The unworldly sound of a glacier calving is something that every traveler has to witness at least once in their lives. It is a calm sound, a soothing sound— but then with a sudden crack it’s an overwhelming torrent of natural power that causes a momentary feeling of awe to arise from somewhere deep inside and tingle up every vertebrae of an onlooker’s spine.
When one arrives at the terminus of a glacier (the wall of ice at the body of water) the first thing noticed is the wind. Glacial wind is a steady breeze that constantly flows along the glacial ice and into the sea at the head of the glacier. Caused by the temperature fluctuations between the air that is in contact with the ice and the open air at the same altitude, this wind is numbingly chilled and acts as a great substitute for coffee for the tiresome adventurer. One face full of glacial wind and an onlooker will find themselves feeling more awake than ever before.
Then, stillness— and the silence of the open space around them. The whirring of the wind as it rushes along the surrounding mountain peaks and, if they’re lucky, the splash of a whale breaching the water’s surface nearby. All of these sensations come together at a single moment to create the most calming comfortable feeling an onlooker might ever feel.
Soon after, the real show begins—
At first it starts with a low rumble, maybe a distant storm hidden from view somewhere over the mountaintops, or maybe a jet daring to pass by and, in doing so, momentarily disturbing the serenity of the surrounding scene. But as the rumbling begins to rise and become steadier, small pieces of ice are noticed to be flaking off the ice front, falling with a splash into the frigid waters below— and it is obvious that the rumbling sound is neither distant storm, nor intrusive jet.
Then, just before the feeling of internal anticipation threatens to burst from an onlooker’s chest, a house-sized portion of ice momentarily jitters before a thunderous crack marks its release into the sea. The ice roars a guttural god-like bellow as it falls, and the sea jumps to life as the ice throws the water sporadically into the air. With a sudden gasp of breath an onlooker tastes the cleanliness of the wilderness air.
Soon after, as if it never happened at all, the sea calms against the towering ice, the stillness of the mountains once again takes over, and nothing is heard but the whirring of that glacial wind. There couldn’t be a scene more perfect than this, in a world so intruded by all things human.
The above image was taken in order to reflect the sheer size of this glacier. Do you see the smaller of the two grey circles at the foot of the ice wall? That’s actually a 3-level tour boat. Click to enlarge to view in more detail.