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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 ┬ábe an action packed and very full-on day.

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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!

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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!

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Long Suffering Mentor took pity on my crippled state and found me a shark tooth! Imagine the choppers on this thing!

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With great trouble, Ewan (Long Suffering Post-Conference Leader) managed to get us out of the dirt piles and onto the next stop, Waihao Forks in the Waihao Valley. This spectacular outcrop of cross-bedded and scoured limestone is from the Late Oligocene (it’s old!) and it just takes your breath away. Look at that scouring!

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Yes, I know you can’t stop looking at that scouring, but we started heading towards the coast and we hit water, much to Long-Suffering Mentors delight! Kakanui is famous for producing one of Zealandia’s first named fossil vertebrates – the tarsometatarsus of a large penguin! Its the ankle/toe thingy that means they walk on their toes but the bone is somewhat fused at the……..well…….never mind! It’s important! And the beach was beautiful too with all the driftwood.

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Unfortunately the next stop was interrupted by the incoming high tide which made for some interesting acrobatics as palaeontologists scrambled to get out of the way of the giant waves at Shag Point. The rocks are preserved from the late Cretaceous to the Paleocene (it’s old!) and include non-marine coal measures and quartzite sediments! Pretty cool rocks really….

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We then had a surprise visit to the Geology and Palaeontology department at the University of Otago in Dunedin. My gawd! I fell into heaven! Their geology collection is magnificent – one of the best I have ever seen with cases and cases of minerals and rocks from all around the world. I was rubbing myself all over the cases and drooling with several expletives coming from my mouth!

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And then it got even BETTER! Ewan asked us all to come down to the basement, which sounded kind of creepy in a serial killer sort of way but I was itching to see what was down there. Seriously, I died and went to heaven. Cases and cases of unprepared fossils still in the rocks and casts that they were found and removed in – just waiting for some eager, mature age student to pick one and start prepping the bone to be studied and hopefully articulated into a skeleton.

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Sheesh! If only I could move to Dunedin…….

Speaking of which, Dunedin is said to be the most Scottish town outside of Scotland. To me it just looked like a hugely metropolitan town with a LOT of bars and restaurants – the bars selling many, many, MANY different types of whiskey! So acting on the advice of one of the post-conference group (thank you Felix!) we headed for a very Scottish bar to have some very scottish whiskey!

…..do you like peaty or non-peaty the cute bartender asks! Non-peaty please! So I began to try some of his suggestions…..

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Holy cow! It went down like a smooth butterscotch! Warm my throat and down to my loins! By the second glass I couldn’t feel my tongue, and Long-Suffering Mentor had to peel me out of the comfy wing-chair and load me into the JUCY van. I don’t remember much after that…….

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