The World’s Fastest Shrinking Glacier

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It wasn’t raining when I woke up, so I decided to take advantage of this gift and venture to the Franz Josef Glacier. It is a 5km walk out of town to the beginning of the glacier hikes, but it was scenic with the Waiho River to my right and rainforest mountains in front of me. I started on the Franz Josef Glacier Valley walk first, where it was open and wondrous. The river water was still clouded, but I learned that the murky color comes from “rock flour” or minuscule rock fragments chipped away by the glacier. The valley felt completely exposed with high mountains around, waterfalls everywhere you look and the Franz Josef Glacier straight ahead. It is hard to fathom that the glacier once overtook this entire valley. Franz Josef is the world’s fastest shrinking glacier, melting at approximately an astounding 5 meters per day. With New Zealand’s erratic weather, it is hard to predict the future for Franz Josef Glacier.

I carried on to the Sentinel Rock walk, then picnicked by Peter’s Pool, a small reflecting pond formed by a melted chunk of glacier that broke off many years ago. The weather continued to be fickle with rain sprinkles floating in and out all afternoon, so I decided to call it a day and not push my luck and wind up in another hail storm on my way back to the village.

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