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Franz Josef Glacier

Eighteen thousand years ago the Franz Josef Glacier/ Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere stretched to the sea and beyond. A slight increase in atmospheric temperature has led to a glacial retreat on the West Coast over the years, along with periodic and short-lived advances.

The Maori name for the glacier is Kā Roimata o Hinehukatere (The tears of Hinehukatere). Local Makaawhio people (members of Ngāi Tahu iwi/tribe) relate the tradition that Hinehukatere was extremely strong and fearless and loved climbing in the mountains. She persuaded her lover Wawe to climb with her. Wawe was less experienced in the mountains, but enjoyed accompanying his beloved. Disaster struck when an avalanche swept Wawe from the peaks to his death. Hinehukatere was broken-hearted and her tears flowed down the mountainside. The gods froze them in the form of the glacier as a reminder of her grief.

The Waiho or Waiau River was originally a steep gorge. The first swing bridge over the river was built so high above the river bed that West Coast aviation pioneer Bert Mercer (1886–1944) was able to fly under it in his Fox Moth in a one-off stunt flight.

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