Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fox Glacier and Franz Josef

There are two alpine glaciers right next to each other, one called Franz Josef and the other named Fox. Both have small towns built next to them that are connected by a very twisty thirty minute drive. While we stayed in Franz Josef that glacier is only accessible by helicopter right now, which hikes the price up drastically. Needless to say, we were going to Fox which you can just walk right up to (with a tour guide). Now, glaciers are not baby friendly, so we were dividing this up across two days. Greg was up first, going on an all-day hike of the glacier.

That ice "river" in the picture below? That's actually part of the, currently receding, glacier that Greg was about to hike. Pretty awesome.

This is Peanut Rock. As the guide said, it carries on the fine tradition of things being given terrible names at Fox. Whenever a fresh rock falls off the mountains and becomes part of the landscape, the first person to discover it gets to name it. A helicopter found this one, and was like, "Yeah, I guess it looks like a peanut, that's the name." Our guide was quick to point out how it looks nothing like a peanut.

Fox Glacier is one of three glaciers in the world where rainforest and glacier meet. The other two are in Patagonia and Alaska. Greg's hike took him up into the rainforest before coming back down to the glacier's face.

Yeah, I am going to hike all over that.

The glacier is an ever changing thing, that forms and reforms, moving up and down as it melts and freezes each day and night. The rocks on top of the ice move downhill about a meter a day. The larger ones will also topple over quite spectacularly, making it a pretty terrible idea to eat your lunch in the shadow of one.

Greg Otey, Glacier Explorer Extraordinaire.

Naturally formed ice cave. Beautiful, and Greg got to hike into it.

Yeah, that rock is not going to be there for long.

Since this glacier is right next to a temperate rainforest, all kinds of animal life lives right around it. The most notorious is a kind of mountain goat. To impress the ladies, two males will often butt heads and ram each other right on the edge of the rocks. Sometimes, one of the goats goes over the edge, and the guides will find their bones on the ice. Greg now has the leg bone of one such unfortunate goat on his desk at work as a memento.

Fox Glacier has been moving up and down this valley for thousands of years, and as a result, has carved out quite a chasm. Just three years ago the glacier extended several hundred meters farther down stream. During the last ice age, it was as tall as the cliffs in the background. The guide was quick to point out while global warming has certainly had an impact on the glacier, constant growth or reduction in size is normal for any glacier.

What a day! 

Meanwhile, Laurel and Olivia were going to explore around Franz Josef. Hmmm, Imogen, what should we have for breakfast?

They ended up at the Franz Josef Wildlife Center. Immy is not too sure about being posed next to this giant kiwi statue.

This is indeed a lot of rain.

Since kiwis are nocturnal birds your chances of seeing them out in the wild are pretty low. We saw two, one at the Napier aquarium and this one in Franz Josef. Now, since it is kept dark for them you are not supposed to take pictures. Please, no one report that Olivia is a notorious rule breaker. Good thing too, or we would have no kiwi pictures!

Following the Wildlife Center, it was time to head over to the Glacier Hot Pools and bathe in the crystal clear, pure waters. Immy and Olivia are clearly enjoying it.

Upon returning to the hotel Olivia noticed that we had possibly the worst designed shower ever. Good job, New Zealand.

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