A Spectacular Glacier on the West Coast

The most active glacier on the globe, the fascinating and dynamic Franz Joseph Glacier is a must-see during your visit to the region.

This glacier is a true geological wonder and is situated in the Westland National Park in the West Coast of New Zealand. When visiting the wild West be sure to check out this 10km plus long icey feature of nature. It attracts well over quarter of a million tourists a year and the cool glacial landscape changes almost daily. The glacier has a unique fast flow so if you go on  a guided journey by foot it will include interesting passages and geometric shapes through ice tunnels.


Why it’s World Famous


The glacier has an interesting advance and retreat cycle responding quickly to variations of precipitation and temperature and it is categorised as a Valley Glacier. In this temperate region, it is formed by rock, water and ice to produce a valley and it then moves and carves its way through lush rainforest to terminate at the Tasman Sea. It begins its sharp angular descent down the mountain side and due its gradient and its location it is considered the most dynamically shifting glacier in the world.


Advance and Retreat Cycles of the Glacier


The glacier exhibits a cyclic pattern which is driven by the difference between the meltwater volume at the glacial foot, and the volume of the large high altitude snowfield feeding the neve which is a granular type of snow preceding ice formation. Glaciers can take days or years to form depending on the freeze-thaw factors.


Glacial Activity


Between 1940s and the 1980s, the glacier went through a phase of advancement, sometimes by astounding rates of around 70 cm a day. Looking at the big picture, the Franz Joseph glacier has retreated since the last ice age and it is thought that its extension lead to the sea well over 10,000 years ago. Since 2008 the glacier has rapidly retreated, and scientists, not surprisingly believe that the shrinkage is largely due to effects of global warming. According to 2100 projections they also expect the glacier to shorten to around 5km and think it will lose a substantial about of its mass.


Access to the Glacier


Since April 2012 all glacier walks now require a helicopter flight past the unstable terminal face. For safety reasons you will need to use a dedicated tour company to get access to the glacier, however a bonus is you will be provided insightful local information about the whole area.  Treks also require specialised equipment such as axes, crampons and adequate footwear to ensure you and comfortable and without any possible danger. The Guiding Company who holds tours to the glacier also can provide you with hikes, heli-hikes and a wide variety of treks throughout the year.


After a big day out on the ice why not rest up in luxury at the comfortable Glenfern Villas while staying in this exciting action packed region.

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