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On Walkabout On: The Franz Josef Glacier – Part 2

After walking for about an hour through a forest, then a massive rock field and crossing a river my wife and I had nearly reached the base of the glacier.  Without a doubt the walk was worth every step to see this incredible glacier up close and personal.  We now only had to walk up a small hill and then down it to reach the edge of the glacier that is known as the terminal face:


On top of the hill there was a number of warning signs warning hikers about the extreme dangers of walking around the terminal face of the glacier:



Big chunks of ice can fall off the glacier at any time, rocks could fall off the sides of the steep valley walls, and even floods are know happen when melted water that is trapped higher up on the glacier is released during one of the shifts of the glacier:


The dangers are real and posted but trust me no one listened to them including my wife and I because after walking this far you want to see this glacier as close as you can.  So we walked right past the signs along with everyone else to the terminal face of the glacier:


Something that struck me about the terminal face of the glacier is how dirty it is.  When you look at the glacier from a distance it looks mostly white but when you get right up on it it has a very grayish black color due to all the rock falling off the sides of the valley that this glacier has continued to carve over the years.  This contrast is easy to see when the terminal face is compared to the mass ice chunks that hover about it:


The upper layers of ice were actually quite stunning to look at because of the almost glowing blue colors of the compacted ice that was intermingled with the vast whiteness of this glacier:


When standing directly in front of the glacier the danger of falling chunks of ice became readily apparent because it was easy to see some huge chunks of ice that looked unstable.  My wife and I kept a safe distance from any possible falling ice but there was a number of people that would literally walk up and into some of the ice caverns on the terminal face of the glacier.  That didn’t seem very safe to me.  Also on the terminal face of the Franz Josef Glacier we were able to see where the river flows right out of the bottom of the glacier:


The river flowed down the valley towards the waiting ocean 19 kilometers away:


There was also a number of mini-waterfalls flowing from the terminal face that was also feeding into the river flowing from the glacier’s base:


Also from the terminal face of the glacier my wife and I could watch the various guided tour groups being led up the side of the glacier:


The various tour operators that provided guided tours up the glacier provide crampons, jackets, and pick axes to scale the glacier with.  I really wanted to do the guided tour up the side of the glacier, but I was still feeling the effects of the food poisoning I had endured from earlier in our trip.  The last thing I wanted to do now was to try to scale a massive glacier, depleted of energy, and suffering diarrhea.  As fun as it looked I was just not physically up to it at this time:


However, my wife and I still had a great time just walking up to the terminal face of the glacier and enjoying the really stunning views of this one of many natural wonders of New Zealand:


The glaciers on New Zealand’s West Coast have the distinction of being the world’s only glaciers that flow into a sub-tropical forest which is what encompasses most of the South Island’s West Coast.  Such a contrast provides views that are really unmatched by any other glaciers I have seen in North America.  Additionally the accessibility of South Island’s glacier are also unparalleled with how easy anyone can get up close and personal with these dramatic chunks of flowing ice.  Because of all this, Franz Josef Glacier should really be on anyone’s tourism itinerary visiting New Zealand’s South Island.  Just make sure you don’t get food poisoning beforehand like I did, so you can fully appreciate the beauty of this glacier by taking a guided tour up into the icy vastness of this natural wonder.

Next Posting: Video of the Franz Josef Glacier

Prior Posting: The Franz Josef Glacier – Part 1

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