Castle Hill Basin: geologized

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Lord of the Rings film site on the way to Castle Hill Basin

Cass was up in the mountains just before Arthur’s Pass. Our mapping area was Castle Hill Basin, just below where the final fight scene in the Narnia movie– The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe– was filmed (watch the last 30 minutes, and there is where I spent the week mapping). The scenery was unreal– no wonder they chose it for Narnia! Also some Lord of the Rings filming occurred in the area, and we think it was the Riders of Rohan, but we’ll have to verify that.

The Kea

The Kea.

Along the way, we encountered the Kea, the world’s only mountain parrot and a trickster who will steal anything shiny.

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River crossing all day, using linked arms for safety.

The fieldwork was not easy: the structure of the folds was complicated and involved a lot of faulting and poor places to measure and the topography was hilly and steep. But it was really really FUN. I was pretty terrified at first to be scrambling up steep hillsides and scrambling down scree slopes but I got more used to it by the end of the week. The mapping area contained almost all sedimentary rocks, so the slopes were not so stable. One day it was particularly windy and we had to climb up to the top of this ridge, and at the top, braced against outcrops of limestone and spikey Matagari bushes.

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Looking at an outcrop on a hillside. John Bradshaw is in his 70s and was running all over the basin showing us cool geology while we tried to keep up. Note the steep grade of the hill.

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View of the mapping area from a ridge we climbed up to see limestone outcrops. We climbed out the hills (Sow’s Hill) in the middle of the photograph.

View from the top of Sow's Hill.

View from the top of Sow’s Hill.

Panorama view from Sow's Hill.

Panorama view from Sow’s Hill.

All that work paid off and the mapping itself was less daunting than it initially seemed: we mapped 12,000 sq. meters. At the end of the week, we went to Barrytown (population 1= Barry himself, the only permanent resident in Cass) who opened up his pub and we made dinner on the grill and laughed at the silliness of a group of geologists hanging out together and getting each other’s jokes.

Pancake Rocks at our rest day in Punakaiki

Pancake Rocks at our rest day in Punakaiki.

We then drove up to Punakaiki—a beach town to have a free day and two nights of camping on the beach. We saw the pancake rocks and walked on pebbly beaches and up rushing rivers. We saw the Southern Cross and Orion upside down in the expanse of the Milky Way. I slept in for once. The ocean was chilly and wavey and I got kicked off the beach by the high tide. It was a great break.

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View of our camping area from the Pancake Rocks.

Just arrived in Westport for field module 3 with lots of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Lots to learn and beautiful scenery to gawk at!

The team for the week: Jack, Emily D., Me, and Sarah. Lots of teamwork!

The team for the week: Jack, Emily D., Me, and Sarah. Lots of teamwork!

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Kaikoura Peninsula South Bay: mapped

We were out in the field every day this week in very very cold weather to very very hot weather, sometimes changing the span of a few hours. A typical day was out in the field from 9:30a.m.-5:30p.m., sometimes earlier and/or later, but always rewarding and lots of new information filing into the brain.

Cormorant (or Shag in NZ)

Cormorant (or Shag in NZ)

They're my friends, I promise, and not just for scale!

They’re my friends, I promise, and not just for scale! L-R: Alex, Hannah W., Jack.

Variable oystercatchers hanging out in mapping area

Variable oystercatchers hanging out in mapping area

Mapping crew!

Mapping crew! L-R: Alex, Hannah W., me, Jack.

The culmination of a week of lots of field work. Highly satisfying to see it all mapped out.

The culmination of a week of lots of field work. Highly satisfying to see it all mapped out.

We are spoiled with homemade cooking and dessert every night (a grandmother literally makes us our meals) with great variety for field sandwiches and snacks to pack out. There is always oatmeal for breakfast. My tummy is happy and I’m feeling worked, which is always welcome. There is a nerdy language that the people here speak, and it’s a fun banter. Onto field site 2, Cass, tomorrow!

There and back again: New Zealand

I liked New Zealand before I landed.

The airline was flawless: endless movies to watch. (I watched 3: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, and-yup- Frozen. Not all in a row. Watched 2, slept, then Frozen.) They had food and snacks and I didn’t even have to pay for them (cough-United’s 5 hour flight Chicago to San Francisco had NO complementary snacks -cough- good thing mom threw in some trail mix.)

Snack on the NZ flight! They give snacks on air NZ? Cookie company from Christchurch.

Snack on the NZ flight! They give snacks on air NZ? Cookie company from Christchurch.

Welcome on the NZ airline safety card in the front seat-pocket.

Welcome on the NZ airline safety card in the front seat-pocket.

After a time-warped two days of travel (what happened to January 5th? I think I skipped it…) I landed in Christchurch and met the people I’ll be spending the next 5-6 weeks with. After a few hours of un- and re-packing our bags with just necessities to take into the field, we piled into vans and drove 3 hours north to Kaikoura. We’ll be spending a week here, on the coast, getting oriented and learning the ropes.

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View from the road in front of the research station when the clouds lifted for 2 hours today. It has been chillier than expected, but when the sun breaks through it gets HOT. There is a hole in the ozone right over New Zealand, so sunburns are a possibility. I’m lathering thoroughly with SPF.

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The day was mostly grey and dreary cold. There are these fantastic limestone formations that have been uplifted just up the road. Everyone is geeking out.

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Looking for sea lions, and walking on rocks with friends.

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There’s a sea lion in the middle!!! He blends in quite well. Fuzzy brown guy…

  I think I’m going to continue to like it here a lot. I’m surrounded by geology nerds, and it’s a wonderful crowd. Also everyone has been exposed to Lord of the Rings and is also geeking out about the possibilities of traveling to movie locations. My brain is ready to learn some more about rocks and my mouth ready to gawk at the beautiful landscapes. I drank 3 L of water today. There is hot water (?!?!?!) to shower with. Different from Costa Rica, but reminders of everywhere are always and obviously here.