About Fox Glacier
Read the whole story
Fox Glacier is situated on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
The Fox Glacier and Around
Our main service town and local hospital is only a little further, this being Greymouth and would be just 210 ks – incidentally Greymouth is the terminus for the train from Christchurch the famous Trans Alpine Express (not sure why it is called a express as it is quicker to drive, but nowhere as scenic). Just for general info Nelson would be over 500 ks North and Christchurch approx 370 ks to the east through the mountains, anyway back to FOX…
We are approx 200 meters above sea level, and have a permanent snowfield at 2300metres. The west coast is a very narrow strip of land squeezed between the Tasman Ocean and the mighty SOUTHERN Alps. In the Glacier region the distance between Sea and Mountains is only 24 ks. From Fox village the Alps seem to go straight up to over 12,000 feet with Mt Cook and
Tasman towering above the Fox valley. Of course any of you that have a basic understanding of Geography and the weather would quickly understand our weather patterns, and be prepared for our climate.
Our Glacier is approximately 13ks long and is currently the biggest on the West Coast; of course it used to be bigger. Approx 250years ago it reached the sea, but due to Global warming, and the need for ice in our soft drinks it has shrunk, but believe me it is still plenty big enough. Anyway, all we need is more heavy snow to collect the basin at the top of the glaciers to move them forward once more.
I should mention the rainfall and suggest you do bring an umbrella or raincoat (or if you can’t swim a buoyancy aid ) as we do get over 5.500mm per year. Most of this falls at night.
Heading south you will encounter some of the more remote Podacarp forests left in New Zealand. Please be careful
When driving this stretch of the coast as your gaze will be constantly diverted from the road to the mountains, forest and beaches. They combine to make this a spectacular drive to Haast, just a mere 120ks away.
After leaving Haast you will slowly climb to the Haast Pass and the Magnificent Forests, Lakes and Mountains give way to the dryer tussock country of Central Otago and Wanaka, where incidentally we have our other local supermarket and Doctor,. This is just a mere 390ks, so you see living in Paradise means you have to have a good memory, have good lists, stay healthy, or just like driving, as a three hour drive for groceries, can be a little tiresome.
The Fox Story
A long time ago, in a distant galaxy, OOPS sorry wrong story.
Approx. a few hundred years ago the white man came to explore the south island of New Zealand the normal history tells of Tasman= Cook and other sundry explorers seeing tongues of ice streaming off the high mountain ranges and the ice coming close to the sea, now how true this is, is anybody’s guess as you will remember this Capt. Cook fellow had just established the first brewery in N.Z and was on his way delivering his first load (Britain seems to be exporting larger louts for a very long time) and there is great debate as to whether? the good Captain would have passed a breath test , really a big worry considering this man was responsible for most of the charts used in these parts for a considerable time.
Any way a few years later there were other intrepid explores like a wee chap called Charlie Douglas, who was a bit of a surveyor, and generally liked poking around the wild remote country with his donkey, sextant, and other explorer type gear. Most of Charlie’s exploring was done for several reasons normally gold, land or an easy route through the mountains, but I think in Charlie’s case he enjoyed being on his own and he kept going trying to avoid those bloody sandflies.
Back in the good old days, you know, diphtheria, rickets, no TV. No electricity, warm beer the first settlers sort of arrived via the beach. Gillespies beach! they were their cause somebody reckoned there was gold on the beach, and there was too (still is if you know where to go) At this time in history gold was rampant, Ross further to the north was pulling out big lumps of the stuff, Okarito experienced a huge boom with thousands of folk working the black sand and there were even plans to have New Zealand’s first university situated there..
As for Hokitika it was a mans paradise (according to some) over 100 pubs in the main street lots of nocturnal entertainment as well as a real French restaurant gold dust everywhere and not to many churches! Flash place this west coast.
Anyway back at Gillespies beach the families had settled on the beach and mined its gold for a few years, ran a few sheep and cows no point digging gold if you cant spend it on good food, anyway most of these families were off Irish descent and soon produced lots of strapping kids who needed something to do and so the mums and dads thought farming might be a bright alternative to life on the beach, and sent the lads up the valleys to find suitable land (the old saw pits are still close to the Fox motor park) Soon these tough dudes had cut by hand most of the trees from the valley and started to bring in the pasture that couldn’t happen to day the greenies would go mad but anyway some good came of it as they used the timber to build the Pub, wise men these pioneers Mind you if they had sited the village 10k back towards the beach we would all have far nicer views of the mountains, and also about half the rainfall of our present location, that’s life.
The Glacier used to be known as the Victoria @ Albert after that well known Victorian couple Then came along a POLITICIAN wanting to make a name for himself. William Fox immortality called and the name was changed to FOX GLACIER, soon after everything went to crap with the Glacier retreating (typical do-not let a politician near anything valuable) Its been in the last few years that the Glacier has advanced really quite rapidly of course this has presented lots of other problems Like you cannot get to see it due to the valley collapsing or the river changing course and taking the road away but thankfully this does not happen to often.
At this point I should give you some trivia about this giant ice cube. Well the snowfield is 2000ha in area pretty big A! This is just what feeds the Fox and on the neve it can be over 300meters deep puts a whole new meaning on the term deep powder.
With the Glaciers dramatic expansion, and constant movement forward you can often here the thing creak and groan and see massive bits fall off. Its quite a unique place on the planet, with access to a fast moving Glacier nearly at sea level surrounded by sub tropical forests == makes you wonder about global warming..
The population of Fox is roughly 150 but this varies as to power cuts and cold winters. In the summer this number rises as all the seasonal staff come in to run the hotels etc, The winter tends to be the best time with less rain and more SUN and the whole place seems friendlier. I know we should be friendly all the time but hell we all have off day’s don’t we???
I am sure I have a lot more interesting drivel to keep you spellbound for hours but all good things have to stop and this is it
BYE BYE for now