Glacier calving is one of the most spectacular sights on Earth. It occurs when a large piece of ice breaks off from a glacier and falls into the water below. Not only is it a surreal thing to behold first-hand — if you’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time — but also an important part of the natural cycle of glaciers.

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Glacier calving happens when a chunk of ice breaks away from a larger glacier due to the pressure exerted by the weight of the ice itself. This can happen naturally over time or be triggered by a sudden event such as an earthquake or volcanic eruption. While glacier calving can occur year-round, it typically happens during the summer months when temperatures are higher and more meltwater runs off from glaciers into rivers and oceans.

Glacier calving is an essential part of the natural cycle for glaciers — without it, glaciers would become too big for their own good and start doing damage to themselves and nearby ecosystems. For example, if too much ice accumulates on a glacier, it may cause parts of its surface to buckle inward, or even form cracks in its structure that could lead to dangerous landslides or avalanches. Glacier calving also helps regulate sea levels by releasing excess water into nearby bodies of water that would otherwise flood coastal areas if left unchecked.

For travelers looking to witness this breathtaking phenomenon firsthand, there are plenty of options around the world. From Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier to Argentina’s Upsala Glacier, there are plenty of places where adventurers can observe glaciers up close and even witness them calve in real time. Some tour companies offer guided tours that take you right up close to these icy wonders, so you can experience them in all their glory without having to worry about safety issues like falling chunks of ice or unstable terrain.