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Chile's San Rafael glacier fast disappearing

Image: A piece of ice from the San Rafael glacier falls into the water

(AFP) — Chunks of glacial ice tinkled in whisky glasses as chilled tourists gazed in wonder from their boat at the massive San Rafael glacier and the markers tallying its losing battle against global warming.

"How can we stop this," asked German visitor Herman Kirst, 70, reflecting on the 100 meters (yards) that the glacier has shrunk this year, and every year since Captain Luis Kochifas began ferrying tourists to this spot in 1978.

"How sad, how devastating it is to think that all this, one day, could disappear," added Kirst, after being told the 30,000-year-old glacier has receded a total of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) since 1871.

Global warming, Chilean scientists say, has done the most damage to the glacier, which lies 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of Santiago.

With the rising temperatures, more melting occurs at the face, sending huge icebergs crashing into the ocean reflecting the sun's rays in blue and turquoise.

Graphic showing Chile's 30,000-year-old San Rafael glacier, which has receded 12 kilometres since 1871
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