For the second time in four years, a flotilla of icebergs, perhaps 100 or more, are bearing down on New Zealand.
The icebergs are potentially dangerous to ships, of course, but also represent a boon for some tourism companies.
Monday, the tourist ship Spirit of Enderby spotted an iceberg estimated to be 500 feet long floating 60 miles northeast of Macquarie Island, about 500 miles south of New Zealand. Earlier this month, Australian researchers observed a group of 20 icebergs drifting past the island.
Ocean currents are carrying the icebergs toward New Zealand from Antarctica, where they originated. Whether or not global warming is responsible for this phenomenon is a matter of debate. On the one hand, ice has been breaking off Antarctica’s ice shelf at an increasing rate in recent years as global temperatures have risen. On the other hand, the icebergs are not melting as fast this year due to an unusual cold snap in the New Zealand region, where it is now late spring.
In 2006, a mass of icebergs got so close to New Zealand that they were visible from shore for the first time in 75 years. Helicopters carried tourists from the islands on sightseeing excursions to the icebergs, some of which were inhabited by penguins.
What would it cost you to fly to New Zealand from Chicago and spend a week enjoying spring weather and potentially going on a helicopter ride to an iceberg? Figure on a minimum of $3,000 per person. Plan on spending at least 19 hours in transit each way. Flights to and from Chicago connect in places like Los Angeles, Honolulu, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Japan. Qantas and Air New Zealand are generally the options in and out of Auckland, New Zealand.
Auckland, by the way, is on New Zealand’s North Island. If you want a chance to see the icebergs from shore (keeping in mind there’s no guarantee this is going to happen this time around), you’re probably going to have to get to the South Island, which means adding a flight or a ferry trip to Christchurch.
Still, if time and money are no obstacles for you, it might be a lot of fun!