Franz Josef Glacier
Explored #2 on 2014/01/13
South Island, New Zealand
The Franz Josef Glacier is a 12 km long glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. It is a spectacular glacier that descends straight from the frigid Southern Alps to the greenery and lushness of a rainforest.
The Māori name for the glacier is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere ('The tears of Hinehukatere'), arising from a local legend: Hinehukatere loved climbing the mountains and persuaded her lover, Wawe, to climb with her. Wawe was a less experienced climber than Hinehukatere but loved to accompany her until an avalanche swept Wawe from the peaks to his death. Hinehukatere was heart-broken by the unexpected death of her love. Her many tears flowed down the mountain and were frozen to form the glacier.
Fed by a 20-square-kilometre large snowfield at high altitude, it exhibits a cyclic pattern of advance and retreat, driven by differences between the volume of meltwater at the foot of the glacier and volume of snowfall feeding the névé. Having retreated several kilometres between the 1940s and 1980s, the glacier entered an advancing phase in 1984 and at times has advanced at the phenomenal rate of 700 mm a day. Talking about quantum leaps in glacial speed ! Over the longer term, the glacier has retreated since the last ice age, and it is believed that it extended into the sea some 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.
The glacier is part of Te Wahipounamu, a World Heritage Site park.