"Don't get too close to glacier - it could bury you" West Coast Warnings Or Dangers Tip by Kakapo2
West Coast Warnings and Dangers: 3 reviews and 6 photos
Some time ago (mid Feb. 2007) we had a big story on TV and in the newspapers about incredibly stupid tourists at the glaciers. As many others they had climbed over the ropes which should keep you out of the danger zone, and ignored the warning sign, and then they walked directly to the terminal face of Franz Josef glacier, one even going into the ice cave. He only survived by miracle.
Three tonnes of ice crashed down and lucky him only buried his leg, and he could free himself and struggle his way out of the cave. Then he nearly slipped into the 1°C cold river in which he would have survived for about 3 minutes. Alarmed by the cries for help some of the glacier guides ran to the scene and saved the man from slipping into the water.
Franz Josef is actually advancing half a metre per day. Ice crashing into the river under the glacier is normal. One cubic metre of ice weighs a tonne. So you can imagine what kind of weight could hit you if you think you should have a close look.
The mentioned tourist had to get surgery at Greymouth Hospital. If you do not want to end up there - or, if you are unlucky, in a coffin, do not ignore the warning signs. They are there for a reason.
When this tourist was better again he said he had thought he could get so close to the glacier as he saw people walking on the glacier. Yes, they were walking ON the glacier, and the guides had led them up there on a safe track from the side. The pressure at the bottom of the terminal face is extremely high and chunks of ice crash on a daily basis.
Also the valley floor changes all the time. Heavy rain some months ago (300 mm in one day!) flooded the valley and washed rocks, gravel and mud over the tracks. The water filled the valley! DOC have removed two bridges to discourage people from walking to the terminal face without guides. I think this is exaggerated, but you should always check the conditions. They often take side tracks which you would not spot. Do not risk anything near the terminal face, do not climb over the ropes there!!!
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