Exploring the Earth and Sky of the West

HOLY CRAP ORION IS UPSIDE DOWN! and other New Zealand stories

So about an hour ago, I was hanging up my laundry to dry outside on my balcony when I happened to notice that there was a star visible in the small slice of sky visible between my roof and the apartment building next door.  This was significant because it marked the first time since arriving in New Zealand that the sky wasn’t 100% overcast at night.  This was further significant because it means I got to see southern constellations for the first time!  The fact that this was definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far may only serve to further affirm my nerdyness but for an avid amateur astronomer and astronomy major, this was big news.  I grabbed my iTouch (upon which I had installed an app called SkyVoyager specifically in preparation for this moment) and rushed outside.  Now the sky was only about half clear and I am in the middle of a pretty good sized city but it was still cool to see stars that I had never seen before.  The Southern Cross, Alpha Centauri, Magellanic Clouds, etc…were all visible.  The Southern Cross was shockingly underwhelming to be quite honest. The Big Dipper could kick it’s you know what (we’ll keep the blog family friendly for now…) any day.

Anyways, enough Astro babble.  I just got back from a 5-day field trip for the geology field mapping class that I’m taking down here.  Disregarding the fact that there weren’t enough cabins at the campground for everyone (as we had been told there would be), the fact that the tent to which I was assigned had fist sized holes in it and leaked like a sieve, the fact that trying to make a geologic map in the rain/wind is rather difficult and unpleasant, and the fact that I still have absolutely no clue what I was eating for lunch every day, it was a great trip.  There were about 70 students in the class making it a far larger operation that any Whitman geo trip I’ve ever been on.  We we’re camped near a place called Maerewhenua (pronounced Mar-eh-feh-new-ah or something close to that….) and spent the better part of four days combing over 70 square kilometers of sheep farms and river valleys making a geologic map of the area all while laughing uproariously (inside at least) at how all of the Kiwi’s pronounce “basalt”.  It was a decently scenic area and great fun when it wasn’t windy and raining.  With the exception of the aforementioned lunches, the food was excellent.  The university hires a local woman to come cook for us all week and on the last night, we even got to eat fresh lamb that she had brought in from her own farm earlier in the day!  Plus I somehow managed to only shock myself once on the 8-billion or so electric fences we crossed so I consider the week a roaring success.

Now for some pictures!   Given that it was raining most of the time, I actually didn’t take many pictures…at least not nearly as many as I would normally take over a 5-day span.  The fact that there is sunshine in many of the pictures does not imply that sunshine was frequent, just that that’s when I actually got the camera out.

Typical view of the field area

Maerewhenua River flowing past the campground

The awesome sign we got to set up along the road wherever we went

Part of the class checking out a limestone quarry

Hedgehog chilling in a cow pie

Elephant Rocks. Apparently scenes from the Narnia movies are filmed here although I'm not sure which ones since I only ever saw the first movie and even that was a long time ago.

Castle set used in the Narnia movies

That’s all for now.  Classes start tomorrow morning…finally. Feels weird to have academic obligations again after a 2+ month break.  I’ll post more pics of the Dunedin area later this week.

2 responses

  1. Jennifer Bearchell

    I was on Facebook to wish your mom a happy birthday and saw the link to your web-site. Stunningly beautiful! I’m just getting started seeing all the beautiful pictures and reading the cleaver and funny posts!
    Thanks Zach and hope for many more blessings on your time in New Zealand.

    March 27, 2011 at 6:56 am

    • Glad you like it! Hope all is well with you guys!

      March 28, 2011 at 1:20 am

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