Mount Cook, New Zealand

Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak, with characteristic cloud.Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain. At 3754m it, like the rest of the Southern Alps, is a young mountain and is still growing at a rate of about 10mm a year. In 1981 a massive avalanche rock-fall knocked 20m off its height. There are 27 other peaks over 3050m in the eponymous National Park, which form the spine of the Southern Alps.

This still from an NHNZ Images movie clip shows the almost always present clouds. The prevailing westerlies are squeezed up by the mountains causing them to dump their rain load on the western side and accelerate down the eastern side of the Alps to produce very dry blustery gales across the Canterbury Plains.

Did Captain Cook ever see 'his' mountain? Probably not. He passed by twice in 1770 and 1773 but on both occasions southwest gales or drizzle and haze kept him well out to sea.

The mountain was first climbed on Christmas Day 1894 by three local 'amateur' climbers Tom Fyfe, George Graham and Jack Clarke. Fyfe had also recorded first ascents earlier in the same year for The Footstool, Mt de la Beche, and Mt Darwin.

Check out other interesting, intriguing and arresting images from the NHNZ stockshot library.