Earthquake causes glacier to calve

Last updated 05:00 23/02/2011

BABY BLUE: Mark Bascand from Glacier Explorers shows passengers one of the many icebergs that calved into Tasman Lake in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, because of Tuesday's earthquake.

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Glacier watchers on the Tasman Lake had an experience of a lifetime yesterday.

Two guides and 16 passengers were on two boats on the lake when the 6.3 magnitude Canterbury earthquake hit, triggering tsunamis and causing a massive ice calving off the glacier.

Aoraki-Mt Cook Alpine Village Ltd general manager tourism Denis Callesen said the guides were radioed from the village as soon as the earthquake was felt, so were able to prepare for the event.

Mr Callesen said the boats endured 30 minutes of tsunamis, up to 3.5 metres high.

Staff are trained for the event, knowing to turn the boats towards each tsunami and motor gently forwards.

About 30 million tonnes of ice calved – 1200 metres across the face, 30 metres above the lake and more than 250 metres below the surface to the bottom of the lake and back for about 75 metres.

Mr Callesen said it was either the third biggest, or second-equal biggest event in Tasman Lake's history.

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- The Timaru Herald

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