Week 1 – Kaikoura, East Coast, South Island:
It took longer than expected for all 31 students to arrive, but has been a spectacular week so far. Immediately upon arrival we drove north from Christchurch to the small fishing town of Kaikoura, where everyone got to know each other through games and conversation. The first day’s scavenger hunt and survival hut building competition allowed for both entertainment and familiarizing ourselves with the Kaikoura Peninsula. Introductory map and compass lessons were supplemented with hands-on field techniques in the New Zealand sunshine. Kiwi Dan Rivers lead the group through a full day of landscape sketching lessons and helped with several visualization techniques. His help allowed everyone to capture outcrops and small features with higher accuracy and detail.
We spent the week constructing a bedrock geologic map of the South Bay region of Kaikoura Peninsula. The area includes multiple faults, folds, seals, and fossils throughout five geologic units. Thankfully, Mother Nature provided plenty sunny days and swimming opportunities throughout the week, allowing for a combination of hard work and dedicated relaxation. Students worked independently in small groups to tackle the complexities of the large field area, a difficult task for many beginner field geologists.
Weekend – Abel Tasman National Park, South Island
We spent three days at Abel Tasman National Park for our Rest and Relaxation time. Many students took long runs and hikes to Tinline Bay, Apple Tree Bay, and Anchorage, stand up paddleboarded in the waves, and sea kayaked along the seashore. The nights were filled with cook-offs, star gazing, and late night beach walks, accompanied by much fun and numerous games. Everyone enjoyed the perfect weather, wonderful company, and break from geologic mapping.
Week 2 – Castle Hill, Arthur’s Pass National Park, South Island
This week at field camp, the students used the basic skills they learned at Kaikoura in a much more complicated setting, the Castle Hill Basin. The University of Canterbury’s field station at Cass was our home base for six days, and Darren and Sam were replaced by Brendan Duffy, Jonathan Davidson, and Josh Borella as teachers for the week. We spent four days in the field mapping outcrops of various limestone and sandstone units, while bushwhacking through spike-filled Matagouri bushes, crossing back and forth through Cave Stream and the Broken River, battling biting flies, and scrambling up and over steep hills and ridges. Though it was a tough week, both physically and mentally, the students excelled and managed to produce a detailed geologic map of the area, as well as a cross-section, which shows how the different layers of rocks are folded, faulted, and plunging in the subsurface. We also explored a 300 meter-long limestone cave, which allowed the students to see the rocks in three dimensions. The last day was a map-making frenzy, followed by a fun BBQ at “Barrytown,” a pub named for and run by the only permanent resident of the Cass settlement. After this week, the group splits into two different streams; the Volcanology group heads to Westport and then the North Island, while the Active Tectonics group heads to Hari Hari and then back to Kaikoura.
Week 3 – Active Tectonics Stream, West Coast, South Island
The Active Tectonics stream took to the beautiful West Coast for a week of studying the Alpine Fault, Franz Josef Glacier, rock avalanches, landslides, floods, and associated hazards. Students witnessed mechanical fluidization from a large rock avalanche and grew familiar with both the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. The next day was spent viewing the Franz Josef glacier and examining the possible hazards associated with the town of Franz Josef (i.e. landslides, earthquakes, flooding, exploding gas stations, etc.). We spent the next several days of sunshine bush whacking through the dense forest to gain access to spectacular (albeit hidden) outcrops of the Alpine Fault. These exposures were some of the rarest and best examples of an active tectonic fault in the country. Having the opportunity to study the Alpine Fault with several professors who published their Ph.D’s on the area was a once in a lifetime experience for the students. After completing several homework exercises, everyone relaxed in the natural hot springs under the stars and at the local pub before departing the West Coast.
Week 3 – Volcanology Stream, Upper West Coast, South Island
After saying goodbye to our Active Tectonics friends, the Volcanology group headed west to stay at UC’s plush Westport Field Station for the week. Teachers for the week included the Stupendous Sam Hampton, Lengendary John Bradshaw, Audacious Anekant Wandres, and Lazy Lorelei Curtin. Students were exposed to a variety of rocks and structures associated with a rifting event about 100 million years ago that separated New Zealand from Antarctica. They explored different parts of a metamorphic core complex and basin-fill sediments including breccias, stream deposits, and the Brunner Coal Measures. To the excitement of many, we also saw our first igneous rocks of the trip, including several granite units, a mind-boggling porphyry, deformed pegmatites, and an ancient hydrothermal system. A visit to the old coal mining town of Denniston and the Denniston Plateau exposed the students to some of the history of the region. The free day at the end of the week was spent indoors hiding from a vicious rainstorm, completing the week’s assignments, and trying to consume copious amounts of leftovers from Magical Matt Hanson’s cooking over the week. Next up: no, we won’t simply walk into Mordor; two days of traveling to the North Island will get us to the Taupo Volcanic Zone!
Week 4 – Active Tectonics Stream, Kaikoura, South Island
The Active Tectonics Stream returned to Kaikoura for a week of examining the Hope Fault, one of the main tectonic faults in the South Island, and related bedrock structures within the Kaikoura Peninsula. The majority of the week was spent mapping a small area named Spaniard’s Bay, where faulting and folding of the rock has created an extremely interesting yet difficult area to analyze. Students traced contacts between the two major rock formations on their maps, as well as all other faulting and folding related geological features. We spent hours during high tide climbing the surrounding hills and terraces, mapping the different heights of the terraces, and understanding the local geomorphology. Using the heights of the terraces and current sea level, the group was able to date each terrace and determine how fast the uplift rate of the Kaikoura Peninsula is, as a result of the Hope Fault. The intense activity was broken up by a much needed day off on Friday,which consisted of catching up on sleep, exploring downtown Kaikoura, and relaxing at the local park. Everyone got to enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the best fish and chips places in New Zealand.
Week 4 – Volcanology Stream, Taupo Volcanic Zone, North Island
After a day off in Christchurch, the Volcanology students hopped on a plane to Auckland and joined a group of Canterbury students at the Whakapapa ski village on the flanks of Mt. Ruapehu, an active stratovolcano. Our first full day in the area was spent hiking the beautiful Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks.” The hike included an introduction to looking at the volcanic deposits of Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe including lava flows and ignimbrites by Darren and Ben, and a short talk by TA and Master’s student Rebecca Fitzgerald on her research, which focuses on the ballistics ejected from Te Maari crater during its 2012 eruptions. Seeing a crater still steaming from a recent eruption was exciting for everyone! More lava flows and an ancient geothermal system were examined on Mt. Ruapehu, and a day trip to Rotorua exposed the students to the workings of an active geothermal system, including hot springs and bubbling mud pots. Students also mapped more ignimbrites; these deposits are from the large caldera volcanoes in the TVZ. The last day was spent doing a volcanic eruption simulation, where each student was given a specific role on a science or emergency response team, and they had to manage an unpredictable and fast-paced possible eruption sequence for the Tongariro complex. After a wonderful week on the North Island learning the basics of volcanology, the students are prepared to put their new skills to work on their independent projects on the Banks Peninsula!
Week 5 – Active Tectonics Stream, Christchurch, South Island
The fifth and final week of field camp focused on collecting data for both group and independent research projects which will be continued throughout the remainder of the semester. Students primarily worked at many locations, including the Springfield Fault near the town of Springfield, Sullivan Park in the center of Christchurch, Rapaki on the Banks Peninsula, and the Greendale Fault near the town of Greendale. Although these locations varied greatly, they were all incredible locations to investigate active tectonics related to the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch Earthquakes.
After trenches were excavated at the Springfield and Sullivan Park locations, groups of students were able to methodically create a log of the trench describing the location and content of each sedimentary and liquefaction layer. Projects at Rapaki focused on dating large vehicle sized boulders that fell off a nearby mountain side, causing roads, cattle, and houses to be destroyed. Understanding where these rocks originated from, and what caused them to fall in such a damaging manner, is fundamental for protecting the town of Rapaki from further rock falls. One of the projects at the Greendale Fault used ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography to investigate the subsurface without having to dig large, often environmentally damaging, trenches into the ground. Work at these sites will help create a better understanding of the instigation and damaging effects from local earthquakes.
As field camp draws to a close, students begin to move into their dorms at Ilam Apartments and the Frontiers Abroad house, befriend Kiwi students, and will attend their first classes in New Zealand next week.
Week 5 – Volcanology Stream, Banks Peninsula, South Island
The entire volcanology group was sad to leave their previous field area, the Taupo Volcanic Zone on the North Island, but after a tiring 5-hour drive to Auckland and short flight back to Christchurch, the Volcanology stream was prepared for more exciting activities. The students enjoyed a couple days of camping in Okains Bay celebrate Waitangi Day, a celebration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi giving the Māori rights to their land. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful bay scenery and the Māori Colonial Museum, where Kiwi locals frequent to celebrate the holiday. Additionally, students were exposed to traditional customs such as a Hangi-cooked feast, Māori performances, and the paddling of a ceremonial waka war-canoe during the celebration.
After the holiday, Professors Sam Hampton and Darren Gravely and TA’s Alison Jolley and Simon Bloomberg led the group during a brief introduction to the volcanic history of Banks Peninsula. The students visited unmapped volcanic deposits near the Montgomery Reserve, Pa Bay and Goat Rock Track. Additionally, students were introduced to culturally significant locations in order to gather geoheritage data for a potential geopark site. The volcanology stream was divided into groups of 3-4 for individual research projects that would culminate in three days of independent fieldwork. Each group mapped different locations and everyone had a designated role in data collection. After mapping group areas, some revisited the perplexing volcanic flows within Pa Bay, while others studied Raupo, Stoney, and Lavericks Bays for their independent research projects. Overall, the students acquired excellent data, samples, and photographs for their semester long research projects at the University of Canterbury.