In 1861 Julius von Haast , Provincial Geologist of Canterbury, with Andrew Sinclair , Colonial Secretary, began the exploration of the Rangitata Valley glaciers. (Sinclair was later drowned while crossing the Rangitata River.) During the following year Haast, with A. D. Dobson , extended the survey to the Godley Valley and, later, to the Tasman, Hooker, and Mueller Glaciers.
The Murchison Glacier was viewed from the Mount Cook Range and the explorers then visited the Dobson and Hopkins Valleys. Haast also visited and named the Franz Josef Glacier; other West Coast glaciers were discovered, during the same period, by gold miners. Few records have been kept, but it is known that the La Perouse and Copland Glaciers were visited. During 1863 James Hector sighted the glaciers in the Mount Aspiring area when he explored the west branch of the Matukituki River and crossed to the Waipara and Arawata Rivers. In 1876, S. H. Cox and A. McKay compiled a geological map of the West Coast which showed the position of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Other famous explorers of the West Coast glaciers were G. Mueller , G. J. Roberts, C. E. Douglas, and A. P. Harper.