Icebergs gathering in New Zealand lake
29 May 2009
Wintry conditions are creating a spectacular natural phenomenon at an iconic New Zealand tourist destination.
More than 50 icebergs of all shapes and sizes at the southern end of the Tasman Glacier terminal lake - in Aoraki Mount Cook national park - providing tourists with a unique opportunity for close inspection.
Strong winds off the mountains blew the icebergs down the lake. Since then cold temperatures have frozen the waters around the icebergs so the icy group is now stuck firmly in place.
Tourism operator Bede Ward, of Glacier Explorers, said it was a "fitting finale to an absolutely bumper season" on the lake.
"All the ice in the lake will be our iceberg `stock' for next summer."
Glacier Explorers provides boat cruises amongst the icebergs, and this season its passengers have enjoyed trips of a lifetime with the largest iceberg 'calvings' ever seen on the terminal lake.
In the most significant single calving in the lake's 25-year existence, a giant slab of ice about 250m long by 250m wide by 80m high plunged into the lake, causing a three-metre tidal wave on 10 February.
A second iceberg about quarter of the size calved from the face soon afterwards.
Aoraki Mount Cook
The icebergs are congregated by the Glacier Explorers’ boat jetty and can be seen from the public walking track. The lake is a 15-minute drive from Aoraki Mount Cook Village.
Iceberg cruising is enjoying increased popularity with visitors to Aoraki Mount Cook. The operators added a fourth boat to their fleet this season increasing passenger capacity by 25 percent.
The up close and personal iceberg experience also provides spectacular views of mountains in the national park.
Bede Ward believes that reports of the retreat of the two-million-year-old, 27km long Tasman glacier has been a great drawcard for business.
"We’re getting more and more icebergs now so we’re naming them in order to track and communicate changes and locations," Ward said.
"Since the terminal lake began forming in 1973, the Tasman glacier’s retreat has noticeably quickened because the lake is expanding all the time and is causing a more rapid melt of the terminal face.
"From now on I think we may be looking at major calving from the terminal face as an annual event."
Tasman glacier calving
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