We all remember our first time.

Mine came late on a chilly sun-drenched morning midway through a bouncy ride on a boat filled with tourists on the Last Hope Sound.

We were journeying through a picturesque setting that included cliffs of nesting condors and a massive rock that’s home to a cormorant breeding colony, framed all the while by dramatic peaks in the distance that grew taller the further on we traveled. We were moving at a decent clip, bouncing over the wind-swept waves when Balmaceda came into view, the mountain that’s home to its eponymous glacier.

Ice clung to the rock behind a curtain of fog that lingered over the higher portion of the mountain; just below, the bright whitish aqua of the glacier abruptly turned to a brown stone that cried into the sound. I was momentarily saddened that my first contact with a glacier saw cascading mountain runoff as a metaphor for tears.

Just fifteen years ago, our guide said, the base of the glacier was at sea level.

It’s said that the navigator Juan Ladrillero gave the sound its name back in 1557, thinking it was his last chance to reach the Strait of Magellan. Instead he reached a dead end at a glacier.

For the rapidly retreating Balmaceda, all hope is gone. I felt glad that I made the opportunity to add it to my ‘So Very Glad I Saw it Before it Disappears’ file.

Balmaceda Glacier, Last Hope Sound, Patagonia, Chile
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