Tuesday, April 3, 2012


This post is for Our World Tuesday

Trip Part 11

The glaciers on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand are spectacular. They descend through very steep valleys down into lush temperate rain forest which is only 200-300 meters above sea level. Because they are in latitude 40's there are constant strong westerly winds and associated heavy rainfall. This makes an extra heavy snow pack up in the mountains and the glaciers move faster than is usual for glaciers. (Wikipedia says 10 times as fast!)
We stayed close to the little township of Fox so visited the Fox Glacier first. Both the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier have retreated up their valleys for some years so there is quite a walk to get close to them. The walk at the Fox Glacier is advertised as 45 minutes - but it felt like much more! The track is clearly marked and starts off across the flats near the stream which flows out from the glacier.
Then the track winds up the hill above the glacier and finally comes quite close to the icefall at the end of the glacier.
There are barriers well away from the icefall and tourists are cautioned to stay back behind the barriers. In 2009 two people went around the barriers and close to the icefall. Tragically there was a huge fall of ice as they were standing there and they were both killed. I had the long lens on the camera to take both these photos.
The icefall
The head of the glacier (or at least the head visible from the bottom!) as it begins to descend very steeply.
Finally, of course, there is the walk back to the car park! Click on the photo to enlarge it to see the people walking along the track.
We went the 25 kms north to see the Franz Joseph Glacier in the afternoon. This was some of the steepest and windiest main road I have ever seen. One road sign warned of a corner that required a speed of 15 kms!
Since I had walked to Lake Matheson early in the morning and then up to the Fox Glacier I decided that I would only walk to where I got good views of the Franz Josef glacier. Again, there was quite a long walk across the boulders and gravel previously dropped by the glacier.
I showed photos of Mount Cook when we visited that area on day two of our trip. Here on the West Coast Mount Cook was clearly visible again through a gap in the mountains. This was the view from a little way down a road west of the Fox township.
Extra: If you have had enough of glaciers don't bother reading further! This is History! My sister and I were disappointed in Franz Josef Glacier because it was very different from what we remembered. We expected some changes of course but not such great ones. We remembered a beautiful little church with an altar window that had looked out on the glacier. By the time we traveled there the glacier had receded out of sight but there was still a view up the valley into the surrounding forest. The church is still there but is so far away from the glacier now that it is not even kept open! Then we remembered the walking track going down the same side of the valley beside a stream which had blocks of ice rolling along in it. At one place beside the stream there was a natural hot thermal pool surrounded by rocks. We joined some other tourists there and Mum and the Aunts sat with their feet in the hot water while we played with the ice in the stream and then carried blocks of it to surround the pool. None of this was there now! In fact, no one even remembered the hot pool! But I hadn't just dreamed it all. Dad had taken photos! Finally I found a young lady in the visitor's center who looked up history and dates for me and we found that first there had been a huge rock fall which totally changed this side of the valley. Then a few years later there had been a huge outbreak flood from the glacier which changed the valley again. Nothing stays the same!
Dad's photos!


  1. really beautiful and rugged territory! love those blue skies!

  2. The glaciers are awesome and so are your captures, Mick! What a tour you've taken us on! Wonderful to get a look through your camera that I'll never be able to see in person! Thanks for sharing! Have a wonderful week!


  3. Great post. The last series are beautiful!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  4. Like touching time. Impressive. Please have a good Tuesday.

    daily athens photo

  5. Amazing photos of the glacier and mountains! It is very pretty and worth the walk to see it for sure. Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing your trip.

  6. Very interesting post on glaciers, it's hard to get an idea of scale without being there though. Thanks for taking us along.

  7. What an adventure. Great series of shots.

  8. Thanks for sharing your trip! A glacier is one of the natural phenomena I've never experienced! Must be exhilarating!

  9. That is interesting about the changes in the terrain. It gives one pause for thought. Your post also reminds me how pictures (your dad’s) provide such good documentation that something existed! :)

  10. Beautiful! I learn something new every time I visit you! Whenever I visit a place that I've last seen as a child or young person, it seems different -- because of my perspective as an (old) adult compared to back then. But your special place actually did change -- how amazing to think of. A very concrete example of a truth we all need to keep in mind. Nothing stays the same, for sure!

  11. Beautiful, the glaciers. What a shame they are receding.

  12. Incredible landscape. Magnificent! :)

  13. lots of years ago I visited the glaciers with a group of geologists. It was a amazing. Especially how you had to walk through the rainforest to be able to come to the ice. Very weird somehow.

  14. That second-to-last shot is picture postcard material Mick! Gorgeous. Know what you mean about changes between childhood memories and the reality of today - but aren't we blessed to have those memories. Thanks for visiting my blog. Wishing you a Happy Easter weekend.