Wednesday, January 17, 2018

17 January 2018: Christchurch: Antarctic Centre

By Sam Keeney (Nursing ‘20)

Today, we went to the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch. It has a museum covering the history of Antarctica including the geology and various expeditions, some of which are on going. In addition to that, there is also a center for Little Blue Penguins and White-Flipper Penguins. They had 15 total, and each penguin was there because they could not survive in the wild. Most of them had suffered a traumatic injury that left them disabled. Amusingly enough, they even had a penguin that was afraid of water. Our tour guide Diane allowed us to see the penguins up close and told us about about how they came to the exhibit. After a tour of their tank and how they are cared for, Diane fed them their breakfast which was fun to watch.

Diane, the penguin keeper, discussing the webbed feet of ‘Squirt’, the Little Blue Penguin.

Emily Stanek (Nursing ‘19) looks on at “Squirt”, the Little Blue Penguin, during our backstage visit at the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch.

The Antarctic Center had a room which simulated an arctic storm. The room dropped to 17°F and had 25 kph winds. Everyone was definitely shivering after a minute or two and stepped back out into the relatively warm museum. Once we were done with the exhibit we headed outside where an animal rescue group had some huskies for people to meet which was a pleasant surprise. 

Our crew after we experienced an ‘Antarctic storm’!

After our experiences at the Antarctic Centre, we drove back into Christchurch for lunch. We had the rest of the day to ourselves and explored the city of Christchurch. Overall today was a very good day. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

16 January 2018: Dunedin to Christchurch

By Ray Shepherd (Nursing ‘21)

Our group giving some perspective on the size of the Moeraki Boulders!

A quick pose with the director of the Otago University Anatomy Museum, Chris Smith. Thanks for being so accommodating!

Our group in front of a silhouette of a Northern Royal Albatross (the red bird).

Our students observing several Northern Royal Albatross incubating their eggs at the colony site at Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula.

Hiltrun Ratz, Research Scientist, talking to our group about the Little Blue Penguin colony located at Pilot’s Beach on Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula.  Fantastic basic biology being studied by Hiltrun!

Monday, January 15, 2018

15 January 2018: Queenstown to Dunedin

By Sara Wernick (Sociology ‘20)

Today began with a huge adrenaline rush. Jenna, Amanda, Harley, Sam, Emily and I went bungee jumping off of the Kawarau Bridge, which was insane. We can now say we’ve bungee jumped in the place that first made bungee jumping a thing in the 80’s!

On the way back, our bus driver told us a Māori molding creation story which I thought was really awesome. He told us that, according to Māori legend, there was a girl who went to Lake Wakatipu (next to Queenstown) and was taken by a monster, but was saved by a man who then went to kill the monster. But the monster was indestructible, so the longest lake in New Zealand, Wakatipu- rises and falls 20 cm every 15 minutes —this is the monsters heart that is still beating.  

Afterwards, we went to a few souvenir/ crystal necklace places and the girls got jade for ourselves and our loved ones back home. Then, we were off to Dunedin- and on our way, we got pulled over by Peter “Morepork”, the Police Officer- human proof that New Zealand is the friendliest place on the planet. We all got out and took a picture with him, and then got back on the road.

We then were off to the south side of the Otago peninsula outside of Dunedin. We went to Sandfly Bay,  which was amazing. We literally had to jump and roll down the sand dunes to get to the beach and experienced authentic wild beauty in pure nature. We saw Yellow-eyed Penguins (~2,500 individuals in the world!) and NZ sea lions, and walked along the sand. All in all, today was an amazing day where even more memories were made.

The group takes a moment for a picture with Sandfly Bay in the background.

Jenna Albanese (Nursing ‘20) examines the carcass of an albatross on the beach at Sandfly Bay.

A rare Yellow-eyed Penguin adult, spotted as it was hopping its way up a sand dune in Sandfly Bay.  An amazing view of an endangered species.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

14 January 2018: Milford Sound

By Dr. Mike Daven (Math & IT)

Today we headed out at 3:30am for the long drive to Milford Sound. It's located in the Fiordlands and Professor Robinson drove the 4+ hours while most of the passengers slept, including me! Once the sun came up, we enjoyed some amazing views, towards the end of the trip we passed under the mountains through the Homer Pass. This sketchy-looking tunnel is 1200m long and was constructed in 1935-1940.

When we arrived at Rosco's Milford Kayaks, the two guides prepared for the excursion. Blake, originally from the town of Nelson, NZ, set us up with all the gear we would need, and told us that today's paddle wouldn't be nearly as tough as the kayak trip we took last week! J.D., originally from Iowa, USA, gave us instructions about kayak safety.

Throughout the float, our guides gave us information about the Milford Sound and some of the local Maori legends. We were fairly close to some Southern fur seals who were sunbathing and a Black-backed Gull that wasn't too happy with how close we were to its nest. We also saw several small planes and helicopters take off and land. My favorite sight was the Lady Elizabeth Bowen Falls. At 163m, it's more than three times as tall as Niagara Falls.

It was a great day and we were all glad to have a calm day floating on the water and taking in these amazing sights. After the float, we stopped in Te Anau for lunch, then we headed back to Queenstown listening to some ska and similar music.

(Photos forthcoming!)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

13 January 2018: traveling to Queenstown

By Harley Illingworth (Nursing ‘20)

Talk about getting ready in the dark!! We all woke up to the power at our hostel being out due to a tree falling on the power lines last night. Let me just tell ya the hostel was pitch black, but thankfully a few of us had flashlights and headlamps to help get ready for the day. After our crèche (morning meeting), we headed out toward Queenstown to start the day with nothing really planned other than finding interesting pitstops along the way.

We started today’s journey by pulling off on the side of the road to try one of New Zealand’s finest delicacies, whitebait. Whitebait are juvenile fish in Family Galaxiidae that are caught and then thrown in an egg mixture and grilled. After the initial hesitancy due to the little fish eyes staring back at everyone, we all decided that it didn’t taste terrible. Then we were off again.

Our next stop was at the “Blue Pools” near the Haast Pass in Aspiring National Park, where we had to cross a few swinging bridges to see the incredibly blue pools along the Makarora River. Let’s just say some people had a little bit too much fun shaking the bridge to freak out some members of the group! Once we got there the water was a beautiful Caribbean blue, it was breathtaking. From there we decided to head to Lake Hāwea for lunch.

Lake Hāwea was astonishing. With the mountains butting up next to the water, it made the lake look like it was only a mile across when in reality it was about 4+ miles across. We all swam around in the freezing cold water, took some pictures, ate our lunch, and found some bones. Then we were off to our final stop: Queenstown.

After we left, we saw a cool little lookout along the Karawau River called ‘Roaring Meg’ that we decided to stop at. We learned that at the lookout, the Department of Conservation (DoC) was in the process of getting rid of the pine trees that were invading the land because it was killing and taking homes away from some of the native animals. Then after reading about their project we were off once more for Queenstown.

After arriving to Queenstown, the group decided to retire early for the night because we all had to get up at 3:15am to go kayaking at Milford Sound.

Friday, January 12, 2018

12 January 2018: Fox and Franz Josef glaciers

By Ray Shepherd (Nursing ‘21)

Today is day 14 of our trip into the paradise that is “New Zealand”. We started out the day with coffee at a little cafe that has one of the most stunning views of the Franz Josef glacier valley. As we reminisced about the night before, we watched the helicopters take off and land, ferrying adventure tourists to the tops of mountains.

We left our cafe and we headed out to the Fox Glacier where we began a deceivingly long walk to an observation platform. The moment we pulled into the parking lot at the trail head, the scope of the valley, surrounding mountains, and the glacier itself was breathtaking. We were walking down 2km-long trail in a 600m-wide valley with 3100m-tall mountains surrounding us, on the way to a glacier that's over 15,000 years old! The sights were almost indescribable as we walked. When we get to the top of the observation platform, we finally could see the terminal face of the glacier and the little ice caves that had formed. This is one of the most memorable experiences of the entire trip and easily one of the most picturesque places of all New Zealand.

After having our breath taken away by the Fox Glacier, we wound our way back through the mountains to a small-community run plant nursery that was tackling the task of keeping native seeds and plants available for use around the South Island. We met with Paula Sheridan (, who gave us the rundown on the how, why, and what about the Okarito Native Plant Nursery.  As a bonus, Paula invited Ian Cooper ( to talk with us about the kiwi sightseeing tours he leads in order to generate a greater knowledge of the Okarito Rowi Kiwi, the smallest of the species of kiwi species. It was amazing to see that a community of around 30 permanent residents were doing important conservation work for the remainder of the island. 

Paula Sheridan describes the plants being raised in the greenhouse while Emily Stanek (Nursing ‘19), Harley Illingworth (Nursing ‘20) and Sara Wernick (Sociology ‘20) listen intently and take notes.

After the nursery, we returned to the hostel and cooked up dinner. After our refuel, we went to the Franz Josef Glacier and hiked to the observation point. The entire hike rose over 1400 feet from start to finish and the Franz Josef Glacier looked to be around twice the size of the Fox Glacier. This whole day was filled with such amazing views; it was really hard to put into words or perspective the size and beauty of the mountains and glaciers. With less than a week to go after today, I can't wait to see what the trip offers next. 

The small group that took on the challenge of hiking to two glaciers on the day! Behind us is Franz Josef glacier.  Left to right: Dr. Mike Daven (Math & IT), Sam Keeney (Nursing ‘20), Ray Shepherd (Nursing ‘21), and Dr. Robinson.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

11 January 2018: Greymouth and Franz Josef

By Ryan Feeney (Nursing ‘19)

I can’t believe we only have 8 days left. Time flies when you’re having fun. Our day began at 7am with Sam Keeney (Nursing ‘20) and Jenna Albanese (Nursing ‘20) talking with Mrs. Shuta’s and Mrs. Cifuni’s 2nd grade class at Balmville Elementary School (Newburgh Enlarged City School District) about our travels and experiences in New Zealand.  The students loved talking with Sam and Jenna about the animals that we’ve seen and some general questions about New Zealand, such as, “What side of the road do you drive on?”!  

We left Westport en route to Greymouth and made a quick stop to see "pancake rocks” in Punakaiki. Pretty cool. They actually looked like pancakes stacked on top of one another. 

We next made a visit to Grey Base Hospital (in Greymouth) to get a sense of what health care is like in New Zealand.  We sat down with Karyn Bousfield (Director of Nursing) and Brittany Jenkins (Associate Director of Nursing) at Grey Base Hospital for about 2 hours. We talked about things ranging from the duration of an average nurse’s shift to the origin of the health care alliance between the five regional districts on the South Island. It was a cool experience learning from individuals in the same field as I am but who live on the other side of the globe. Karyn and Brittany briefly took us through the process of becoming an RN and what their responsibilities may consist of. They told us that if we (Americans) came to New Zealand as a licensed registered nurse (RN), we could not practice in NZ; we would need "additional training", as they put it. Turns out these Kiwi don’t mess around when it comes to health care practioner preparation. I could go on for a while telling you about the distribution of cash and why someone might want to have private vs public health care in NZ but I won’t. I’ll keep it light and tell you that if you are ever in New Zealand and get hurt, you are in good hands. 

After thanking Karyn and Brittany for their time, we jumped into the van for a 2 hour ride to Franz Josef through torrential rains. Nice hostel and a cool town. I found a cool souvenir shop and a delicious Indian restaurant. After dinner we called it for the night to get ready for whatever tomorrow brings.