Pristine giants leave sightseers amazed

And still they come.

Mother Nature is putting on a once-in-a-lifetime show off Otago and it shows no sign of ending.

The two icebergs that drifted near the coast last week have moved north, but they have been followed by two more, with others possibly on the way.

Helicopters ferried sightseers to the bergs yesterday and a flight from Queenstown also got in on the action.

Helicopters Otago owner-operator Graeme Gale said viewing the icebergs was truly mind-blowing.

"Most people when they come back from a tourist trip say, 'That was great', and say thanks for the ride. But when they come back from this they are just totally blown away.

"Just the colour of the icebergs. The way there is no dirt, no marks, just this brilliant white colour. When these huge waves are pounding against them in the blue sea, it is just remarkable."

Mr Gale said people had come from all over the country and demand for seats on the helicopter flights was not dropping off.

Veteran Te Anau pilot Richard Hayes said the icebergs were a stunning sight.

He had been called in yesterday to help to take passengers for Helicopters Otago.

Mr Hayes said he had flown in the Antarctic but that was nothing compared with what he saw yesterday.

The way the icebergs contrasted with the blue water was spectacular.

Dr Pat Langhorne, a University of Otago expert in sea ice, went out yesterday for another look. She said they were just as stunning second time around.

Air Milford chief executive Hank Sproull took the first load of Queenstowners yesterday in his Cessna Caravan, which seats 11.

The plane was ideal for the trip, he said. "It's big, it's fast and quiet. You can do those legs without any problems and carry all the necessary equipment like liferafts.

"We had nine people on board and it was absolutely awesome.

"It took us about 45 minutes to get out there and then we flew around both the icebergs.

"I've never seen one myself. I was gobsmacked with the size of themand how beautiful they are."

Mr Sproull said Air Milford would fly to the icebergs as long as there was enough interest. The cost was $440 return from Queenstown. Flights from Dunedin cost $500.

The Civil Aviation Authority will travel to Dunedin today to inspect the helicopter operations taking sightseers to the bergs.

Communications manager Bill Sommer said: "We don't really have any CAA rules that deal specifically with icebergs, but we'll just be looking at the helicopter operations in the air and making sure people travelling out there have enough survival equipment and things.

"We understand no commercial operations have actually been landing on the icebergs. They've just been hovering above them."

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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