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A retired Aussie programmer from Sydney, I am an ardent traveller, student of things Chinese, and in retirement both an online teacher and online MOOC student. I write mostly about travel and experiences in China, and of interaction with Asian culture and people. Don’t expect controversy because, like a cat in a puddle, I tread carefully - but sometimes I just might throw in a ‘googly’!
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Receding Ice-age or Global warming - same result...    

By LaoGui 老鬼的博客
2748 Views | 33 Comments | 2/11/2020 12:41:46 PM

Sadly many glaciers are slowly disappearing around the world. When will they return?

... except one happens in a few million years, and the other happens in half a century

The Tasman Glacier, doomed to extinction it seems

I went to New Zealand in 1965, escaping the Vietnam war 20-year-olds' birthday draft ballot. (Somewhere in a filing cabinet I have a beige coloured card exempting me, so in a sense the journey had been unnecessary).. But there I was, and working in a New Zealand Tourist Bureau hotel, the Hermitage mount Cook, site of New Zealand's tallest and most imposing mountain, and of its longest glacier - the Tasman Glacier. That's what this post is about - the Tasman Glacier.  This was my second job for the NZ Tourist Bureau, the first having been also as a porter but at the Chateau Tongariro sited afoot the active volcano, Mt Ruapehu

So in 1966 I was an outside porter, night porter and steward, not yet 21. Night porter had some wonderful aspects after I had finished cleaning shoes placed out in the corridors. Solitude for one, plus nightly tours in deep snow and deeper silence broken by the roar of a distant avalanche - but more later. Outside porter on the other hand, involved window cleaner and rubbish collector duties. On the day shifts I collected the bins and kitchen refuse, piled them onto a trailer and drove the Land-Rover down to the rubbish-tip at the foot of the Tasman Glacier. There amongst the rubble and moraine of the glacier, and the screeching of the seagulls daily winging across the mountains from the Tasman sea to await my deliveries, I emptied the bins. There too I learnt the challenge of backing a trailer into mud and offal and black snow in a minimal turning space. Sometimes too the cleaning the grease pits, no pleasure at all.  The craggy wall of the glacier face was just a stone throw away, seeming terribly at odds with what I was doing.

In 2005 I returned as a tourist, to the exact same place. Well no, not the same place at all. What had been the rubbish dump was now a large lake extending kilometres down the valley, and the glacier previously a towering wall of ice oh perhaps 50m tall had receded some 6 or 7 kilometres back up up the valley.  There had been lake at all in 1966.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, small glacial lakes began to form at the terminus of the big glaciers. These lakes increase ice loss as ice at the front of the glacier calves (breaks off) into them. Many glaciers – such as the Tasman and Murchison Glaciers – are losing ice as their lakes grow.

It is predicted that these glaciers will have disappeared altogether not too far away.

1966 was not in fact my first visit to the Hermitage or Tasman glacier.  I had first come there in 1950 I think, aged five.  Or was it 1952 - not sure, look at the photos and tell me whether I am 5 or 7 in them.  In line with another blog article in which the question is posed as to when our first snow experience occurred, this trip to New Zealand was the occasion of mine. It was made in a flying boat from Rose Bay Sydney to Mount Manganui Auckland.  Ten hours flying at 1000 feet I think, my god was I sick!  I can still remember the smell of the reinforced paper bags!  But back to the snow.  We drove in an English Austin from Auckland to Rotorua, Mount Egmont, then to Wellington.  By Ferry to Christchurch, then South to Lake Wanaka, Queenstown and finally Mount Cook.  Christmas time and mid-summer, hot for new Zealand.

My parents and uncle when on a three day trek up the glacier over and across the range probably to the Fox glacier then back by plance.  As a 5-year old I got to experience a day on the glacier then stayed with my aunt at the Hermitage awaiting the return of the party.  My uncle as a photographer had captured the whole thing and later I saw photos of naive tourists (me!) drinking ice-water on a magazine front cover.

Note: the three colour glacier photos are from anonymous internet sources and unattributed.  The black and white photos were taken by my uncle.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2020-02-11 12:41:24 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Very close to where I grew up in Alberta, Canada, there is the Columbia Icefield Glacier. Very much like your Tasman Glacier it has been contracting dramatically since I was a child. It is still a tourist attraction, but is a sadly small version of its former self.

But as sad as it is, this is inevitable with the comings and goings of so called Ice Ages. I say 'so called' because there seem to be dramatic differences in scientific definitions of what exactly an Ice Age is. Some would have every Ice Age lasting millions of years, others having them come around every 100,000 years and lasting for 90,000 of those years and still others talking about mini Ice Ages that last a few hundred years. That's just a short list out of dozens of different ideas of what an Ice Age is.

In fact they are probably all right.

It makes me very sad to think that the Columbia Icefield Glacier is disappearing, but I take heart in knowing that likely, someday between 300 and 2.5 million years from now it will be back. Somebody (probably not humans) will be there to enjoy it again.

I know that's cold comfort but it's the best I can offer for those of us who miss the things that excited us so much in our youth that have since disappeared or are disappearing.

Very interesting blog. I much enjoyed it. 

#2020-02-11 12:52:13 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

BTW LaoGui, you have left me several 'messages' here that I can't respond to unless I publish them here. I sent you an email several days ago regarding the delay in posting this blog. Perhaps you could respond to that email and then we can continue the conversation privately. 

Thanks, John

#2020-02-11 14:51:09 by melcyan @melcyan

LaoGui, this is a good article but after reading it and John's response I feel depressed. I think I will make myself a drink with extra ice to help me feel better.

#2020-02-11 15:37:39 by melcyan @melcyan

@oldghost Are your old black and white photos stored digitally or as hard copies or both? I am yet to transfer all my photos and slides to digital. Do you still keep photos after they are digitised?

#2020-02-11 19:25:28 by oldghost @oldghost

I imagine the scale of the Rockies must be enormous compared with the New Zealand Southern Alps, and at 52degN they are much more Northerly than Aoraki is South (43degS).  Aoraki (Mt Cook) is the same height at 3700+ metres as Mt Columbia, and surprisingly the Aoraki parkland at 700+ sq km is twice the size of the Columbian icefield.  Further South is Fiordland, and another famous site I worked at, Milford Sound.  Incredibly beautiful as I'm sure the Rockies are too.  My purpose in this blog is dual - to comment on the travel and sights of New Zealand, and on the melting of the icefields

#2020-02-12 06:40:38 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@oldghost - I corrected the photos for you, but in the process changed the order of presentation. I also took the liberty of posting one of the old family photos on top of the blog as I thought that added a lot to the story being told. I hope that is ok.

#2020-02-12 07:57:42 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

With all due respect to the Aoraki parkland, the Columbia Icefield is located within Jasper National Park (10,878 km²), one of the most spectacular parks in Canada and the world. Connected to the southern border of that park is Banff National Park (6,641 km²), which is, if anything, even more spectacular and is one of Canada's top tourist attractions.

I grew up near Banff Park and had the privilege of residing in the Town of Banff for several years before China called me.

I currently am privileged to live at the foot of the Andes Mountains, which are stunningly beautiful in their own way, and which rise much higher on average than do the Rockies. Plus, since I am near the equator, I am not buried in snow for half of every year.

But the incomparable rugged beauty of the Rockies remains one of my fondest memories and I am growing an ever stronger urge to return there and spend my remaining days at the feet of those glorious peaks.

Your blog has added extra strength to that urge.

#2020-02-12 14:25:21 by oldghost @oldghost

@JohnAbbott righting the photos was more than fine, it was great, thank you.  How do I do that myself in future, and how do I promote a photo to the blog top?

@meicyan I have retained the originals, including my father's which go back to the American motor-torpedo in New Guinea 1943-4 - perhaps the same as JFK's boat - some photos from Humboldt bay scene of the Hollandia battle; only 8x5 or 10x6cm pre-prints I think.  He was a naval mercenary with the USN


#2020-02-24 21:15:22 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


Are you aware that the inscription on JFK junior's boat's engine said 'Make America Great Again'?

#2020-02-25 17:10:38 by oldghost @oldghost

No, not aware of such an inscription, and just a tad sceptical

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