Geology Day

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April 8th 2007
Published: August 6th 2007
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Josh soon learns the value of geology
Today was a geology day - a day jam packed with rocks. I expected the children’s excitement to be palpable - apparently not. As we toured around the Oamaru area going from one rock formation to another, the progeny hunkered down in the back watching entirely inappropriate episodes of CSI. We did do a lot of walking and once out of the car, the kids had to concede that the views and even the geology were worth the intermittent breaks from dramatic crime scene investigation.

We headed out to eplore Waitaki District in Otago only after fueling up the car with petrol ($1.50/litre) and myself with a flat white ($3.50 for take away). I have decided that the flat white is really a cafe au lait. I had my first really good cafe au lait at Brown's Bistro in Toronto in the late 80s. They served it in a generous white ceramic bowl which allowed the aroma and the taste of the coffee to embrace the senses simultaneously.

In any event, this part of the country was under sea for millions of years and there is as a result a great deal of sedimentary limestone which is chock full of interesting fossils set in an impressive landscape of rolling hills, including the limestone blocks at the Earthquakes (actually caused by a slip) and the Elephant Rocks (huge ancient rocks which sprout from the rolling hillside weathered into strange shapes by wind and water). One of the scenes from the recent film rendition of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was set here (Aslan’s Camp) and there is a rock which was “modified” for the film set. I offered $5.00 to the finder of the rock which occupied the kids for about an hour - the top of one of the rocks is hollow, but it was otherwise very difficult to identify.

One of the interesting aspects of this area is that the rock formations are located on private pasture lands. The owners graciously allow tourists to wander over their fields. It is not something that you would expect to see in North America. The downside to all of this is that these are pasture lands and the fecal deposits of thousands of sheep, cattle, deer and other animals are unavoidable. Astrid at one point leaned back on a rock and put her hand directly in sheep dung. She spent the rest of the day looking for an appropriately sized blade to cut her arm off - she made do with a “nappy wipe”.

Our last geographic stop of the day was at the Moeraki boulders. These giant spherical rocks are concretions formed by a gradual buildup of minerals around a central core (still not sure how it works though). Some of the boulders studding the beach have cracked open revealing very interesting calcite crystals.

We pulled into Dunedin (major city in Otago) in time to catch a flick - Mr. Bean's Holiday. We all enjoy Rowan Atkinson. Not the best Bean but entertaining. The movie theatre was surprisingly nice - reserved seating, comfy chairs with lots of leg room and wide arm rests - all for about the same price as a movie in Canada. And the movie had only 5 minutes of trailers before the main feature.

We are staying in a cute bed and breakfast (Hulmes Court) - an older place from the turn of the century with a pair of cats who wander around. I thought I would pet one of the very friendly cats - thinking fondly of our cat(s) left behind at home - but discovered only too late that the cat was not a good groomer - more animal fecal matter to cap off the day.


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