A Māori oral legend about this glacier begins with a woman loved climbing the mountains and her named Hine Hukatere. One day she convinced her lover to join her. On this fateful day, an avalanche swept him to his death. Hine was devastated. In her sadness she cried seemingly endless tears and as they flowed down the mountain, over time they froze and become the glacier we see today. This legend is where the Franz Josef Glacier gets its Māori name “Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere” which translates to the tears of Hine Hukatere.
In many ways I was over the moon with gratitude for being able to visit, but I couldn’t ignore the pit that formed in my stomach as I really looked at my first glacier. The amount of glacier that stood in between the mountains saddened me, like it wasn’t an accurate representation, the glacier was minuscule in size compared to its surrounding landscape.
Suddenly the realization hit me, I had been looking at pictures of the glacier from the year 2008. The Franz Josef Glacier seemed to have decreased by half its size in ten years. The reality of global warming hit me harder in that moment than ever before, especially when I was told the fact that the highly coveted hike inside the glacier would no longer be possible in five years time. It made me wonder what else wouldn’t be possible in five years time.
My diverse hiking group eased my mind because they understood where my worries came from. If people from different ethnic backgrounds could understand where I was coming from then maybe there is hope that we’ll get our act together so a future with a living planet is possible.