Fox Glacier

BY JULIAN THOMSON (GEOLOGIST)
Accessibility: EASY
Fox Glacier, J.Thomson / GNS Science
An essential stopping point for any visitor to the West Coast. Spectacular views of glacial erosion in action.
Fox Glacier, J.Thomson / GNS Science
An easily accessible glacier, that originates in a very large accumulation zone with extremely high rates of snowfall. The fast movement of ice down a deep, steep valley brings it to a very low altitude where it melts rapidly. This dynamic glacier erodes vast quantities of rock debris that is deposited at its snout as moraines (piles of boulders) that are themselves further eroded away by the meltwater river. After a period of advance between 1983 and 2008 the glacier has recently been in a phase of rapid retreat.
Terminal ice cave at Fox Glacier, J.Thomson / GNS Science
Look for classic glacial erosion features such as: the 'U' shaped valley profile, erratic boulders, moraines (piles of boulders that have been left in place by the ice) striations or scrape marks, and smoothed or polished rock surfaces. You can also see gully erosion, debris fans (at the base of steep gullies) rock fall scars and rock fall debris.
Also look for at the bare, unvegetated rock exposed on the side walls above and in front of the glacier. This shows where the ice was in 2008 and gives you an idea of how much retreat has occurred since then.
You can also admire the variety of schist rocks that have been brought up to the surface from deep down in the crust by uplift along the nearby Alpine Fault, (which you crossed just as you left the main State Highway on your way to the glacier car park)
Directions/Advisory

From the Fox Glacier township, travel south over the bridge, and turn up left towards the glacier. Continue until you arrive at the car park after about 3 km.

This is an extremely active and dynamic environment, with occasional ice falls, rock falls and sudden floods.Take heed of all warning signs, keep moving in rock fall zones and do not cross any barriers. There have been serious accidents (fatalities) due to people not following safety advice.

Accessibility: EASY

From the car park, follow the well made track towards the glacier for about 1.3 km (30 mins)

Features
Sedimentary Landform Minerals Active Erosion
Geological Age
Holocene
Zealandia Evolution Sequence
Pākihi Supergoup: 5 million years ago – present
Links
There is a very interesting time lapse video of the glacier and the slowly collapsing side walls here: https://vimeo.com/119312940