Travel to the unique Franz Josef Glacier
On the South Island of New Zealand you will find a very special attraction known as the Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier is located in the Westland National Park and is situated about 20km north of the Fox Glacier. These two glaciers are considered to be unique as they descend from the Southern Alps to just 200 meters above sea level where they are surrounded by the lush green vegetation of a temperate rain forest. The mass of ice and snow in amongst green vegetation and rock draws hundreds of visitors each year who come to admire this unusual facet of the country's natural beauty.
The Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand was named after emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in 1865 by the German explorer who discovered it. The river emerging from the glacier terminal is called the Waiho. As you can imagine, most people do not pack their bathing suits in when heading to this part of the country. However, a good camera is a must as the breathtaking sight makes for stunning photographs. The glacier itself is usually about 12 kilometers long but this is constantly and slowly changing as it has a cyclic pattern of advance and retreat. During the advance stage, the glacier can grow by as much as 70 cm a day! The glacier is fairly active and it's flow rate is about 10 times that of a typical glacier.
This beautiful natural attraction has a firm place in the Maori culture who call it 'Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere' or 'the tears of Hinehukatere'. According to legend, a woman by the name of Hinehukatere loved to climb in the mountains here and, in an attempt to share their beauty, she persuaded her lover Tawe to climb with her. Sadly, disaster struck for the pair and Tawe was killed in an avalanche. Hinehukatere was so broken hearted that her many tears froze to form the magnificent glacier. The charming tale touches hearts every time it is told and gives the glacier a special romantic attachment.
If you are planing to visit the nearby town of Franz Josef, make sure that you visit the glaciers. The area surrounding both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers is designated as a World Heritage Site. Beautiful to look at and a marvel to comprehend, the glaciers seem to be a silent, living thing. Book in at a Franz Josef Glacier hotel or seek out some other form of accommodation at the Franz Josef Glacier to make sure you don't miss out on this natural miracle.