Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers Part 1 (more pics to follow with better internet connection)

Internet in NZ is expensive and difficult to find!  In NZ internet services charge by the amount of data transfered, so surfing the web ends up being really expensive.  Because of this, I started writing many of my posts a little while back and have been trying to upload whenever I can find the internet, but I just will not be able to upload all of my pics.  I decided to upload most of the story and a few pics as I go along, but I will try to upload the rest later.

We had 3 main goals of sights to see along the West Coast: the Fox Glacier, the Franz Josef Glacier and the Punakaki or pancake rocks. Being the glacier fanatic that I am, I could not pass up an opportunity to see temperate glaciers. What is better? On the west coast you can enjoy the trees, ferns, and other greenery right alongside the glaciers!

Enroute to the glaciers we passed through the town of Haast.  Apparently there is more to the town than we saw (a gast station, small store, and a motel).  However, we really just wanted to take a break from driving and spend a few minutes on the beach.

My mom trying to hide from the cold winds on Haast Beach
The drive out toward the coast through the mountains was simply stunning. Everywhere we looked we spotted these gorgeous waterfalls. They seemed to peak out through the trees on the mountains for a short while before the water plunged down into some hidden pool or river. Some of the waterfalls were so close that they spattered out into the road!
The walk out to the glaciers was a bit amusing. Yes I know they are rather commercialized but there was literally a packed path almost all the way out to the glacier. I am used to traveling for hours over really rough terrain via hiking, boat, and/or helicopters in order to arrive at the mouth of a glacier. Okay, it felt a little like cheating. However, I was really happy to get to share the experience with my mom and show her a little bit of the majesty of these amazing features I have traveled to the ends of the earth to study.  The walk out to the glaciers was also lined with gorgeous waterfalls. Here are acouple:

Although there are many of glaciers in the mountains in the Southern Alps of the Westland National Park of the South Island's West coast (I believe it is something like over 100 glaciers), the Fox (Te Moeka o Tuawe in Maori) and Franz Joseph Glaciers (Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere in Maori) are among the largest and most accessible.  The Fox Glacier is currently 13 km long and the Franz Joseph is a whopping 20 km long!  The area is fairly well controlled and regulated in terms of where you can go (unless of course you spring for one of the many tours).  However, via the free tromping path you can get fairly close to the glacier's mouth.  It made for quite a few good pictures!

Okay, so sadly my internet is just waaay too slow to upload the pictures.  I am trying to use this USB 3G antenna that my mom purchased for internet.  However, the signal is so low, it just won't upload the pictures (yes, AND movies Jeevan). I will have to get back to you with the glacier pictures (and movies) later.  Sorry! Stay tuned for more!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Adventure to Auckland Begins

My flight back to the states leaves the 12th of February – so I have about a week to get from south of the South Island to Auckland, which is about close to the top of the North Island.  Now that my work at the University of Otago is winding down, I hope to take this last bit of time and see as much of New Zealand as I can see! 

We rented a car and will head North up the West Coast from Dunedin to Auckland.  When we started our venture a few days ago, we headed out of Dunedin westward toward Queenstown – the adventure sport destination.  Due to the tourist-ey nature of Queenstown we decided to stay in the nearby Wanaka, which is still a bit touristy but yet is much smaller.  One of the roadside attractions while entering Wanaka is the Puzzling World museum.  For a fee guests essentially are mice in a giant labyrinth.  There are apparently tons of puzzles on the tables in the cafĂ© and several optical illusion rooms.  Although we didn’t actually pay to enter, we enjoyed watching people in the 2 layer maze and looking at the Leaning Tower of Wanaka!

The Leaning Tower of Wanaka!
We ventured around the lake on the little roads enjoying the brilliant blue coloring on road bikes and on foot!  It is really an amazing and unreal color.  I think these may be glacial lakes, which may explain the gorgeous coloring.  As the glaciers slide over the rocks, they grind the basal rock material into a fine powder, which reflects light in a really beautiful manner.  However, this is just my speculation of where the blue coloring comes from – I still need to do a bit more digging for this one! 

Snow Covered Peaks in the Distance!

Looking out over the lake
This was a river that flowed under a bridge that we rode our bikes over.  The colors were so pretty, pictures can't quite capture it!
The day we went out riding it was super windy.  The clouds were approaching lenticular shape (when they are really thin and spread out).  This only happens when there are really strong winds!
I love the rivers, they are so pretty.
We have a ways more to drive and New Zealand roads are crazy!  They are some of the most windy, narrow roads with huge elevation changes! We took what we thought was a shortcut over to Queenstown from Wanaka -- but soon realized that the "shortcut" was actually a mountain pass.  Our poor little rented Nissan was really struggling.
A scenic view on our "shortcut" over to Queenstown.
We spotted a bunch of goats climbing through the rocks on our way back to Wanaka!!
Goats!!  I think that says it all ... ;-)
Another Little Goat!
Next we are headed out and up the west coast hoping to find some tropical glaciers!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

University of Otago and Dunedin!

The past several weeks have really flown by here.  My first week in New Zealand was spent working at the University of Otago in Dunedin where my adviser is taking his sabbatical.  My work in Otago is slightly different from what I was doing in Antarctica (and it is much more lab-based). 

While in Dunedin I am staying with my adviser who lives on Baldwin Street.  This modest little street’s claim to fame is that it is literally the steepest street in the world at a 35% gradient!  As we turned the corner to Baldwin after Yo picked me up at the train station, I was at a loss for words.  Pictures do not do it justice.  However, it is pretty funny to see the sharp angle of fences and houses that line the streets.
A cat on Baldwin Street, posed on a fence post,  Note the angle of the fence!

My mom standing on Baldwin St.
An extremely angled fence in front of one of the Baldwin Resident's homes

Gorgeous sunset in Dunedin from the top of Baldwin St.
 This past week my mother arrived to hang out with me a bit before her race in Taupo, NZ (she’s racing the ironman in about a month!)  This past weekend, we decided to get out of Dunedin a bit to visit the Moeraki boulders.  These rocks are truly unique.  They form as calcite concretions due to calcite precipitation around any bit of material such as a shell, piece of wood, or fossils, which acts as a seed crystal that encourages mineral precipitation.  Concretions by definition are sedimentary rock (ie. mudstone, sandstone, etc) that has mineral cement (in this case calcite) that forms between the grains.  The Moeraki boulders are up to 2 meters in diameter and commonly form calcite, and less commonly dolomite or quartz, veins throughout the boulders. 

It was interesting to hike up along the dunes behind the beach, where you can see partially exhumed boulder in the mudstone.  As the elements continue to weather the rock unit, the boulders will continue to roll out onto the beach!But yes, you are probably saying, “enough science now, I want some pictures!”

Not a boulder -- just a really pretty piece of seaweed attached to a rock that was washed ashore
A perfect sphere amidst the broken remains of many eroded Moeraki Boulders!

Perfect ball markers out to the sea
The top of this boulder eroded away and the bottom half is buried in the sand.  It actually looks a little bit like some type of alien eggs!

The interior of a partially broken boulder
A parting shot of the boulders
Finally, one of my co-workers at the University of Otago (affectionally called the "Uni") said that any trip to Dunedin is not complete without at tour of the Speight's Beer Factory.  Speights Beer is "the pride of the South" and is ubiquitous throughout the South Island! So, after work last week, we went to take a tour of the brewery.  It was actually pretty interesting to see all of the stages of beer brewing, from mineral spring (where speights gets the waters for its beer) to the bottle! 

Bags and bags of malt!
Giant copper basins to cook down the malt.
The beer barrel chimmney at the Speight's factory.  The story behind the tower is that the architect's assistant doodled a beer barrel on top of the smoke stack as a joke.  However, the architect unknowingly took the plans to present to Mr. Speights who loved the design!
This is a picture of an old picture of how the malt used to be stored.  At some point the factory had a really bad case of mice.  Cats were introduced to get rid of the mice, but the cats had kittens and continued to multiply!  Can you spot the kitten in this picture?