Climate Change, Global Warming, or What…?
Forty five years ago Valerie and I visited what was then the Mt Cook National Park for the first time together, while on our honeymoon. Since then the park has been renamed to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to recognise the original Maori name for New Zealand’s highest mountain, and the pre-European history and mythology connected to it. In 1968 we drove our small English Morris 1100 car up the Tasman Valley towards the face of the Tasman Glacier that flows down from Mt Cook and nearby Mt Tasman, from which it takes it’s name. The road in those days was known as the Ball Hut Road and was no more than a rough bulldozed single-track affair full of potholes and fords across streams joining the Tasman River. The part of the road that was navigable by car ended at the side of the terminal moraine of the Tasman Glacier, from which one scrambled up the rocky slope of the moraine to view the glacier. Rental cars were not insured if taken on the road at that time.
Today the road is still unsealed but is well formed, with a bridge across the Tasman River. It ends at a visitor shelter and carpark from which tracks lead to the the top of the moraine and the shore of the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake. Part way to the top the track passes the first of the Blue Lakes (looks green because of reflections of the vegetation on the nearby slopes).
Reaching the top of the moraine rewards you with magnificent views of the terminal lake, glacier, and the towering mountains that surround the valley.
Our immediate impression was how far the glacier has receded in the past 45 years. From about the same viewing point in 1968 we looked over the rock-covered ice of the glacier below at approximately half the distance to the surface of the present lake. The glacier face was about at a point to the right of the right-most tourist boat shown in the previous image. We know from visits to other glaciers in the Southern Alps that all of them have receded some 2-3 kilometres during our lifetime, but to see the change on this, one of New Zealand’s iconic glaciers, came as a bit of a shock. It is clear evidence that the world is a warmer place than it was even 45 years ago.