Borland Lodge is nestled into the foothills lying just outside Fiordland National Park in Southland. I was particularly excited because this excursion marks the farthest south I’ve ever been. Borland Geology Camp is a week long geology trip, and the second such camp for my geology course. My week there was filled with breathtaking mountain views, vast pastures, and of course, cool rocks!
Despite threatening storm clouds and dire weather forecasts, the entire week gave us beautiful sunny weather. The trip was led by three different professors: James, James, and Chris. Each James specialized in different geology and led separate excursions, but still it was a bit confusing.
Although we were in the field all day (except lunch break) and doing bookwork late into the night, geologists always find time to have fun and act like kids!
FYI: there was also a seesaw and friendly neighborhood dog!
You’ll notice we’re all wearing fashionable neon orange vests. These hi-vis vests are required on all geology trips because many outcrops are along a roadside, and because it is currently hunting season in Southland. An army of Search and Rescue set up camp at the Borland Lodge a day after we arrived, looking for a missing hunter somewhere in the park. They had two helicopters, a motorboat, and at least 20 personnel. Amazingly, the hunter walked into camp two days later!
The first half of the trip we spent down in the Waiau River, studying interbedded sedimentary rocks.
The second half was spent in the mountains studying massive plutons and metamorphic processes which had changed them.
After taking notes at countless outcrops, we each drew up a geologic map of the region and a Geologic Vertical Scale (GVS). We had done theoretical work like this in class, but it was great to make these with my own data.
Each map was slightly different, so half the fun was hashing out with everyone else as to what the basin structure was. I highly recommend this course for any aspiring geologist. I’ve had a wonderful academic experience, field exposure, and made a few new friends along the way!
During one of our excursions along a mountain ridge, our group was graced with a flyby of three very talkative Kea.
As well as geology and birds of Southland, the local flora is equally remarkable. Native beech forest dominate the rugged southern landscape, and are descendants of the great beech forests which once populated the Gondwana supercontinent.
Native mistletoe and fungi depend on the beech forest environment, and are also remarkable specimens to stumble across. Straight out of a fairytale (or Mario), this mushroom is about the size of my fist!