2012 South Island of New Zealand

Photo courtesy: Aditya Chopra

In November 2012, 17 PhD students went on a field trip to explore the rich geology of the South Island of New Zealand.

On this trip they examined the damage caused by a major earthquake in Christchurch just the previous year. This was a unique opportunity for many of our students to understand the impacts of Natural Hazards beyond text books and see first-hand evidence of phenomenon associated with Earthquakes such as liquefaction and surface expression of fault motion.

Amidst rain and wind the group ventured on a hike to view up-close an exposed boundary between the Pacific plate and the Indo-Australian plate, the Alpine Fault. The scale and mechanisms of such geological action over millions of years can only be truly appreciated when they are right in the middle of it!

One of the highlights of the trip for students was a 24km hike up Dun Mountain - the namesake of 'Dunite' (a rock containing more than 95% olivine). This major lineament in New Zealand’s geology was a major contributor to the initial recognition of the 600 km of dextral slip on the Alpine Fault.

On their visit to the famous Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers the students were in awe as they were able to compare the rate of melting and recession of the glacier over many decades.

If one wants to experience a journey where forests and fossils, volcanoes and snow come together there are few places on Earth that would be more impressive that the South Island of New Zealand!

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