Avalanches, Glaciers and Scree descend onto the Tasman Glacier, NZ

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Comments (8)

Ian Stehbens on March 25, 2010

Everything seems to conspire to destroy the glacier.

Hidden under huge tonnages of fallen scree and avalanche debris the Tasman Glacier is joined by a tributary glacier that is carrying and dozing its great load of moraine also.

Each glacier in a stream of compressed ice that incorporates vast volumes of moraine within, beneath and on its sides.

As the ice of the glacier melts, the moraine within becomes more revealed at the surface, until eventually, it is difficult to see any ice at all from above.

Meltwater and rainwater flows onto the ice or is lost in the moraine, but quickly it pours down crevasses into sinuous tunnels within and beneath the glacier.

Once it reaches the point where its melting equals the flow of ice, the end or snout of the glacier is then mostly submerged in the lake of meltwater dammed by a former terminal moraine. Here the ice buoyed by the water snaps off in great pieces of ice to become icebergs floating in the lake. This calving process is a slow but dramatic and powerful process but seems to be much like the agony of childbirth travail that results in the death of the mother.

Here in the New Zealand's Southern Alps the glaciers are all in retreat: ice is melting faster than it is accumulating.

Yet this Tasman Glacier is well over 20 kms long.

I hope viewers appreciate seeing the reality of a glacier up close, and filthy!

ƤōƝƓ on March 25, 2010

Another spectacular force of nature! The speed of glacier melting is as dreadful as ones in the Himalayas and South America. Thank you for sharing this scary reality. A good reminder of more extreme weathers throughout the globe in the near future.

Ah-Pong of B@ngk☺k with regards

Ian Stehbens on March 25, 2010

Greetings and thanks, Ah-Pong. I am impressed by your comment on the severity of weather events. In climate change, it is the increasing severity of 'storm' events that will concern us greatly: longer droughts, heavier rainfalls, bigger hail, higher category cyclones/hurricanes, greater storm surges, record temperatures. Some of the low islands in the Pacific, for example, are under serious threat immediately from 'storm' events.

Thanks for your appreciative comment once again.

Warm regards,


Maja Weidemueller on March 25, 2010

Nature is a giant, isn't it... Have you seen Perito Moreno dear Ian? It flows into the Atlantic! Must be a stunning view and experience. I didn't get so far south unfortunately - perhaps left it for 2012 unconsciously :)

Ian Stehbens on March 27, 2010

Dear Maja,

Thank you so much for the link to Perito Moreno. It is the glacial activity of southern Patagonia that is the most powerful magnet for me, there. But that's when I am thinking of it as if I were going to visit it, alone. But the whole world takes on a different sweetness and vibrancy when one considers joining with others in the experience. O Toto. O Maja. When will that ever be?

After my NZ experience, I am taking a bit of readjusting to the absence of moraine in Perito Moreno glacier. The bigger Tasman Glacier has so much rock on it and in it. It is like watching the biggest road construction equipment at work.

How I look forward to standing together with a Panoramio friend, before either or both!!

Warmest regards,


Maja Weidemueller on March 27, 2010

Nothing is good - unless you DO it. A joy shared is a joy doubled. Let's join Toto down there in 2012. Share two glaciers, two blues, three continents, one love.


Ian Stehbens on March 28, 2010

... and millions of stars. Awesome.

Life's Good, the Koreans say. Just do it! the Americans say.

One continent or the other in 2012!


Ian Stehbens on March 28, 2010

DESCRIPTION: Confluence of Haast and Tasman Glaciers

In this image we see the Haast Glacier descending to join the Tasman Glacier. The large volumes of debris covering much of the glacier is derived from shattered scree that falls onto the sides of the glaciers or from avalanches of ice and scree that fall from higher precarious positions and crash onto the ice. One of the piles of avalanche detritus is a feature in this photo.

Three kilometres up-valley from here (to the right) the Tasman Glacier is joined by one of its major tributary glaciers, Rudolf Glacier. Until that point the upper Tasman Glacier has some lines of medial moraine evident at the surface as well as lateral moraine on each side. But, when the Rudolf joins, it brings a large load of moraine derived from the steep rocky slopes that ascend above it. The surface of Rudolf Glacier is completely covered by the grey-brown moraine as it joins the Tasman, and that is what is evident on the far side of the Tasman Glacier here as it enters this photo-area from the right.

The circular dump of avalanche scree that is seen riding on the main Tasman Glacier, fell from the slopes upstream of the Rudolf Glacier confluence. Both ice and meltwater can be seen in this avalanche detritus.

Behind the avalanche debris, one can see another tributary glacier descending steeply into the Tasman Valley to join the main glacier. This tributary is the Haast Glacier. Haast Glacier has an icefield 3 sq kms in extent on the eastern face of Mts Haast and Dixon. In it last steep descent to join the Tasman Glacier, it receives large volumes of scree especially onto its northern side.

In the foreground, the 2 steep streams are meltwater from 4 small glaciers perched high on the Malte Brun Range. The largest of these is the Walpole Glacier. The Walpole Glacier is 2 kms long descending from arêtes over 2900M high. It flows down to 1800M altitude as a glacier, then its meltwater cascades the next 700M onto the side of the Tasman Glacier, only to disappear down crevasses to flow through, within and beneath the glacier.

The ice in the Tasman Glacier that is pictured here is over 500M thick. At this point, it is 15 Kms from its top in the Anna Glacier on Mt Ellie Beaumont and from the Tasman Saddle between Mt Alymer and Mt Abel. It continues down valley for another 7 kms to terminate in its meltwater lake, Tasman Lake. On the western side of Tasman Lake a tongue of the glacier, buried in moraine and mostly submerged, extends another 4 kms.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 25, 2010
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    by Ian Stehbens