The 6.3 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand’s South Island on Tuesday apparently caused a massive iceberg, estimated at 30 – 40 million tonnes, to shear off from Tasman Glacier and drop in Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake, at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
In what must have been a truly spectacular glacier calving, the gigantic iceberg ripped off from the glacier within minutes of the earthquake that rocked the South Island, and crashed into the lake. Some chunks are now towering up to 50 meters – or 164 feet – above the lake.
“Within about a minute of that happening, the staff at the lake heard from five kilometers away (from the glacier) a sound that sounded like a rifle shot and then over the next two minutes all the events started to unfold”.
When it collapsed, it created waves up to three meters high (almost ten feet) in the lake for 30 minutes, rocking two sightseeing boats that were on the lake at the time.
Richard McNamara from the Department of Conservation did not witness it himself, but said if “it carved in one big lot; a face about a kilometer long carving is a spectacular sight.” The iceberg, he said, would then have popped up to the water like a porpoise before starting to break into smaller pieces.
The glacier was already at the tipping point, according to locals who had been expecting a major iceberg to drop from the glacier for the past month.
McNamara also believed that the timing may have been coincidental. “You could argue whether the earthquake precipitated it or not — the fact is that the terminal face was about due to carve anyway.”
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