With coach services, I’ve been making my way down the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. I spend a couple of days around Franz Josef town, and I describe the walk from town to the Franz Josef Glacier.
Will a visit to the Fox Glacier be as memorable? To find out, I head south on Highway 6 (Haast Highway) to Fox Glacier town (formerly Weheka), some 20 kilometres from Franz Josef town.
Both Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are unusual in the respect that these are two glaciers which reach temperate forested areas. In many ways, this second act at Fox Glacier is a similar repeat of the day at the Franz Josef Glacier : the distance from town to the glacier is about six kilometres, the walk goes through the middle of the rain forest, the path straddles the glacier’s meltwater and headwaters of the Fox river, and there’s a spectacular view at the glacier.
According to recent measurements, the accumulated precipitation and subsequent ice flow rate at the upper part of the glacier are 16 metres (over 50 feet) per year and about 4 metres (over 13 feet) per day, respectively. Towards the lower part or terminus of the glacier, the numbers are 5 metres (over 16 feet) per year and over 0.5 metre (1.5 feet) per day, respectively.
In other words, this massive icesheet is flowing at a rate of over 2 centimetres (1 inch) per hour, and that’s just at the terminus. That blows my mind, because by geologic standards, that speed is lightning quick.
It’s no surprise the entire area with Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers is one of the most popular places to visit in the country. As it’s July and early-winter during my visit, it’s low-season where tourist numbers are concerned, and I spend the better part of time here almost entirely on my own. One can only imagine what it must have been like to have seen these glaciers in centuries past, feeling like one of the “first” people to see these rivers of ice.
Pins C and D in the map below mark the start- and endpoints, respectively, of my walk from Fox Glacier township to Fox Glacier proper.
More information about Fox Glacier (Te Moeka o Tuawe):
I made the photos above on 22 July 2012. This post is published originally on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.