22 October, 1998

Thursday, October 22, 1998

Hi! Today I spent the morning around the NSF (National Science Foundation) office and caught up on e-mail and journal entries. I ran into Elissa Elliott, another one of the TEA teachers, and she had just arrived in Christchurch. It was great to see a familiar face...and we are hoping to get together while we are delayed. Elissa and her team will be going to an area of Antarctica called the Dry Valleys...it hasn't had precipitation in 2 million years! They will be studying the microbes that live in the frozen ice in the lakes of the Dry Valleys. I bet you are wondering...if they are called "Dry Valleys" then why are there lakes? See if you can find the answer to that one and write to me with your answers!

Since I am delayed in New Zealand, I have decided to keep my rental car to explore. I am getting pretty good at driving on the left hand side of the road, although I still have to remind myself to look to the right when making turns and going around a rotary (called a round-about here...a kind of a circular intersection). I also tend to turn on my windshield wipers instead of my turn signal...remember, everything in the car is backwards. I know that the local people can tell if you are visiting by the dumb things you do in the car...like turn on the wipers or go to the wrong side of the car to get in to drive. I am trying hard to fit in and not look like a tourist ! :)

I want to give you some facts on New Zealand, since I am going to be here a few days longer. New Zealand lies in the Pacific Ocean, about midway between the Equator and the South Pole. On a map of the world, it almost looks like it's a question mark shape. The country is made up of two main islands...the north island and the south island. A small island called Stewart Island makes up the dot at the end of the question mark.

New Zealand is a country of variety...in landscapes and in climates. Its north island is more subtropical, while the south island has some of the most spectacular scenery, with the mountains called the Southern Alps (which stretch for 650 kilometers). Mt. Cook is one of the best known peaks and the Tasman Glacier is one of the largest glaciers outside the polar regions. There are forests, fjiords, lakes, and waterfalls...all contributing to the beauty this country has to offer! It is truly a magical place.

This afternoon I visited a nearby town called Sumner to walk along the beach and explore. The tide was out and I found some tidepools in a rocky section of the beach. For those of you who have never heard of tidepools before, they occur when the tide goes out and leaves little pools of water (and ocean life) in a rocky area. They are fun to explore because you never know just what you'll find. I have always made it a habit to explore tidepools when I am in a new beach area...just to compare what I find in one place with that of another.

Today I was lucky to find sea anemones, mussels, limpets, barnacles, and a new creature...looked kind of like a barnacle, except it was long and thin and the little hair-like "legs" were black. When you put your fingers near these creatures, they quickly retreat back into their shells. When you touch a sea anemone, it feels a bit sticky and then it curls up its flower-like tentacles into a little ball. Look some of these creatures up in a field guide if you can. They wouldn't show up in a digital photo...but I know that Audubon has a wonderful field guide that would have beautiful pictures of these fascinating ocean animals.

After my walk alond the beach I drove up a road called "Taylor's Mistake" which wound up the hillside and then back down again to another protected beach. The views of the surrounding harbor were incredible. It's not hard to catch a super view in New Zealand...remember, access to the ocean is easy since it's surrounded by water.

Here are a few more basic facts about New Zealand...

Capital: Wellington (population 330,000)

Other Major Cities: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, and Napier- Hastings

Language: English is the official language, Maori is also spoken

Government: Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State, represented by the Governor General

Population: 3.4 million

Economy: New Zealand is the world's third largest producer of wool, the largest producer of lamb and mutton, and the largest exporter of dairy products. Exports of forest products are the country's second most important export earner. Tourism is a major source of income.

Later today I hooked up with Gary Wilson and joined him for dinner with some local friends. I say local, but Beth and Bob are really from the Denver area. They have been wintering over in Antarctica for the past four years. Bob works in the machine shop and Beth works in Crary Lab organizing things and cleaning everything up to get ready for the next field season. They love being down there, and have decided to stay each summer season in Christchurch. Beth returned from Antarctica in September because she needed to have knee surgery. Bob had just returned from the ice a week ago. One of the best things about this adventure so far has been to meet so many people with interesting backgrounds.

Good news today was that a C-141 Starlifter cargo plane finally got to land at McMurdo and with it...lots of supplies and people who have been trying to get there all week. That's good news for me, because it just means I'm closer to going! ASA (Antarctic Support Associates) has decided that tomorrow's flight needs to be a "cargo only" flight, with about 17 passengers. Gary is listed to go on that flight...he's needed down in McMurdo with the Cape Roberts Project because the core samples are going to start arriving in McMurdo soon.

They are saying that this is the worst it's been for nearly ten years...as far as getting people/supplies to and from McMurdo!

Please keep writing with your questions and comments. I have enjoyed the mail so far and would love to hear from as many people as possible. Enjoy your day, wherever you are!

Talk with you tomorrow!

Betty :)

One of the local beach areas near Christchurch...

Another beach shot...

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