Also known as the Main Divide, a spectacular mountain range
that is the defining geographical
feature of the South Island
of New Zealand
. The Alps run the length of the South Island, largely up the center.
The Alps divide the South Island into the East Coast and West Coast. Because New Zealand is situated in the roaring forties the prevailing wind is a northwesterly. This wind is warm and picks up much moisture crossing the Tasman Sea, but when it hits the Southern Alps a Foehn effect occurs, the result of which is that the West Coast receives a lot of rain, while the East Coast is hot and dry.
They are the result of tectonic forces where the Pacific plate and Australian plate meet, and are a major source of earthquake activity. There are no active volcanoes in the Southern Alps, indeed the mountain chain was not formed through a volcanic process, but rather as a result of folding and faulting. However, there are a number of geothermal hotspots which have been tapped to form spas.
The Alps are most famous internationally for their appearance in the Lord of the Rings, though they are also used as the backdrop for many ads, especially for cars. In winter they are covered in snow and very much resemble the Rockies or the French Alps, and are home to the best ski fields in the Southern Hemisphere. In summer they are barren and rugged, with temperatures rising above 40 degrees celsius.