I was just eighteen years old when I first visited the two big glaciers on the western side of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. New Zealand scenic calendars and the covers of school stationery had depicted images of the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers all through my childhood. At that time the terminal moraine of the Fox Glacier could be seen through a window behind the alter table in the village Anglican church. Sadly, that is no longer the case.
When I first visited the area in 1964 the glaciers were more than a kilometer further down their respective valleys than they are today. Because they are susceptible to climate change and terminate close to sea level in a temperate climate, they tend to advance and recede quite rapidly. The glaciers began receding in the 1930s but reversed their flow in 1985, since which they have been advancing at the rate of about one meter per week. Now the build-up at the face of the glaciers creates vertical overhanging faces which are continually collapsing, making them dangerous to approach.
The valleys down which the glaciers flow at just 25 km apart, allowing both to be easily visited in one day.