Frozen terminal lake, Tasman Glacier, South Canterbury
Lake Tasman is the terminal lake for the 29-kilometre long Tasman Glacier, the longest glacier in New Zealand. Together with the adjacent Hooker Glacier and numerous smaller glaciers, the Tasman Glacier drains into the turquoise Lake Pukaki to the south which itself occupies a glacial trough that was carved out by an enormous glacier during past ice ages.
After a particularly cold spell in the winter of 2001, Lake Tasman froze over completely. I was in the region a couple of weeks later, so I decided to detour up to the lake and have a look for myself at this uncommon sight. Sure enough, it was still frozen over when I got there, so a closer look was definitely warranted.
The entire lake surface, frozen to a depth of about 30 centimetres, was made up of thousands of interlocking semi-opaque ice polygons, each one separated from its neighbours by a 1-2 cm wide zone of clear ice. On top of this mosaic, thin, wedge-shaped patches of snow lay frozen to the surface, testimony to a recent light snowfall and strong winds blowing down from the glacier. The photographic potential seemed limitless. By walking out across the ice towards the centre of the lake, I was able to collect a handful of low-angle photographs looking across the ice, with the low winter sun sparkling out of a clear blue sky in the distance.