Day Eight – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Today was the day of adventure……. …..until we woke up and realised the weather was really shit! Like so shit that we couldn’t see the top of the mountain let alone where the glacier was! So we were kind of expecting the bad news…… Still, ever the optimist I set off for my first adventure, quad biking through the terminal moraine! After a quick run through of how to use the quad bike, and a test drive around the course to make sure you weren’t some nufty who would take out the whole group because they forgot where the brake was, we set off at a hefty pace over the river beds. The terminal moraine of Franz Josef glacier looks like a moonscape. Kilometres of unconsolidated rock. All this rock had been transported either by the glacier or by the river which is fed by the glacier. It was a barren, harsh landscape.   But it was also incredibly fun to ride over on a quad bike. Dodging large rocks and trying to make sure you didn’t fly off when your tyres hit a rock and your handlebars slid out from under you, we flew over the moraine until we […]

Day Seven – Queenstown to Franz Josef – New Zealand

I woke up – and I could move!! This was a bloody good thing! After a thoroughly enjoyable morning walk along the beautiful braided river I felt even better. We managed to get on the road by 10am after a quick stop to the petrol station, the supermarket AND the pharmacy where I almost had to bend over for a rectal examination to get my extra strength codeine – but I got it! So off we set for Franz Josef! The road to Franz Josef is known as the famous Haas Pass and there’s a reason it is so famous! Hours and hours of winding roads, sometimes at the very precipice of huge valleys. It was reminiscent of the Great Ocean Road but on steroids! Instead of cliffs and ocean, the Haas Pass has craggy snow topped mountains and rushing rivers through glacial valleys that had been carved out many, many years ago. We stopped at a look out to walk out over the mountains to look right down into a valley. It gave you a quiver in your waim but was just breathtaking. You can see the tundra in the background. These mountains are in a rainshadow and are […]

Day Six – Dunedin to Queenstown – New Zealand

I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened my eyes! I couldn’t move! I was busting to go to the loo and my back had completely seized up in the JUCY van! I was packed into my bed with no way of manoeuvring out to the bathroom. I panicked! I called out to Long-Suffering Mentor who was snuggled up and asleep in her upstairs tomb (the double bed up over the drivers seat is so small it looks like a coffin!) but because she was packed in like a sardine she couldn’t hear my desperate cries! After some shouting and swearing she finally woke up and before she could be fully conscious she was out of her coffin and trying to unbend me like a pretzel! After copious amounts of drugs and expletives we finally managed to get me out of the bloody JUCY van and making a somewhat uncomfortable and crippled run to the toilet! I was stoned by 9am and sitting in the front of the JUCY van, very happily alongside our newfound passenger John, who was hitching a ride with us from Dunedin to Queenstown. Being a captive audience he had no choice but to come […]

Day Five – Post Conference Trip – New Zealand

Having woken early in our lovely little room, I noticed when bending down that my back was twinging a bit. I made myself promise I would take it a bit easier today as I didn’t want any nasty incidences or surprises. Making our way downstairs we enjoyed a simple continental breakfast with lots of cups of tea, and quickly packed up the JUCY van in preparation for what Ewan promised would  be an action packed and very full-on day. The scenery was so picturesque as we drove out to Hakataramea Valley to a huge quarry. The quarry was Late Oligocene limestone and greensand and was an important vertebrate site. Lots of bone had been found at this site so we all piled out of the bus and JUCY van and immediately started scratching through the piles of dirt!   My back was not cooperating but I did manage to find some lovely gastropod fossils. Some of the other more experienced and limber palaeontologists found some lovely samples of bone, including this fish vertebra! Very impressive! Long Suffering Mentor took pity on my crippled state and found me a shark tooth! Imagine the choppers on this thing! With great trouble, Ewan […]

Day Four – Post Conference Trip – New Zealand

Being the totally organised travellers that we are, my LS Mentor set an alarm for 6.30am allowing us a leisurely time for showers and breakfast before trotting across the road to the bus for the airport, having checked out with minimal hassle. Unfortunately LS Mentor’s clock was still on Victorian time, so I woke up thinking there is way too much light coming through my window, grabbed my watch and immediately began screaming “we’re late” and rushing around like a mad woman. We eventually made it out of the hotel and across the road – dragged all our luggage onto a bus – realised we hadn’t eaten breakfast or even had a cup of tea! But we quickly arrived at the Queenstown Airport and there she was……. Our JUCY van…… The van is great! Fully self contained complete with dunny and shower, kitchen and two double beds……well? We will work it out! After a quick run through on how to use the sink, shower, how to empty the toilet (eww!) and how to drain all our waste water especially while travelling – we seemed pretty impressed by our setup and were confident enough to meet with the rest of the […]

Day Three – Queenstown, New Zealand

This mountain changes every day! The different light and sunshine makes it alive!! Today was a full day of CAVEPS – bird, mesozoic and dinosaurs, macropods, and New Zealand cenozoic. Lots and lots of dinosaurs and crocodiles. The highlight of the day though, was the Plenary speaker – Senior Professor Jingmai O’Connor spoke about the rise of birds. Jingmai is the coolest Palaeontologist I have ever met! She’s dynamite in a small package, covered in tattoos of birds and dinosaurs! She spoke with such passion and intellect, I was so impressed with her presentation. I actually met her afterwards in the gift shop and she showed me more of her tattoos. Such a down to earth young woman but so smart and lovely. The poster session was held in the evening with beautiful wine provided by The Bone Line (how appropriate!). A pleasant evening was spent looking around at the posters. I marvel and how smart people are – and the different things people are studying, and how their results will lead to more exciting research. Palaeontology is such a broad field and their is so much still to discover. Exciting times….. I decided to leave My Long-Suffering Mentor to […]

Day Two – Queenstown, New Zealand

Having had a long and restful sleep, we clambered up the inclines of Queenstown, New Zealand towards the Skyline Gondola, to get to our conference location high up on a mountain overlooking the beautiful town and lakes. Long-Suffering Mentor (who is afraid of heights) managed to hide her conniptions with white knuckles and distracted chatter, as we ascended up the mountain in a small gondola. The views were incredible. Breathtaking! The snow capped crags of mountain ranges blending in with mountains that look like green velvet. Sometimes it just looks fake – like a painting! The geology of the South Island is completely different to that of the North Island. The South Island is mudstone that has been metamorphosed with all the tectonic movement. Combinations of the most beautiful shales, slates and foliated mudstone offers a very different look to the rock. The mountains have been totally created by uplift and tectonic movement – which when you see the scope and height of the landscape, really blows your mind!     The conference began with a plenery speaker, Professor Ewan Fordyce from the University of Otago. He spoke about Zealandia – a southern Rosetta stone for 85 million years of […]

Day One – Queenstown, New Zealand

It was with much excitement that My Long-Suffering Mentor suggested we attend CAVEPS 2017 conference – Australian Vertebrate Evolution, Palaeonotology and Systematics to those in the know! Why? Because it’s about dinosaurs!!!! And its in Queenstown, New Zealand…….so of course I said yes! Day One began at the ungodly hour of 2am – the unfortunate situation of living a few hours away from the nearest international airport, but also a lesson in not allowing My Long-Suffering Mentor to book the cheap flights that leave at 6.15am. Despite the hour we were eager and excited to make the check-in time and allow ourselves enough time to get through customs, rearrange our luggage into appropriate organisation, and take all my anti-vomiting drugs at the right time. This is a tricky juggling act, as take the drugs too soon and it will involve a loss of ability to think for oneself, potentially leading to the situation where LS Mentor has to find a wheelchair to get me on the plane! Take the drugs too late and they won’t kick in until mid way through the flight, resulting in multiple bags of vomit on take off. I must be getting more experienced in this […]


Holy Moly! It was a bit hard getting up this morning! The bones aching and the muscles complaining – not to mention the bladder with it’s private problems and the…..well……I hate getting old and being so unfit! Plus it’s cold…..and I’m tired…..(*enter whiney voice!*)…… But once we got to the drilling site all the whininess evaporated and I remembered that I am HAVING THE BEST TIME! We drilled two holes and by the end I was able to identify serpentinite confidently. And thankfully there was no asbestos, although we did still wear masks just in case. Today’s drill site was right next to the quarry, and as expected we found a lot of magnesite. If you look closely you can see clumps of magnesite just sitting on top of the ground. This paddock would make for some very healthy cows me thinks! There was a sense of elation as we completed the last hole. You can see the Long-Suffering Delightful Alfy looking especially elated! Jason just looks hungover! Again, the countryside is just amazing in Young. The paddocks are so lush and green despite not having much rainfall. I love the way the hills display a patchwork of fields with outcrops […]


OH GOD I AM SO TIRED!……. But I am having so much fun! Today upon arriving at the drill site after having to stop for Cranberry Juice and Ural (don’t ask – it happens to me in the field all the time!), I immediately located a potential free-pee tree…..but as I got closer it kind of lost points in the rating……you can see why! Yeah…..I think that’s a dead cat – but it looks like it kinda just fell out of the tree and got stuck! It had me entranced for a while…..and then I had to choose another free-pee spot. Thank goodness for the delightful Alfy who recommended an excellent spot – which so far has been the best – I would give it 10 out of 10 as it had a particularly comfortable branch to squat on! Anyways! Back to work! Today was a hard day’s drilling. We managed 3 holes and two of them involved potential asbestos. The call to don the “Sperm” suits was made by the delightful Alfy. Full protective gear was necessary which involved a wonderful onesie that pulled at the crotch like you wouldn’t believe, masks, glasses and gloves. The onesie has a hoodie […]