Thursday, January 12, 2017

Franz Josef Glacier

I have always wanted to see a glacier, ever since I studied glaciation during my A Levels back in the UK. However it is not until I am the grand old age of 41 that I have finally been able to see one in real life.

The incredible ability that ice has to shape our landscape has always fascinated me. The U-shaped valleys, massive boulders and craggy peaks it creates are my favourite landscapes. So travelling to the west coast to view these areas was something I was really looking forward to. 

The journey itself did not disappoint. Travelling from Arthur's Pass to the west coast is a tough but rewarding route. The twisty roads take you through some fantastic dramatic gorges and ravines. Once you reach the west coast itself you are rewarded by thick rain forest and a totally different landscape covered in primordial like forest. 

I kept expecting a Velocoraptor to spring from the side of the road or a Diplodocus head to emerge above the canopy. It really was like walking through a Jurassic forest. This whole area felt prehistoric and the forest just goes on for miles and miles. It appears to cover most of the west coast!

On the day we went it was overcast and rainy which really added to the spooky ancient atmosphere. The weather clearly failed to put other people off as the car park was crowded and there were many other people making the damp hike up to see the glacier.

I was really hoping to actually be able to walk on the glacier but apparently this is dangerous. So the closest we could get was a view of the terminal face.
The ice is retreating at a reasonably rapid rate and is unstable. So the only way you are able to get nearer the glacier is by  hiring a guide. This is something I have now been promised for my birthday! So we will be back.

I am still in awe of glaciers and their immense power to change our surroundings. This glacier was advancing at a phenomenal rate of up to 70cm a day up until 2008. Unfortunately it is now retreating quite rapidly which is believed to be down to global warming. I guess I should consider myself lucky that it still exists and that my children were able to visit it. I can only hope that my grand children are able to visit it too.

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