Aoraki/ Mount Cook and the Tasman Glacier

Where did that lake come from? I wondered, as I looked at the view of Aoraki/Mount Cook and surrounding mountain ranges by the Tasman Glacier. We visited in April 2018.


With only a few hours to spare, there was no time to do the Hooker Valley walk to get a close view of New Zealand’s, highest peak so we did what a lot of people do and drove to Blue Lakes Car Park. Here you can walk up 314 steps to the lookout point. A hundred years ago, the viewpoint would have been higher than it is today.

Not only do you catch a glimpse of Aoraki/Mount Cook on the far left but spread before you are a dozen other peaks, plus Rudolf and Murchison Glaciers.

The scene you observe is constantly changing and recently, more rapidly, due to the melting of the Tasman Glacier.

In 2004, the glacial moraine, an expanse of grey rubble, was the biggest part of the landscape and the lake was not very big, as you can you from the photo below. Around fifty years ago there was no lake here at all and since then the lake which formed has been increasing in size as a result of ice melt.


The glacial moraine, and by now the lake, hide the ice which is only a metre or two beneath the surface. This is hard to believe, especially in the above photo where the foreground resembles a moonscape or a quarry.

If you look closely at these ‘spot the difference photos’ you can see which one was taken in the summer - the mountain peaks have less snow on them.


Aoraki/Mount Cook: dual eponymy to describe mythology and history attached to New Zealand’s highest mountain. The indigenous Polynesian people, Māori, named it after the tallest son of the Sky Father.

Excerpt from Middle England to Middle-earth:

 The legend tells of how Aoraki and his three brothers were sons of Ranginui, the Sky Father. On a voyage around Papatūānuku, Earth Mother, their canoe was stranded after striking a reef. They climbed out onto the top of the canoe and the cold south wind hit them, freezing them and turning them to stone. Their canoe became the South Island, called Te Waka O Aoraki. The tallest brother, Aoraki, gave his name to its highest peak. The other brothers and crew members became the mountains of the Southern Alps.

In 1851, Aoraki gained the English name of Mount Cook, named after Captain James Cook who first circumnavigated New Zealand and put it on the map.

Aoraki/Mount Cook, 2004

Aoraki/Mount Cook, 2004

Julia, Henry and Freya 2018

Julia, Henry and Freya 2018