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A Bittersweet Reminder of Global Warming

Excuse my absence from Gadling for the last couple of months. but I've been discovering what's new and different in the South Island of New Zealand for the next edition of Lonely Planet's guide to my home country. Normally my LP ventures with laptop and notebook take me overseas, but it's been kind of cool to poke around off the beaten track in my own backyard.

Between being surprised by the increasing number of great Kiwi microbrews and dangling off a hang glider above Queenstown, the most bittersweet memory is an excursion by inflatable boat onto the waters of Lake Tasman. The lake's just three decades old, and its increasing size is being fuelled as global warming melts the Tasman Glacier, still New Zealand's largest river of alpine ice, but 5 km shorter than it was 30 years ago.

The lake's now a similar length and dotted with icebergs of all shapes and sizes that are continually rearranged by the mountain winds like giant floating chess pieces. The crystalline ice is up to 500 years old, and a lack of air bubbles trapped from earlier centuries produces an almost diamond hardness.

Out on the lake, a surprising late spring overnight snowfall had settled on the icy monoliths, and the gossamer sprinkling was enough to disturb the delicate balance of several icebergs that turned and rebalanced during the early morning.

Beautiful yes, but also a poignant and tangible reinforcement of the impact of climate change.

Filed under: Hiking, Paddling, Oceania, New Zealand, Ecotourism

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