Not quite a Glacial Pace- Icebergs in New Zealand

21 Apr

The beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me. From the mountains to the ocean, in its calm and fury, the natural world has always intrigued and inspired me. I must say I am a mountain girl- born and bred inland just a stone throw from mountain ranges.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to go to the South Island of New Zealand for a week and a half. This was exciting not just because it was a new place to explore but because my family originates from NZ and I had always wanted the chance to go and see the country which makes up my heritage. After a week in Christchurch it was decided that we would drive up to Aoraki/Mt Cook,

Aoraki/Mt Cook

one of the largest mountains I had ever seen and surrounded by some amazing glaciers. The drive to Mt Cook itself is spectacular- traveling through dramatic landscapes and past vibrant blue lakes, it’s no wonder they chose this country as the Lord of the Rings set.

Upon arriving in Mt Cook we went hiking to different viewpoints before deciding that the next morning we would go out to Lake Tasman to see the Tasman Glacier itself in zodiacs. It was a spectacular day with clear skies in the fresh alpine air and heading out onto the lake we were met with the sight of huge white icebergs before heading down to the face of the glacier itself. There is an inherent risk in visiting these lakes, chunks of ice can fall off the face without warning, at times several tonnes heavy and cause waves several metres high.

Ice Ice Baby

It’s a situation where you wouldn’t want to be in a small inflatable boat with nothing more than an outboard motor to try and prevent the inevitable swim in the freezing cold lake.

After exploring the face, luckily the only ice we saw fall were tiny little pieces we turned around to head back to the pier, at this point we were probably a kilometre or so up the lake. When we returned we saw the most incredible sight, what was previously just open water with a few small ice bergs now had a massive ice berg in the centre, light blue and crystal clear sparkling in the sun. It turns out that one of these smaller icebergs had flipped while we were gone and had revealed its huge base which having not been exposed to the weather or sunlight was still in a pristine condition. Even our guides were shocked, straight away we went up and explored it, feeling the smooth icy surface and picking up shards of ice which resembled glass panes. When we got back to the pier we discovered it had been destroyed, the water displacement from the ice flipping had created one of these large waves that we had been warned about. A hiker came over and showed up a video he had managed to shoot while the thing had flipped and the resulting wave. Amazing footage and it made us all realise how lucky we were not to be there at the time.

The flipped iceberg!

It’s these experiences that I love when I travel, to be able to witness the power of nature.  The Canterbury region is an incredibly beautiful part of the world and despite the tragic earthquakes to hit Christchurch, I highly recommend visiting. Kiwis are some of the friendliest people you will meet and if you are a fan of getting out and exploring nature, it is a country with boundless opportunities to do so.



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