A few months ago, when I was doing my research for the trip, I came across an interesting tour, which takes you on a boat out onto the Tasman Lake, pretty close to the Tasman Glacier. The Tasman Glacier tour was starting at 9.15am and I got to The Hermitage Hotel for 9 o’ clock. Glacier Explorers who run the tour, asks all their customers to sign a “no claims form” to say that they won’t make a claim against the company if you get injured, have an accident, or fall into the water etc.
I reluctantly filled in the form. I say reluctantly because I guess even though you’re advised to have travel insurance, I didn’t like that option of being able to claim insurance against the company, taken away from me, especially if it happens to be their fault. Anyway there were about sixteen people on the bus. Stuart, our guide explained to us what we would do on the tour, about the Tasman Glacier and the geology of it. He was very good, I thought, with a good sense of humour.
The Tasman Glacier is the largest glacier in New Zealand and is receding by three hundred metres every year. We had a ten minute drive up the Hooker Valley road and then a twenty minute walk to the lake. The weather was fabulous – blue skies and warm sunshine. When we got to the lake, we were given life jackets to put on and had the option to leave our bags behind, which would be locked up in a container. We were divided into two groups. I was on Stuart’s boat. There were a lot of glaciers floating on the lake, all different sizes, shapes and colours.
One had a really glassy look to it, like a massive ice cube. Stuart said that this iceberg had rolled itself over only in the last hour. The icebergs are constantly trying to keep 10% of their mass balanced on the water and when some of it melts, it has to re-balance itself, so sometimes it rolls itself over to do this. He said that it would soon crystallise and turn white, like all the other icebergs on the lake.
The closest they can take us to the Tasman glacier on the boats, is six hundred metres away. It’s too dangerous to take us any closer because of the possibility of ice falling off the glacier. The water was a milky grey colour, formed from the “rock flour” of the glacier and the water temperature was two degrees. Stuart told us that we could stick our hands in the water for ten seconds to feel how cold it was and my God, it was bloody freezing! We stayed on the lake for about an hour and we couldn’t have had a better day for it. I really enjoyed the tour and it was well worth the money I paid for it – 140 NZD and no one fell in the water, luckily!