonia region at the tip of South America are the third-largest concentration of ice in the world, after the North and South Poles.

Perito Moreno, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sprawls across 250 square kilometers (nearly 100 square miles) and draws thousands of tourists each day.

Explore further: Ice dam collapses at Argentine glacier

Related Stories

Ice dam collapses at Argentine glacier

March 4, 2012

An ice dam at Argentina's Perito Moreno glacier collapsed early Sunday, creating an impressive spectacle not seen since July 2008, although few tourists were actually awake to experience the moment.

Image: The ice fields of Patagonia

February 24, 2016

This image taken Jan. 14, 2015, acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, shows the glaciers of Sierra de Sangra, an icy stratovolcano spanning the border of Chile and Argentina. Snow and ice are blue in ...

Image: Upsala glacier retreat

November 5, 2013

This photograph by an astronaut on the International Space Station highlights the snout of the Upsala Glacier (49.88°S, 73.3°W) on the Argentine side of the North Patagonian Icefield. Ice flow in this glacier comes from ...

Distinctive sounds announce iceberg births

January 30, 2015

Underwater sounds can be used to detect different ways glaciers lose ice as they flow into the ocean, giving scientists new insight into these poorly understood events, according to new research.

Recommended for you

Meteorite source in asteroid belt not a single debris field

February 17, 2019

A new study published online in Meteoritics and Planetary Science finds that our most common meteorites, those known as L chondrites, come from at least two different debris fields in the asteroid belt. The belt contains ...

Diagnosing 'art acne' in Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings

February 17, 2019

Even Georgia O'Keeffe noticed the pin-sized blisters bubbling on the surface of her paintings. For decades, conservationists and scholars assumed these tiny protrusions were grains of sand, kicked up from the New Mexico desert ...

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.