Photo Journal: Franz Josef Glacier (New Zealand) 11

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On the west side of the South Island of New Zealand are two glaciers (20 kms to the north lays Fox Glacier) that are unique in the world, in that they descend from the Southern Alps right down to almost sea level, and peter out in lush, warm, temperate rainforest at that level.

The glacier was later named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria by the German explorer, Julius von Haast in 1865. At least that is the western name for it.

The local, Maori name is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere (‘The tears of Hinehukatere’), arising from a local legend: Hinehukatere loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover, Wawe, to climb with her. Wawe was a less experienced climber than Hinehukatere but loved to accompany her until an avalanche swept Wawe from the peaks to his death. Hinehukatere was broken hearted and her many, many tears flowed down the mountain and froze to form the glacier. (passage from the Wikipedia link on Franz Josef).

Personally, I think the Maori story behind the name is a lot more interesting than some German dude naming it after a guy that had the good fortune of merely being born into royalty, but to each their own.

A couple more things to note are that there are some great camping spots nearby and although the food in the local towns isn’t great, the food in the rest of New Zealand is top notch.

Franz Josef Glacier, South Island, New Zealand

watch for falling black OR white ice

franz josef glacier, south island, new zealand

shot of the retreating glacier

franz josef glacier, south island, new zealand

blue ice mixed with black from the dirt brought down the mountain

impact of global warming on franz josef glacier

one of the saddest signs I saw on the whole trip



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About Michael Hodson

Iā€™m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

11 thoughts on “Photo Journal: Franz Josef Glacier (New Zealand)

  • Cam

    We were there last year, they are both impressive but I preferred Franz Josef. It’s alarming how much of the glacier has disappeared

  • Steve | SomeoneInTheRoad

    I was lucky enough to hike on a glacier in Norway, looking forward to seeing the ones in New Zealand soon! Thanks for sharing.


    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Steve, I think you will like most everything down in NZ. It is a truly magical place on a small piece of land, with the friendliest and nicest people in the world.

  • Sofia

    That last photo of the sign makes me so sad… It’s crazy how much the ice has melted in such a short period of time.
    A few days after we were there a guy had ignored the warning signs and stood at a place where you weren’t allowed – and died when ice collapsed on top of him…

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I agree. It amazes me that so many Americans can’t see global weather change staring them back in the face. Was nice to travel in other countries (like Australia), where even the conservative political parties admit there is a problem.

  • Akila

    We were at Fox Glacier last year . . . actually almost exactly a year ago . . . and we heard the Maori story as well. I love that name but I am a sucker for the original names. We were just at Victoria Falls and i can’t get over the original name (Mosi-o-Tunya meaning the Smoke that Thunders).

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Easy to take good pictures there. And thanks for the compliment (and all your help on the technical stuff I needed). MANY beers on me soon.

  • Juno

    Looked different from when I was there. Perhaps because of the weather. šŸ™‚ I love your second photo. It’s so concentrated. What kind of Camera and lense do you use? I wonder.

    Here is my version of Franz Josef.

    Aw, I just heart New Zealand. šŸ™‚

  • Sharon Poleszczuk

    I’ve just returned from a holiday on the South Island. We were lucky there had been a substantial fall of snow on the eve of our arrival, so the scenery was stunning.

    Franz Josef glacier has retreated considerably since your photos were taken. It is now difficult to view much of the glacier from the DOC lookout at the end of the river walking trail. Fox glacier was much more accessible and viewable. Time poor travellers should definitely pick Fox glacier over Franz Josef. A guided tour of Fox is definitely reccomended.

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