by Brittany Holt
High: I have been in New Zealand for just over two months now. The first 6 weeks I spent on a geology field camp with 25 other students from America learning about how field research is done and putting that to practice, and I must say that the entire field camp was pretty remarkable. We got to travel all over the South and North Islands doing field work, spending a week each in Kaikoura (a small peninsula on the northeast coast of New Zealand, bustling with tourists and grazing cattle); Cass (one of the filming locations used in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe! Also a town with a population of 1 tucked into the foothills of the Southern Alps); Westport (an old mining town on the northwest coast of New Zealand, rich in both history and seal colonies); the Tongariro/Taupo Volcanic Zone (one of the most active volcanic zones in the world, and home to Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings); and Banks Peninsula (an ancient volcanic complex just south of Christchurch that forms a peninsula dotted with quaint, cozy bays and roaming sheep). All of the program leaders and guest lecturers were enthusiastic no matter how long of a field day we’d had, and we always returned to our field stations to delicious meals prepared by the two amazing cooks we had traveling with us. And let’s not forget the many lasting memories and friendships that were forged over the duration of field camp.
Low: I’ve tried picking my brain for any particularly low points over the last two months and not many come to mind: maybe the rainy and cold weather we had on the North Island – but the other five weeks of field camp the weather was beautiful! Perhaps a lingering feeling of homesickness – but our field camp instructors kept us way too busy to think about that, and anyways I was having so much fun! Or should I have felt more stressed from constantly traveling and living in close quarters with 25 other college students for six weeks? – but honestly our accommodations were pretty nice and the lack of Wi-Fi some weeks was more relaxing for me than I would have envisioned. So I guess I’ll just say that the end of field camp two weeks ago was the low; but even then, now I have the rest of the semester in Christchurch to look forward to!
Glitter: Most of field camp went like this (apart from a one day “vacation” in Punakaiki):
- travel to new destination
- do intensive field work all day and then work on assignments in the evenings
- repeat for four to five days
- complete major assignment for the field module
- travel to new destination the following day.
As exhausting as that was, our instructors made sure to set aside time for fun, and there were plenty of unexpectedly silly moments on their behalf. At the end of each field module our instructors would take us to a local pub to relax, chat, and have a beer. On a particularly rainy day on the North Island, we got to watch the Super Bowl in town instead of trying to do field work. One of our guest lecturers adored ice cream and scenery stops, so we got plenty of each that week. A different instructor did donuts on the beach in our 12 passenger van one day in Banks Peninsula. The same man also turned our entire field area into a game of Hot Lava, where the sand was lava, the rocks were safe, and the rules were strictly enforced as he leapt around the beach shouting “you’re dead!” whenever one of us touched the sand. The most literal glittery moment of field camp, though, was probably the night one of our fellow classmates built a bonfire for us all on the beach at our campsite in Punakaiki. Sitting in the sand listening to guitar and the crackling of the fire with the swell of the ocean in the background seemed good enough – and then while star-gazing, a group of three of us witnessed the same (and our first) shooting star in New Zealand.
Brittany Holt is a senior at Smith College majoring in geoscience. She is spending her last undergraduate spring abroad in New Zealand, where she first attended a 6-week geology field camp through Frontiers Abroad before starting a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Brittany loves being outdoors hiking, climbing, and exploring, and can’t wait to see what other adventures New Zealand has in store for her!