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School of Geography

Field trip memo: An adventure in New Zealand


Physical geographers and environmental scientists in the second or third year who choose the module ‘Alpine Environments’ get to explore physical processes in the New Zealand Southern Alps.

Students Koh Yi Thong, Sara Aweis and Mark Rice all took the module and the field course to New Zealand. 

“The spectacular, rugged scenery of the Southern Alps greeted our approach into Queenstown for the 2016 GEG5220/6220 Alpine Environments: Physical Processes in the New Zealand Southern Alps field course. As we drove out of Queenstown and headed towards our base for the first few days at Kinloch, the awe-inspiring views of The Remarkables mountain ranges across Lake Wakatipu provided just a brief glimpse of the picturesque landscapes we were about to encounter over the next few days” said second year geographer, Koh.

“Waking up each day at Kinlock Lodge where we were based was akin to waking up in paradise. Indescribable views of sun rise and the rays that were casted over the rugged hill slopes and the shores of Lake Wakatipu never failed to captivate us every morning. During the night, we were able to gaze into the night sky from right outside our accommodation blocks, where the crystal clear views of the Milky Way and countless stars left us dumbstruck.”

“Under the guidance of , our stay in the Lake Wakatipu region involved comprehensive studies of processes and evolutionary trends that were occurring on two of New Zealand’s signature braided rivers, the Dart and the Rees Rivers, which drained vast valleys that were flanked by magnificent mountains. We also visited several sites in the region to gain fresh insights on the complex hazard settings around Glenorchy and Queenstown. Our brief stop at the Kawarau – Shotover river confluences also underlined the severity of past flooding events and the impending threats that could potentially be more fatal without an integrated hazard management strategy.”

“The transit journey to the next part of the field trip involved a scenic drive to the Aoraki/Mount Cook region. Our eyes struggled to fully capture the breath-taking scenery that was whizzing past. As we neared our destination, the dramatic beauty of Mount Cook and its surrounding peaks came into view.”

Trekking up towards Mueller Glacier © Koh Yi Thong

“For this latter segment of the field trip led by Dr Sven Lukas, we focused on understanding the physical processes and landscape imprints that characterised the glacial landforms in the Aoraki / Mount Cook region through a combination of studying sedimentary sequence exposures at the shores adjacent to the turquoise blue waters of Lake Pukaki, investigating changing clast shape and morphology at different points of the various transport pathways starting from a supraglacial source to a fluvial sink and undertaking geomorphological field mapping to gain a broad appreciation of the glacial landforms and processes occurring in the accessible proglacial regions of the Hooker and Mueller Glaciers.”

Geography student, Koh Yi Thong (middle) with his classmates © Koh Yi Thong

“These varied learning experiences from both parts of the field trip gave us a better understanding of the physical processes and landscape formation in both fluvial and glacial environments in an ideal setting. Apart from the knowledge and skills we gained, the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the incredible landscapes of New Zealand was surreal and would certainly be a field trip to be remembered” – added Koh.

“New Zealand is known to be the adventure capital of the world, so when I was seriously considering whether to take the Alpine Environments module, I knew I was in for the experience of a lifetime. In order to make the most of the experience, a group of my friends and I decided to go out to Auckland and spend a few days there to explore more of NZ. Our stay on the North Island, in Auckland was nothing short of adventurous fun, ranging from kayaking to Rangitoto, hiking 45mins to view the sunset from the peak and kayaking back during the night to visiting the Maori museum with a tour guide and topping it off with a Maori cultural performance” – third year environmental scientist Sara Aweis remembered.

The obligatory group photo © Mark Rice

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