From Formation to Calving: The Life Cycle of Glaciers in Chile

How do glaciers form? It all begins with tiny snowflakes. Insignificant as they may seem, these flakes are the building blocks of glaciers, as they compress into ice in the space of a few years. Ice eventually separates from a glacier most spectacularly—through the process of calving. It occurs when an iceberg or a chunk of ice breaks off of the terminus—also known as the “snout” or “toe”—of a glacier and crashes into the sea or a lake. It’s easily among the most dramatic moments of the glacier life span.

With more than 2,000 glaciers that add up to almost 8,000 square miles of ice mass, Chile is one of the best places in the world to witness the stages of a glacier. The most impressive glaciers in Chile are found in the North and South Patagonian Ice Fields. These ice fields are the remnants of a once-enormous ice sheet that reached its maximum size 18,000 years ago.

Take a look at our glacier infographic to learn more about the amazing life cycle of glacial ice through some of Chile’s most emblematic glaciers.

Learn about the stages of a glacier with this infographic.