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Glaciers – moving frozen rivers of ice – are a spectacular and awe inspiring feature of New Zealand. Both the South Island and North Island feature glaciers; however, the South Island has more and the larger examples.
The South Island of New Zealand has over 3,100 glaciers that each cover an area of at least 2.5 acres or more. Around one sixth of these amazing, icy megalith-like natural structures cover an area in excess of 24.7 acres each! Some of the most famous South Island glaciers include Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, Hooker Glacier, Mueller Glacier, Murchison Glacier, Tasman Glacier and Volta Glacier.
These glaciers have been formed in some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable; indeed, the glaciers have helped assist in creating the wonderland that is the South Island wilderness. The moving ice carries rocks of all sizes, scouring the land as it drags them along. Valleys develop U shapes, harsh sheer walls and rounded bottoms, while the ridges are often sharpened to points. Bowl shaped areas at the top of glaciers are scooped out like ice cream from a bowl. When many of these cirques are formed on top of a mountain, the mountain can take on a horn peak appearance. Mount Aspiring was formed in this way.
Glaciers have had a hand in helping form the spectacular lakes of the South Island. Lakes like Hauroko, Monowai, Manapōuri and Te Anau in Southland and Wakatipu, Wānaka and Hāwea in Otago have filled the narrow valleys carved out by ice age glaciers. These lakes are carved out to great depths – some of them fall below sea level and are bordered by glacial debris cast aside eons ago.
There are many tours of glaciers available on the South Island. One tour well worth taking is the Glacier Landing – Helicopter flight from Queenstown. This incredible journey will fly you over the spectacular Southern Alps and the start of the Fiordland National Park. You will journey over the northern shores of the spectacularly beautiful Lake Wakatipu, before heading on to Jura Glacier, where you will make a snow landing. A helicopter makes an ideal choice for sightseeing. It will take you up close to towering peaks, rugged crevasse filled glaciers and sparkling clear waterways. You will learn about the stunning landscape as your professional pilot delivers an informative commentary en route.
When you step from the helicopter into thick snow, you will find yourself surrounded by majestic mountain peaks and awe-inspiring valleys. The unbelievable views of the Rees and Dart River valleys and Mt Aspiring will take your breath away. You will spend approximately half an hour on this amazing natural wonder, before returning to Queenstown. This tour operates all year round, so you can stand on a glacier even in the middle of summer!
New Zealand’s glaciers offer active adventure, relaxation, family fun and spectacular scenery. These rivers of ice are natural wonders that should not be missed. A helicopter trip is truly one of the best means to experience the wonder and majesty of this glacial wonderland.
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