Fox Glacier

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Fox Glacier /
Te Moeka o Tuawe
Fox Glacier NZ 2.jpg
Fox Glacier in 2007
Map showing the location of Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe
Map showing the location of Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe
Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe
Coordinates43°27′52″S 170°1′4″E / 43.46444°S 170.01778°E / -43.46444; 170.01778Coordinates: 43°27′52″S 170°1′4″E / 43.46444°S 170.01778°E / -43.46444; 170.01778
Length13 km (8.1 mi)
Below Fox Glacier, February 2013
Lower part of Fox Glacier with glacier mouth, February 2013. Note the clearly visible limit of vegetation on the right (southern) slope, which marks the temporary maximum height of the glacier around 2009.
The glacier reaching the rainforest in 2007

Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe is a 13-kilometre-long (8.1 mi) temperate maritime glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island.[1] It was named in 1872 after a visit by then Prime Minister of New Zealand Sir William Fox.[2] With the passage of the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998, the glacier's name changed to Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe.[3]


Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier descends 2,600 m (8,500 ft) on its 13 km journey from the Southern Alps towards the coast, finishing near rainforest 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level. After retreating for most of the previous 100 years, it advanced between 1985 and 2009. In 2006, the average rate of advance was about a metre a week.[4] In January 2009, the terminal face of the glacier was still advancing and its vertical or overhanging faces regularly collapsed.[5] Since then there has been a significant retreat,[6] with the 2009 high level clearly visible as vegetation line on the southern slope above what is left of the lower glacier today.

The outflow of the glacier forms the Fox River. During the last ice age, its ice reached beyond the present coastline, and the glacier left behind many moraines during its retreat. Lake Matheson formed as a kettle lake within one of these.[1][7]


Like nearby Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, with its terminal face an easy walk from Fox Glacier village/Weheka. It is a major tourist attraction and about 1000 people daily visit it during high tourist season.[4] Though people are told not to, some go beyond the barriers and climb without guides onto the glacier, whose rapid advance creates dangers of sudden ice and rockfalls.[4]

Accidents on the Glacier[edit]

Two Australian tourists, Ashish Miranda and Akshay Miranda, were killed on 8 January 2009 when more than 100 tonnes of ice fell on them. They were not part of a guided group and had crossed safety barriers and walked approximately 500 metres to the terminal face to take photos.[5]

Ashish's body was recovered shortly after the accident. At the time, it was thought by rescuers that Akshay might have to be left under the ice permanently. However, his body was recovered a week later, 10 km downstream from the accident.[8]

On 21 November 2015, seven people were killed when a Eurocopter Écureuil (squirrel) helicopter on a scenic flight crashed on the glacier. The helicopter was operated by Alpine Adventures.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fox Glacier area (from the DOC website. Accessed 2008-05-17.)
  2. ^ "Mr Fox at the Glaciers". Otago Witness (1062). 6 April 1872. p. 8.
  3. ^ "Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998". Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Glacier visitors ignore 'extreme risks'". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 12 January 2006. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b Otago Daily Times, NZPA (9 January 2009). "Brothers crushed by ice named, glacier search postponed". The New Zealand Herald.
  6. ^ "Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers". Fox Glacier Guiding. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  7. ^ Beautiful New Zealand, Stamps - Historical Issues, 1984 - 1980, New Zealand Post. Accessed 2008-05-17.
  8. ^ "Body of second brother recovered from Fox Glacier". The New Zealand Herald. 15 January 2009.
  9. ^ "Seven people dead after helicopter crashes in Fox Glacier, New Zealand". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 21 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.

External links[edit]