Site Search:

Fox Vs Franz Josef Glaciers

The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers cut through dramatic glacial valleys to flow into temperate rainforest. While many glaciers world-wide have been retreating, these glaciers still flow almost to sea level, making them unique relics of the last Ice Age.

South-Westland lies in the path of a band of wind known as the 'roaring forties'. The weather that flows on to the West Coast is forced to rise over the Southern Alps, thereby cooling and dropping most of its moisture as rain and snow. This process causes approximately 30 metres of snow to fall on the neve, or catchment area of the glacier every year. Snow that is compacted on the neve forms blue glacier ice that is funnelled down the valleys of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. This flows under its own momentum, forming these 'rivers of ice' which are easily accessible from the Waiho (Franz Josef) and Cook (Fox) river beds.

Although much melt occurs from the surface of the glaciers at lower elevations (the ablation zone), this high snowfall continues to push ice down the valleys at very high rates. This is aided by basal sliding, caused by a layer of water beneath the glaciers, formed by the weight of the ice pushing against the valley floor. Both of these factors cause the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers to have flow rates that are up to 10 times faster than most valley glaciers.

The glaciers flow over large bedrock steps on the valley floors. This causes the ice to extend and break up, forming steep icefalls that are mazes of crevasses and pinnacles of ice. Spectacular views of this dramatic landscape are gained from short valley walks to the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier terminal faces, or by taking a guided walk on to the ice. Either option will provide any visitor with a unique glacier experience.

Fox Glacier
The town of Fox has some great character. In the town, at night, you can walk through a small trail to see the glow-worms. Not far away you can ride a bike to beautiful Mattheson Lake. You could take a great overnight walk to Welcome Flat Hut on the Copeland Track. You can do two nights and continue on to the next hut on the track.

At a latitude of only forty-four degrees south and in a relatively mild climate, no other glaciers in the world are as easily accessible as Fox and Franz Josef.
Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier falls 2600 metres on its 13- kilometre journey towards the coast. Named after an early New Zealand Prime Minister, William Fox, the glacier is 300 metres deep and its terminal face is just 5 kilometres from the township. The road to the glacier crosses ancient moraine from earlier advances and retreats.

Near Fox Glacier is beautiful Lake Matheson, icon of the West Coast with its enchanting reflections of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, New Zealand's highest peaks. A delightful bush track walk follows the lake edge.
At Gillespies Beach, up to 1500 seals congregate during winter below Waikowhai Bluff, with smaller numbers to be seen in summer.

A walk along a bush path at the south end of the township to a grotto of ferns will be rewarded by a spectacular show of glow worms sparkling through the clear, black night.

Franz Josef Glacier Franz Josef has a place to walk and see the glow-worms. If you go to Whataroa, there is a place you are able to see white herons (depending on season), you can take a jet boat ride in or you can kayak.

Julius von Haast, geologist and explorer, named Franz Josef Glacier in 1863, after the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Approximately 7000 years old, and a remnant of a much older and larger glacier which originally swept right to the sea, Franz Josef Glacier extends 12 kilometres from its three feeder glaciers in the high snow fields of the Alps. Today the terminal face is a mere 19 kilometres from the sea and just 5 kilometres from the township.

The 1946 New Zealand Peace Stamp issue which commemorated the end of World War II, featured on its nine penny stamp the view of Franz Josef Glacier from the altar window of St James Anglican Church. This historic church was dedicated in 1931. By 1954 the glacier had retreated so that it was no longer visible from the church. The advance of the glacier brought it back into view in 1997.

Maori Legend;
Early Maori called this place Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere - The Tears of the Avalanche Girl (Hinehukatere).
Hinehukatere loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover, Tawe, to climb with her. Tawe fell from the peaks to his death. Hinehukatere was broken hearted and her many, many tears froze to form the glacier.

A full day hike at Franz Josef has a very steep climb surrounded by towering columns of ice. You can get some great views looking over the glacier on the right days. You get the feeling of being right inside the glacier when you walk between the ice pinnacles. There are some narrow passages to walk through but no caves.

For a more relaxing day take a Heli-hike on the Fox Glacier. You fly in over the Fox then get dropped off on a flat part of the glacier. You do not get the surrounded by ice column feeling. The Fox Glacier does have a few small tunnels and caves.

For a full day hike try the Franz Josef and for a Heli-hike the Fox Glacier may be your option.
But the guides always say the glaciers change from week to week so you never know what you're going to see.

Reviews / Comments for Fox Vs Franz Josef Glaciers

No reviews have been written write a review now.

Developed by Wetstone Technologies