Helen and Paul World Tour 2005/06 travel blog

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef surface

Terminal face at Franz Josef

Surface Franz Josef

Valley leading to Franz Josef

It was a 140 km drive from Hokitika to Franz Josef glacier meaning we arrived late afternoon. We struggled to find any accommodation in Franz Josef and eventually had to settle for a camp grounds that only provided a grit car park to pitch a tent on. We had to use rocks to tie and hold the tent down!

Drove to town and booked a heli-hike for two days time on the Fox Glacier.

It chucked it down during the night and because we couldn't peg the tent out properly we got flooded out! We were up before 6am because of this, which meant we got an early start on the Franz Josef, walk to the glacier terminal face.

We went as close as we could but because it had been raining a stream in front of the glacier was now a river and too wide and fast to cross.

Nowhere at this latitude have glaciers advanced so close to the sea. They are typical of glaciers with mighty cascades of ice tumbling down the valley toward the sea.

The glaciers development is due to the west coast being subject to prevailing rain-drenched westerlies that fall as snow high up in the naves. The snow crystals fuse to form clear ice at a depth of about 20 metres.

The rate of the glacier descent is staggering - a plane crashed on the Franz Josef glacier in 1943 at 3.5 km from the terminal face, 6.5 years later in was at the bottom - a speed of 1.5 metres a day. At times it can move up to 5 metres in one day - 10 times faster than glaciers in the Swiss Alps.

By 9 am we'd done the walk and moved onto Fox - which is the town at the bottom of the Fox glacier funnily enough!

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