Glaciers around the world are melting and disappearing from World Maps. We are not immune to it as this sad reality is hitting New Zealand as well, and it’s not a nice sight.
The Southern Alps are becoming more and more unstable for alpine activities with increased rock avalanches as the warmer temperatures are melting rock binding ice in lower altitudes then in past.
All this rock avalanche debris falls on the shrinking and narrowing glaciers in valleys below, covering their gasping for breath remnants under layers of rocks.
In case of Tasman Glacier, this is even more evident, as with it’s lengths of 27km now, it is New Zealand’s longest and mightiest glacier…but how long for when its retreat is today estimated to be close to 1 km each year.
In 2010 massive calving event occurred, littering Tasman Glacier terminal lake, non-existent 40 years ago, with tons of ice debris and icebergs.
It’s not every day when event like this happens so I went to check it out myself. When I arrived at the terminal lake near sunset time, the sky suddenly closed up, clouds rolled over my head and it started to snow. The light of the setting sun was penetrating this gentle snowfall, and all Tasman Valley got dressed up in this beautiful pinkish pastel colours…very eerie, moody scene with all the icebergs in the lake…how lucky I was to witness this alone…
Taken with Nikon D300 and Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens
After spending a night at Brewster Hut, it’s not too long to get to the Brewster Glacier, just around couple of hours of hiking.
Brewster Glacier is a magical place to photograph…the glacier melt water gathers and forms stunningly coloured terminal lakes. Yes, these lakes are freezing cold but their emerald colour makes them look amazing, with its source, the Brewster Glacier and Mt. Brewster 2515m asl, right behind it.
Despite of relatively not too difficult hike to the glacier, the hike shouldn’t be taken lightly. Especially during the unpredictable wether period. There is no track as such and you need to find and follow orange poles on the beginning and then just know the terrain and find your way through the steep slopes and scree, as the poles are not all the way to the glacier. Since the route leads along steep slopes with some moderate exposure which may be fine in summer but during the winter or low clouds, this can be quite dangerous. Other thing to consider is that the route runs through an avalanche path in winter. This avalanche hazard applies long into the spring so if considering heading that way, be extra vigilant and experienced, and definitely check the weather before you take off.
When you eventually make it through though, you will never forget it!
New Zealand owes its stunning beauty to its location on Earth. This applies particularly well to the West Coast of the South Island. Due to the predominant weather patterns in this part of the globe, the South Island faces the weather sweeping in as a persistent westerly airstream from the Tasman Sea. Moisture laden clouds brought in by these westerly winds have a gigantic barrier in their way – The Southern Alps. The Alps force the clouds to climb into higher and colder altitudes so the clouds finally give up and release the moisture in form of rain, and around the Main Divide as snow. The annual precipitation on the West Coast reaches 16 meters in places, making the West Coast one of the wettest places on Earth.
One of the most striking forms of evidence of glacial erosion is the colour of rivers like the Waiho River in Franz Josef. The melt water of the river gains a characteristic greyish colour, sometimes known as glacier milk. This is the result of the suspension of very fine grains of rock <0.002mm in size. These particles are called glacial flour and are the result of a type of glacial erosion known as abrasion. The abrasion occurs where the glacier slides over bedrock and works much like sandpaper, as rock fragments meet at the boundary of rock and ice they grind and smooth the surface below. If a large rock is trapped, large grooves or glacial striations are engraved into valley walls and bedrock.
Another major type of erosion is known as plucking. When the ice slides over the downstream side of the bedrock, it can freeze loosened rocks from the bottom into itself and rips the rocks out from the valley floor and walls, changing its shape forever.