Thursday, November 15, 2012

Solar Eclipse in Movember

On Movember 14th Australia and New Zealand witnessed a partial to full solar eclipse, when the moon comes between the sun and the earth momentarily putting us in darkness.  From Fox Glacier we saw about 60% of the sun covered over the course of 2 hours.  I was up on the glacier during a training event but we all took time out to peer at the sun through a makeshift viewing scope of 5 pairs of sunglasses overlapped.  It is not often you that get to witness an event of such dramatic intensity.  It was a beautiful eclipse that you can watch in time lapse taken from the observatory in Lake Tekapo to the east of me.

You may also have noticed that I wrote Movember... not November.  This is because it is officially Movember, the month in which you grow a mustache to support research efforts towards prostate and testicular cancer.  I have entered the game a bit late due to appearance restrictions but now I am participating 100% as a Mo Bro.  I have decided to take on the symmetrical Mo style Ram's Horns.  This is to compete with my unbalanced Monkey's Tail style of last year.  Please visit my Mo page to learn more and to donate as much as you see fit to support research efforts.

2012 Ram's Horns

2011 Monkey's Tail

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Flight Of My Fright

After Kaikoura Kat and I traveled to Motueka, a small town in the north close to Abel Tasman.  We had hoped to kayak and hike about the wondrous Abel Tasman National Park but were restricted by time and money as is always the case for travelers.  However, making the best of what time and money we did have the decision was made to go skydiving.  We figured if we were not able to go explore Able Tasman in person at least we could see it all from a height of 16500ft.  I have never jumped out of a plane before and as I have mentioned in earlier posts... I am terrified of heights.

At least I was... but now i feel as though I have attacked that fear head on.  First was the Gloucester Tree in Australia. Climbing this massive tree with nothing but a bit of rebar and no safety of any kind was an accomplishment that I will never forget the feel of.  Since then I have stood over waterfalls, climbed mountains and ice, and now I have gone to the extreme and jumped out of a plane.  As the plane rose for 20 minutes climbing to our jump height I expected a crippling fear but found only slight resistance and a genuine curiosity within me.  For one brief moment as we exited the plane my face turned to terror. Seventy seconds in free-fall offered the chance to feel terrified as I plummeted towards the earth but instead I was filled with excitement, accomplishment, and probably my fair share of adrenaline. 

"The appropriate response
to reality is to go insane."

~Philip K. Dick~

When We Watched Whales

I had a week off of work to go explore what remains a mystery to me on South Island. First I traveled with some ski field friends to Christchurch to pick up Kat and to see the Mumford and Sons concert.  They are one of my favorite bands at the moment and put on an amazing show for us all.  Then we drove north along the east coast to Kaikoura.  The next four photos depicts some of the beauty found along the east coast.

An angel wearing white as the snow topped mountains.

(Kat Eatough)

Kaikoura is a breathtaking scene surrounded by snow-topped mountains with pure blue ocean water stretching out beyond.  There is a gigantic deepwater trench offshore by only 20 km.  It is deep enough that Giant Squid live in the abyss and their predators, the Sperm Whales, live here year round to hunt them.  There is also a mixing of warm northern waters with the cold antarctic currents... reminds me a bit of Shark Bay though two more different habitats would be difficult to find.  

Sperm Whale Diving

Only Mountains can make this Sperm Whale look small

For these reasons Kaikoura is one of the best Whale and Dolphin Watching places in the world.  They have a 98% success rate for the whale watching tours and you can see anything from Sperm Whales, Killer Whales to even the occasional Blue Whales.  On this tour all we saw were Sperm Whales, Dusky Dolphins and Fur Seals.  The ocean is just teeming with life and a place like Kaikoura brings it to the forefront of our minds. Perhaps that is why I draw the connection between this place and Shark Bay.  This is also one of the few regions where you stand a good chance of witnessing an Albatross on wing or possibly even at their breeding ground.  Only once before have i seen this on Isla de la Plata, a small island off the coast of Ecuador near to the Galapagos Islands.

A small pod of Dusky Dolphins.

Kat and I went swimming with the dolphins and as cheesey as it may seem I would highly recommend this.  These are 100% wild dolphins with a curiosity to parallel our own.  We ended up swimming in a super pod of over 100 dolphins!  One dolphin in particular took an interest in me and we swam all about just testing each other.  Entering into their world is something many people dream of but will never understand until you actually get the chance to do it.

Know for there acrobatics this playful little dolphin shows off.

We left Kaikoura with a feeling of connection to the natural world and as we drove further north along the coast we stopped at a Fur Seal Nursery.  It was a place where the babies can go up onto shore and be a bit more safe from the predators of the ocean.  Here they play underneath a waterfall and develop those social skills necessary for a life among their kind.  It is an heart warming scene to watch them flop about exploring their immediate world.

A moment when I felt like David Attenborough

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts."

~Bertrand Russell~