Day 2 – Hangin’ with the Kiwis

The day started at the Clothing Distribution Center, but that was a bunch of admin talks and clothing issue.  Boring stuff mostly, but necessary.

Most of the rest of the day was spent exploring the city a little bit more.  The parts of the city that were either minimally damaged by the earthquake or have already been restored are very nice.  It’s a clean city and the people are super friendly.  The city is mostly pretty quiet, which is definitely my speed.

View from outside our hotel's front entrance in Christchurch
View from outside our hotel’s front entrance in Christchurch

Even in the places where the city hasn’t been fully restored, residents are doing whatever they can to make the best of the situation.  We found murals throughout the city on the sides of abandoned buildings.

Paintings like this are found all over the place in the city, trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation.
Paintings like this are found all over the place in the city, trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

We took a walk through some of the gardens too, and the vegetation is fascinating.  The big surprise for me, though, was the sighting of giant sequoia trees!  I was not expecting to see them here.  I still can’t get over how freakin’ big these things are.  They’re obviously better at growing them outside of California than me.

That's a huuuuuge tree!
Giant Sequioa in the Christchurch Botanic Garden

Overall I really like Christchurch, but in some ways, it was still just a city.  I’m glad I got to explore a little bit but I’m really looking forward to seeing outside the city after the work is done. I mostly expect it to look something like this:

Anyways, we have an early start tomorrow for our flight to the ice.  Wish me luck, hopefully we don’t run into any weather delays.  Next time I write should be from Antarctica!

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Day 1, a really long day…

Well it’s Saturday night and I have finally arrived in New Zealand.  It only took a four and a half hour flight from Boston to Dallas, a five hour layover in Dallas, a 17 hour flight from Dallas to Sydney, a three hour layover in Sydney, and finally a two and a half hour flight from Sydney to Christchurch.  For those counting, that’s 32 hours plus a crossing of the international dateline.  The journey was worth it though, because when we broke through the clouds on our descent into Christchurch, we were treated to this view out the window:

What a view eh?
View of the Southern Alps from my flight into Christchurch, NZ

For those who may not be aware, New Zealand is where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed.  It’s a beautiful country and I can’t WAIT to explore it, but that will have to wait until after we finish the work at our final destination.

Of course after we got to the hotel we had to explore the city a little bit.  A bunch of gardens and parks are located throughout the city, including the Avon River that meanders its way through downtown.

View of Avon River from a bridge in downtown Christchurch, NZ
View of Avon River from a bridge in downtown Christchurch, NZ

Sadly a series of earthquakes from 2010-2012 devastated much of the city, so several parts of downtown are still a work in progress.  The  Christchurch Cathedral, for example, was an iconic landmark in the heart of downtown but now faces one heck of a makeover before returning to its pre-earthquake form.

Christchurch Cathedral in the heart of Christchurch, NZ
Christchurch Cathedral in the heart of Christchurch, NZ

I plan to explore a bunch more of the city tomorrow afternoon.  We don’t head to the ice until Monday, so after picking up our extreme cold weather gear tomorrow morning we have the rest of the day to ourselves.  I’ll update again tomorrow after we explore more of the city.

The countdown is on!

Two weeks from today I leave on my first research-related travel as a part of the Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Research Lab (MIRL). For those who haven’t heard, I’m going to Antarctica!  I’ll be gone for about 5 weeks to help install some scientific equipment at various locations on the Antarctic continent.

What kind of equipment, you ask?

The group I’m going with will be installing a few different kinds of magnetometers, sensors that measure changes in Earth’s magnetic field.  Different kinds of magnetometers measure different frequencies of variations in the magnetic field.  Our lab is typically interested in Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) or Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) fluctuations (yes, those are real scientific terms!).  A few months ago I went to a farm outside of campus to test an ELF system, one of the sensors I’m installing on my upcoming trip.   Here’s what it looks like:

ELF magnetometer
ELF magnetometer at Thomson Farm

The long white tube contains the sensor itself.  It’s basically a long metal rod with copper wire wrapped around it millions of times.  The sensor is really sensitive so we have to get it away from any sort of electrical noise, hence the test at a farm outside of town, far away from the power grid.  The spool holds the cable that runs from the main building so we can get the sensor as far away as possible from noisy electrical signals.

Trying to get as far away from civilization as possible in the middle of New England.
Trying to get as far away from civilization as possible in the middle of New England.

In the Antarctic installation this will stretch several hundred feet away from the building where the electronics are housed.  The electronics for the ELF system look something like this:

ELF electronics that will be installed at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

This box takes the information from the magnetometer and turns it into useful bits and bytes that a computer can then save in a format we can read.  Once we were sure the system was functioning properly, we boxed it up and shipped it down to the ice, where it will be waiting for me upon arrival.

What are we measuring all this for?  I’ll let Jon Stewart help me illustrate:

Any questions?  Send them my way.  Otherwise, I’ll continue to update this site throughout my trip, so stay tuned!