Getting oriented round #2: University of Canterbury and around

Classes started this week: mineralogy, sedimentology, Maori Culture, and Directed research. It’s a great schedule with a heavy first half of the week that tapers off toward Thursday and Friday– I’m anticipating morning hikes and bike rides, maybe morning trips to the beach? I’m savoring the summer weather here while it lasts.

Next to the Moa at the  Christchurch Museum

Giulia and I next to the Moa at the Christchurch Museum

My friend Giulia visited this week (dear friend from adventures in Peru two summers ago, happened to be in the “area”), so after or before class we were off exploring the Christchurch/Canterbury region. In Christchurch, we explored the museum that had ample natural and human history of New Zealand. We sauntered through the sites that take advantage of the open spaces from the devastating earthquake in 2011.

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The Dance-O-Mat is a machine that (for $2) you can plug in your mp3 and blast music for 30 min from 4 speakers that surround a dance platform. It’s perfect for random dance parties, and apparently people host Zumba classes on occasion! Rebuilding was evident throughout the area and many buildings were still in shambles even after 4 years. Residents are frustrated with this, but to the visitor, it is incredible how much progress has been made. Shipping crates have been appropriated as storefronts and comprise the Re:Start mall in the center of downtown. There are coffee shops and retail stores and frozen yogurt stands within these shipping containers and it’s such a funky fun way of recognizing the destruction of the earthquake while intentionally moving forward.

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We also went to the Willowbank wildlife reserve (sort of like a zoo). We saw cute bunny rabbits (LOOK! SO CUTE!) and wallabies (ALSO CUTE) and kiwi birds (photos courtesy of Giulia). It  was fun to see all the native New Zealand animals in one spot, and to see a kiwi in the flesh/feathers (they are nocturnal, so we entered a dark habitat room and played eye-spy kiwi edition).

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We explored the Port Hills to the south of the city and went on a hike called Bridle Path. We took the P bus into the city center and caught the 28 to Lyttleton that dropped us off at the Christchurch Gondola where we found the trailhead and started the upward journey. It was a steep climb but we reached the top in 30-45min. We climbed down the other side (for 1.5hrs of walking one way) into the small port town of Lyttleton and treated ourselves to a lunch of fish and chips. We were amply refueled for the walk back (another 1.5hrs). Giulia is an ornithologist/bird queen and it was such a joy to have her pointing out the European species that the British brought over to help NZ feel more like home, and to identify the native species.

This silver-eye was one of the cute little birdies we saw! Photo creds to Giulia

This silver-eye was one of the cute little birdies we saw! Photo creds to Giulia

We took a food tour of south and southeast Asia, eating Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Indian food (restaurant Arjee Bhajee for Indian was insanely good) during the week. Our tastebuds were happy and an otherwise hectic week was pacified by hanging out with a great friend.


Banks Peninsula and out of the Field

Decanter Bay-- my team's mapping site for our last field module

Decanter Bay– my team’s mapping site for our last field module.

I’m out of the field (for now at least) and it’s a little jarring to be back in reality. I just registered officially at UC and have a new student ID and class schedule and everything. My flatmates are from Finland and France and it’s odd to feel “international” and starkly American. I can pick out other Americans easily– neons against natural tones and I sort of hope that I’m not as glaringly distinct.

A dome!

A dome (where lava exited the earth)!

We were camping this past week as opposed to the field stations we had been staying in throughout field camp. It was nice to wake up and walk over fallen pine needles to the bathroom, and feel the cricks in our shoulders and necks from sleeping on our semi-padded ground.


View of Decanter Bay from the beach during low tide.

This area has not been mapped extensively before, so we split up into groups of 4 or 5 to conquer lava flows. My group headed to Decanter Bay– a privately owned bay in Banks Peninsula.


Sheep crossing in front of the van: typical New Zealand.

After three days of mapping, we were sitting on the beach and had a few hours before we would be picked up by one of the vans. Three children came up to us and proceeded to interrogate us about volcanoes and daringly teased us with sheep poop. For two hours, we became a horde of 10-11 year olds and played hide and go seek and tag and this new game avoid-getting-sheep-poop-thrown-at-you. The last one is a toughie. And we spent many minutes giving piggy-back rides. They clung to our pant legs and begged us not to leave. The hours with them equaled in exhaustive energy to the field days!


Our map in progress, mapping the old lava flows.


Seal in the mapping area! I think it’s posing for us. Also who dyed the water such a vivid turquoise?

We are all working on our Directed Research projects, and I opted for developing a Virtual Field Trip/Experience for a geology field exercise we had done on Mt. Doom. It will be a challenge and also an insight into how learning works, and what makes an effective learning program. Lots to read and lots to play with Google Earth. Semester starts on Monday!


Another beautiful bay for a group mapping day.

From Westport to Ruapehu and Mt. Doom

We went from a beach house to a ski lodge: Westport to Ruapehu.


Lunch spot in Westport, watching the tide roll in over metamorphic rocks

Westport was an academic feast and we learned structure and mineralogy and stared at cute seals (mommas and babies and poppas) for hours. It was a gentle field environment, and a race against the tides to get to various outcrops on the shore platform (outcrop= rock exposure. Shore platform= the flatter part of the beach notcovered by water).


Can you see all the seals? Spot the baby!


It became more and more beautiful every time we turned the corner to a new portion of our field site.

One plane ride and 5 hours of driving later, we arrived on the North Island at the infamous (Mt. Ngauruhoe) Mt. Doom’s neighbor, the volcano Ruapehu. There’s a beautiful Maori story about the string of volcanoes in the area, and it’s impressive that the volcanoes are active and need constant monitoring in order to avoid disaster via eruption.

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On our first full day, we completed the Tongariro Crossing (see picture of trailhead above); one of the Great Walks that takes us alongside Mt. Doom. The 19.4km trek was cold and misty and rainy (see picture of me and Ashley) and cloudy and we saw little but the 100ft in front of us. We were required to wear high-vis vests and we donned them with the sarcastic and dorky response they deserved. The clouds lifted for a moment as we walked down a ridge and exposed some emerald green geothermal pools and we saw craters in the area and fumaroles smoking. The walk could have easily been miserable, but we were all so excited to be near such a prime Lord of the Rings site that we could not be brought down. It was less of a geology day and more of a recon-get a feel for the area day. Lots of pumice– do New Zealanders have the smoothest feet?

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We spent succeeding days mapping lava flows and geothermal pools. The geothermal day, we finished mapping and threw on our bathing suits. After loading up the vans, we drove and, because of timing, arrived at the bank of a river and ran up to the bridge 7-8m above the water and jumped in. Still high on adrenaline, we loaded up the vans again and drove to natural geothermal pools that wouldn’t scald us. Our professors handed each of us a beer and encouraged us to cool the drink in the cold river water that intersected the hot geothermally heated river water. The late dinner time that night was well worth the adventure.

A film site for Lord of the Rings and our mapping area for the (very cold) day.

A film site for Lord of the Rings and our mapping area for the (very cold) day.


View of Ruapehu from a mapping site (lots of pumice!) in an abandoned stream bed. Some pumice was pink!

Same duration of journey back to the South Island, and now we’re moved into our student apartments and ready for our last week of field camp and the start to our own Directed Research.