Artist’s (i.e. Mike’s) impression of the Akaoa volcano.

By Evan

As this post is published, I should be sitting in the Sydney Airport, awaiting departure to Christchurch, New Zealand. Every two years, the PHD students at RSES plan a field trip to explore things of geologic interest in an area that is different from Canberra (you can only look at granites so much!)  We decided to explore the northern part of South Island, which has a ton of interesting things, including earthquake damage, volcanoes, faults, caves, glaciers, beaches, trilobites, dunite and dinosaur footprints! In the lead up to the field trip, we put together a massive 84 page field trip guide (complete with pie shop listing). Here is a description of our itinerary:

Day 1 – Akaroa, an extinct volcano near Christchurch

Day 2 – examining the damage done by the Christchurch earthquake last year, and various interesting sections through Castle Hill and Arthur’s Pass.

Day 3 – Viewing the Franz Josef and Foxe glaciers, and the Alpine Fault that cuts through the west coast of South Island

Day 4 – Looking for mantle xenoliths (chunks of the mantle incorporated into a younger igneous rock) in the Buller Terrane, the basement of the western side of South Island, also known as the Pankake Rocks. We also are looking at the Buller Gorge (who doesn’t love a giant crack in the earth?).

Day 5 – On this day, we see the median batholith (a large body of rock containing gabbros and granites). We are also seeing Harwoods Hole (oh no, New Zealand has a hole!).

Day 6 – This is a relatively short day, by the looks of things, where we are looking at the tectonics of northwestern Nelson.

Day 7 – We are looking at ultramafic (low silica) rocks in the Cobb Reservoir, an abandoned asbestos mine, and Trilobite Rock! I’m really looking forward to the fossils, even if they are pretty small.

Day 8 – This is the beach day, where we will go to Farewell Spit. I reckon it might be a bit cold for swimming, though. While there, we will take a look at some formations that are suspected to contain dinosaur footprints (from large sauropods).

Day 9 – The big hike of the trip, we are going to Dun Mountain to see the type locality of dunite – a rock primarily composed of olivine!

Day 10 – After a long hike, we are just going to have a relaxing day enjoying the scenery at Marlborough sounds, a series of river valleys flooded by sea level rise during the past 20,000 years.

Day 11 – Heading back towards Christchurch, we are going to look at some structural geology in the Marlborough fault zone.

As with any field trip, it isn’t just about rocks! We will be doing various social activities that will make this a fun trip of rocks and local brews! Of course, we are also going to help improve the statistics on pie consumption in New Zealand. There are 17 students going, so this is going to be a big event. We will be reporting on the trip when we get back in November!

View from Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku, which we should see on the final day. Photo taken by trip leader, Alex McCoy-West.