Friday, 22 January 2010

Franz Josef Glacier

I’m currently 9 days behind on my updates, so this post should really be dated January 14th instead of January 23rd.

We set off early (7.25 am – yawn) from Queenstown by coach, for Franz Josef Village. The journey wasn’t too arduous since there were a lot of stops on the way for snacks or just to enjoy the view and stretch our legs. The road took us through the Kawarau Gorge and the town of Cromwell which used to be the area’s gold mining centre.

Lake Wanaka

We arrived in Wanaka, on Lake Wanaka, mid-morning and stopped for a short break, as well as a chance to take some pictures of the gorgeous scenery.

The road passed by Lake Hawea and through Makarora, before going across the Haast Pass. Haast Pass is named after Julian Van Haast, a geologist who was responsible for renaming what was then the Victoria Glacier after Emperor Franz Joseph in 1865. The nearby glacier, which was called Albert, was renamed Fox Glacier in 1872 after a visit by prime minister William Fox.

Thunder Falls

We had a short stop along the way so that we could see Thunder Falls. This involved a walk down a path through some bush.

Lance Tree

Our driver had been talking to us about a lance tree which, as a sapling has long barbed downward pointing leaves, but as a full grown tree looks very ordinary with standard leaves. It’s believed that the tree developed this growth pattern as a defence against being eaten by the now extinct moa, which was a very large flightless bird. Once the tree was big enough that it couldn’t be reached by the moa, it reverted to its normal state. I’d been looking out for one of these trees, and finally saw some in the bush on the way to the falls. It’s hard to see it clearly in its natural setting, so here’s a picture I took close up in the museum yesterday.

Close-up of Lance Tree

Tasman Sea

This view is of the Tasman Sea. If you set sail in a straight line and went in the direction that my camera was pointing, you wouldn’t hit any more land before arriving at Antarctica.

The Glacier

And at the end of a very long day, there was the glacier. Fantastic!