Day 9 – Franz Joseph Glacier up close and personal 

I’m quite enjoying this routine of sleeping in, having a simple breakfast & then sitting in the sun, in the peace & quite, & reading my kobo. 

Franz Joseph Glacier Guides picked us up at 10.30am this morning which gave us plenty of time to pick up some nibbles from the supermarket & have another tea/coffee before we checked in. At 11.50am we checked in & weighed in & got our scannable wrist bands. You need to be under 112kg to do this trip & this morning we saw a rather large gentleman get rejected. I suspect it may have something to do with helicopter weight limits. You’re also not allowed to wear denim of any description so I’m glad I packed my fleece tights. No selfie sticks are allowed either which was fine by us as we are probably one of the few remaining people who don’t have one. After checking in we were given a pair of waterproof over pants, thick socks & boots, a waterproof jacket & a small bag containing our crampons. Anything we might want to take with us onto the glacier  (water, nibbles, camera) also had to fit into the small bag. Once we were decked out we had a 5min walk through a narrow rainforest track to the helipad where we got our safety talk. We had a group of 9 of us which required 2 helicopters to take us up. One of the advantages of being small is that I get to sit in the front seat – yay! The flight to the glacier only took a few minutes but it was wonderful. 

Once we arrived on the glacier we were shown how to strap on our crampons, were given a walking pole, and headed off behind our guide. 

There were a few tight squeezes that we had to get through.

And some awesome sights to behold.

We were having a fantastic time

The size of the glacier is truly awesome – here are some official facts

  • Franz Josef Glacier / Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere is a 12 km long temperate maritime glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
  • Since the late 1880’s Franz Josef Glacier has had an overall retreat of around 3 kilometres.
  • There have been a number of advance periods during this time, with the most recent advance occurring between 1983 and 1999.
  • Since 2008, Franz Josef Glacier has been in a period of retreat, and has lost around 800 metres of length.
  • A glacier is dependent upon a fine balance of accumulation and melting. If there is high accumulation (snowfall) then the glacier grows, and if there is high melt then the glacier retreats.

Time flys when you’re having fun & 3hrs on the glacier goes by at a ridiculous speed. Finally therefore it was time to fly home 

Once we arrived safely back at the base & returned all our gear we sat down to a quick bite & a hot chocolate / coffee. It had been an easy 3hr hike but I was exhausted. 

Next stop was the hot pools as the entry was complementary with the heli hike. There were 3 pools 36 degrees, 38 degrees & 40 degrees. We waded into the hottest of hot pools & soaked our weary bodies. 

When we could soak no more we braved the cold & ran to the change rooms.  BYO towel or they’ll charge you $5 to rent one. 

We had a quick dinner at Monsoon & then were kindly given a lift back to our hotel by the manger of the Rainforest retreat. We may just try out his place next time. 

We packed everything up ready for us to head back to a Queenstown in the morning & then fell fast asleep. 

The gobspell of Graeme…..

It is highly unlikely that anyone actually reads this far into the blog, but I would like to imagine people do. It’s a bit like how I imagine the Earth will by some miracle restore itself to a climatic balance that could reverse the damage we have done, or at the very least, prevent further decay.

This magnificent example of a glacier, the wonderous labyrinth of ice and water, the majestic awe of mountain and stone all working under the forces of gravity in a perpetual slide that to the eye is un-noticed.

What is noticed is that it is in recession. Recession is not just a “shortening” or “creeping” backwards, it is like hair, not only does it reduce backwards but it also thins on the top and sides!

The valley in which the main river runs has silted up by 30 meters, yes – 30 meters! Within 50 years!!

If you have children and / or grandchildren, bring them now, show them a glacier, it probably won’t be much to look at when my Little Joe has a little Joe or Jo of his own. 

It saddens me to know that future generations will miss out on this, but it angers me that there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Singularly, as a minority or as a majority, we “do gooders” will not be taken seriously because the is no financial gain. 

I shall stop now because I can feel myself ramping up of a major Renewable, Reusable Sustainable and Efficient Energy rant.


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