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Witness the Franz Josef glacier on our New Zealand holidays

The legend of the Franz Josef Glacier formation

Home The legend of the Franz Josef Glacier formation

A Maori legend tells a terribly tragic story of a young woman’s love and heartbreak that led to her becoming the creator of the Franz Josef Glacier – read on to learn more.

The story begins with a fearless young woman named Hinehukatere, who was desperate to share her love and passion for climbing mountains with her partner Tuawe. Whilst pursuing her dream in the company of her lover, Tuawe was unfortunately hit by an avalanche and her lover fell to his death. Hinehukatere then spent days searching for him until she eventually gave up her search and was left heartbroken. Devastated by the event, she shed a thousand tears, leaving them to roll down the mountains and form what we know today as the Franz Josef Glacier.

There may be some exaggerations of the events in this story of Franz Josef Glacier. However, her love for mountains and climbing was not misplaced. The glacier is a truly wonderful sight, a must-do for anyone visiting Franz Josef, which you will have the opportunity to visit on our New Zealand holidays whether driving past, taking a walk or opting for the helicopter ride, you will fall in love with this picture perfect vision.

The glacier, which is around 7000 years old, was named after Emperor Franz Josef by Julius Von Haast, a geologist and explorer in 1863. Glaciers are in a constant state of either advancing or retreating; during the last ice age, the glacier’s surface rapidly developed and hit its peak in the eighteenth century. The last significant advancing phase was from 1985 up until 2009 when the glacier begun to retreat again partially due to climate change. The uniqueness of the Franz Josef means that it moves around 10 times faster than any other glaciers in the world.

Today the spectacular glacier attracts around 250,000 people a day as one of the top attractions on the West Coast. Surrounding the glacier are plentiful rainforests, waterfalls and lakes to gaze over or birdwatch, and the Franz Josef town is just 5km away.

Images: Anthony Cramp under Creative Commons


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