Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast • New Zealand
Franz Josef Glacier, one of the two spectacular Westland glaciers, with ice descending into the rainforest. Only Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier reach sealevel. Franz Josef Glacier has a high-altitude snofield of 20 square kilometers, which funnels vast amounts of ice into narrow valleys - an effect like pressing on a tube of toothpaste. The ice is pushed right down the steep valleys to the coast, reaching a speed of several meters per day. First upon reaching the warmer air and frequent rainfalls of sealevel the ice starts to melt.
Julius Haast was the first geologist and explorer to visit these glaciers in 1864, when the front edge of Franz Josef stood near Sentinel Rock, several kilometers further down the valley than today.
According to Māori mythology Fox Glacier is the point where the ancestor Tuawe fell to his death while exploring the area and the bed of the glacier became his final resting place (moeka), which is why the name of Fox Glacier in Maori is Te Moeka o Tuawe. His lover Hine Hukatere wept, and her everlasting tears formed the Franz Josef Glacier or Kā Roumata o Hine Hukatere.
Source: Eileen McSaveney. 'Glaciers and glaciation - Tasman, Franz Josef and Fox glaciers', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12
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