Where in the world is this? Any guesses? Which continent? Well it is a mixture. You don’t have to be a scientist to go exploring, however, many scientists visit this site and/or monitor its activity from afar.
On a glorious sunny day in early August we set off from the small township of Whataroa, located south of Hokitika (near Franz Josef Glacier) in South Westland (Yes, this is New Zealand). New Zealand is a young country and Mother Nature has been undertaking some major landscaping. New Zealand’s prime spot in the South Pacific puts us on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the same continental plate that skirts California, Japan and Indonesia.
The South Island Alpine Fault
The Alpine Fault was first identified in the 1940s. Most of the West Coast (of the South Island) is located on the Australian plate. The mighty Southern Alps and the East Coast of the South Island are on the Pacific plate. We always have friendly rivalry with our neighbouring regions but this is serious stuff. The Alpine Fault line runs from Fiordland in the south up the West Coast and then out to the Pacific Ocean.
Scientists have eagerly drilled into the Alpine Fault to monitor what happens and to gain a better understanding of plate tectonics and earthquakes. At the “observatory” all the high tech equipment is below ground so we cannot observe the observing!!
At this site the Pacific plate is dominant over the Australian plate. Of course the Australian plate doesn’t like this and is pushing back, hence the Southern Alps. As well as the East/West battle we have North/South friction.
Plenty of time to take photos and be Rock Hounds, inspecting the different formations. New pieces are constantly being unveiled and Gray spies a fine example to add to his collection. Some of the larger rocks we reluctantly have to leave behind.
The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is a rock hounds paradise, and museum collections will give those interested a great insight into this regions complex geology and mineralisation
A big thank you to Gray & Vicki for taking us on this special tour and increasing our knowledge. Always lovely to get out and about in Glacier Country.
For further info check: www.alpinefaulttours.co.nz