Boats dwarfed by the Iceberg dwarfed by the Glacier

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

Comments (18)

Ian Stehbens on March 18, 2010


To see the people in the boats, it will be necessary to click on the picture to download the file which can then be zoomed.

In the background of this photo, the glacier's ice is estimated to be about 600M deep!

In a larger view, there are many more details to see, and questions to answer.

What height above water level do you estimate the front edge of the glacier's snout to be?

So what depth of ice is submerged?

In what position was the iceberg, when it was part of the glacier?

How thick are the thin bands of moraine in the iceberg?

How far is it from the viewpoint to the front of the glacier, and how far from the front of the glacier to the area where the top of the glacier is white?

Are the other valley glaciers (Murchison, Hooker and Mueller) in this area also covered with moraine in their lower sections or is the moraine on this glacier the debris from a massive avalanche?

What is the distance from the present end or snout of Tasman glacier to the terminal moraines that dam this lake, Tasman Lake? And how far is it to the terminal moraines that dam the present Lake Pukaki that is now contained where once this glacier was?

Then calculate the length of the present glacier, from its firn zone to its present snout, to its Tasman Lake Terminal moraine, and to the southern end of Lake Pukaki.


Mike Wagner on March 19, 2010

The size of the iceberg and glacier shows us just how small we really are. This is a great shot Ian. Best regards, Mike

Ian Stehbens on March 19, 2010

Hi Mike,

Thanks. I am glad that I have at last been there. The boat is about half a mile away and about half way to the glacier. Everything has a different scale it seems, and without trees or houses or other familiar items it is so hard to estimate distance. Warm regards,


Amelia Royan on March 19, 2010

This is just fascinating dear Ian. I know that the boats are not very large, but they are just tiny dots compared to this enormous scene. I am working on the questions you posed at this very moment, but my calculator has just run out of batteries.

It isn't what I expected from a glacier, or an iceberg for that matter. In my mind they are both glistening shades of ice blue, this iceberg looks like a huge slab of veined marble; but I can see the moraine boulders and the white ice in the distance. What that intervening distance is will be worked out as soon as I nip to the shops and buy a solar powered calculator :))

Warm greetings, Amelia

sugarbag1 on March 19, 2010

Hello Dear Ian. What an amasing site you have here.Is that black rock I can see there? Yes and those boat are tiny compared with everything else.Amasing Kind Regards,David

Ian Stehbens on March 19, 2010

Dear David,

We must wait for Amelia's calculations! Or will you come up with the answers before she is back from the shops?

Dear Amelia and David,

The boats are about half way to the glacier front, so that makes them about 1.5 kms from me, and still they are 1km from the iceberg. My 300m digital telephoto lens (equivalent to about 450mm lens on my old film camera) is pulling them altogether!

For those who live in high latitudes, the common images are of glaciers that derive from ice caps, such us the tops of Norway, Iceland or the Ice Sheet of Greenland. Such glaciers certainly drag a large bed load and side loads of moraine (rocks) but as there are no high mountains above the glacier there is little on the top of the glacier, until the last section where the melting of the ice reveals more and more of the moraine contained within the glacier.

But here, there are significant peaks and cliffs above the glaciers from which large quantities of scree gravel falls on to the glaciers. This becomes the seams or layers of dark rock material in the glacier's ice. Then as they move down valley, the tributary glaciers, which are also much smaller than they once were, push and carry large quantities of rock moraine onto the main glacier. And so a trunk glacier like Tasman is covered by much moraine. Then by the time some of the surface ice has melted the moraine remains and so ends up covering the glacier totally.

Glaciers are not only rivers of ice but conveyor belts for rocks from screes, from avalanches and that which is scraped, gouged, plucked and ripped from the valley walls and floor.

The Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland is now much like this one. In 1951, it was longer and much white for the higher peaks were more heavily ice covered.

The only way I can begin to grasp some of the realities here is to ask myself all those homework questions.

In the past, when my students answered questions like these, the classroom became very animated, and they couldn't wait to get out in the filed to experience it all.

As for the photography, one can't pretty this up with white point adjustment, or vibrancy!! It is as grotty and as awesome as can be.

Warmest regards dear friends,


jeff_msn123 on March 19, 2010

Wonderful shot.

Cheers, Jeff

Ian Stehbens on March 19, 2010

Greetings Jeff,

This is a very different environment from our usual orbits!



Maja Weidemueller on March 20, 2010

I have been following your questions and the other comments, dear teacher, waiting for someone to solve the riddles... I can imagione students flushing in competing on who is the first in solving them - this shows clearly that I am far too old for being a student, and besides, I almost flunked maths in my studies :)))

But seriously, I highly appreciated your comments, Ian, thank you. To me this is a picture almost from another planet - I know glaciers here in the Alps, but there is nothing as mighty as this one. You could imagine the clacier being an enormous sleeping dragon, waiting there to wake up only when apocalypse has come... on the other hand, zooming the tiny vulnerable boats and realising the scale of it all we also realise nature's unconditional acceptance...

Wishing you a very merry kind of day dear Ian,


Ian Stehbens on March 20, 2010

Dear Maja,

Thank you for such wonderful engagement with this lesson. You may have almost flunked maths only because you were somewhere else while the lessons were on. Now tell me, were the Maths lessons alive? were they creative? were they inspiring your dreams? were they revealing significance or even constructs or were they bound in traditional law?

Failing one or two maths classes is quite a good thing, especially for the maths teachers. It reveals their ability to teach. Did you ever watch "Dead Poets Society" and Robin Williams, or "Sister Act"? Education is not only about discipline.

And one answer is that the lake is 721M amsl and the front of the glacier here is a little over 800M amsl! And that's the ice face above the water. Now multiply that x 5 or x 6 for depth of the ice. Then turn the iceberg back up to vertical position and see if that corresponds!

Awesome, apocalyptic.

I have had a gentle day.



Maja Weidemueller on March 20, 2010

Ian... I wish I had you as a fellow teacher by my side. I know. And I have seen both films, of course. Have you watched "Les enfants de Monsieur Mathieu"? There are so many of them we could learn from. No, education is not about discipline, that would be a dungeon. I is about future and hope and dreams to come true. And every single one we don't cherish is a star we extinguish...

Thank you for the numerical solution of the riddle... it remains inconceivable though, I think our brains and our souls are not made for these dimensions. Awesome and apocalyptic, you are right.


pedrocut on March 22, 2010

Hi Ian

Great picture, awesome potential energy!

Leaving the maths aside for another day, it is interesting to delve into the geology of the antipodes, something I know very little about compared to Europe.

It is very interesting that uplifting caused by the Australian/Pacific Plates increases the height of Mount Cook by 7mm a year.

Regards Peter

Ian Stehbens on March 22, 2010

Hello Peter.

There is plenty of walking for you to do in the antipodes, my brother. Come on around. And even at such a small rate, one gets to feel it here. A few months ago in a big quake in South Island (around 6 Richter) the island moved 30cm closer to Australia. Trans-Tasman air fares got a little bit cheaper!!

With the net it is possible to readily delve, Peter, but if you want to chat about this, you may have guessed, I am informed and interested in such topics. Anytime.


Ian Stehbens on March 22, 2010

Dear Maja,

Oops, sorry, I read but somehow neglected to respond to your comment here. Forgive me.

How I delight in hearing another teacher thinking like this. I loved the classroom. So often I here people complaining about the behaviours of the classroom, but I taught for 21 years in secondary classrooms and only recall 3 boys who provoked me to anger. I restrained myself, just. I ensured that I always had one of the difficult classes. Of course, I loved to inspire my other students, though befriending and healing and respecting the difficult, horrible, or self-destructive children was fruitful and worthwhile.

I have had some recent joys, since returning to Brisbane, for a few former students, some now in the 50s, have made appreciative contact. The catch-ups have been delightful, especially when they reflect back on what our classroom experience did for them.

Marking papers, as you are doing right now [Concentrate, dear Maja!] was a discipline that became a joy, once I transformed the assessment so their capabilities, gifts, dreams and values were able to be expressed and revealed through the assessment. Then I loved to read or listen to what they had done.

But I had the beauty, majesty, artistic qualities, designs and serendipity of the world to play with, and the field as our classroom and when we weren't in the field, the field came into the classroom!

Keep cherishing dreams, dear Maja.


Maja Weidemueller on March 23, 2010

Mornin dear Ian - I already answered, found it? Love your subject, BTW. It is revealed in many of your photos, too, I think. The perfect subject for wandring stars...

Hope your day was most successful - starting into mine now. Love, Maja

Ian Stehbens on March 23, 2010

Fruitful day indeed, Maja. And we have touched some very broken lives from the refugee community here today, with compassion and openness to listen... folk out of Rwanda-Burundi and Congo. That will be a long-term journey with them for us.

Just uploaded another 'Colours of NZ' image: pink and blue - desert dust on blue glacial ice. I am sure your artistic spirit will interpret that for me, in a serendipitous way.

Have a special day, walk gently as if in weightlessness for you are in a new orbit. Love from Australia.


pedrocut on March 26, 2010

Hi Ian

Learning of the geology in the Antipodes prompted me to upload some photos from a walk from Hartland Quay in Devon in 1992. You may be interested in this photo showing the power of the colliding plates there.

Best wishes, Peter

Ian Stehbens on March 27, 2010

Thanks Peter. I have never been to Hartland, but I did explore the Ilfracombe area and found that interesting. Thanks for sharing in our common interest in geology.


Sign up to comment. Sign in if you already did it.

Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 18, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Ian Stehbens