For anybody still following my work, or visiting for the first time, I have recently received approval to offer The Mathematics of Human Exploration as a year-long elective starting Fall 2021. This means significant updating of curricular ideas on this website will begin happening over the course of the spring and summer. I have been working through material on paper, but have neglected to update this website regularly. Stay tuned!
Here is my final project presentation supplied as a pdf. Although I am not done the website/curriculum development, this is my final presentation to Fulbright NZ. In my mind, this work is the seed for something bigger, though I have not entirely defined what that is yet, but I am certain I will be continuing it for years. Anyway, feel free to browse and let me know if you have thoughts or questions. It has truly been an honor and privilege to be hosted by such a wonderful country.
As I enter the final month of my project and time in New Zealand, I can feel the pressure to complete my project. This is where you all come in! If you are interested, feel free to read anything that starts to show up under the Fulbright Project tab and let me know if you find dead links. You are bound to find spelling errors, but I don’t care so much about these because I will do some serious proofreading later on. Also, if you have more general feedback, feel free to email me directly or use the contact form on the About Me page. I really appreciate anyone still reading despite my infrequent posting!
If you haven’t already, check out part one of my recent trip to see fur seals.
Some of you knew that one of my goals while in New Zealand was to visit glaciers as I study the mathematics of planet Earth. I succeeded, visiting the Rob Roy and Brewster Glaciers in the Otago and West Coast regions respectively. The first one I visited was Rob Roy, which was not too difficult to get to, but it was no walk in the park either. The scenery right at the beginning was stunning and I had to cross a cool wire bridge over a glacially fed stream to access the trail:
As you can probably tell, the water has this beautiful blue tinge to it from glacial run-off. What you can’t hear is the roar of the water coming down the mountain side, which was the soundtrack for the entire hike. Getting to the glacier itself was unreal. There was a stillness to the place that is hard to put into words and, no matter how many pictures and videos I have seen, I was not ready for just how enormous a glacier is. One feels so small standing in front of one, both physically and in terms of the geological timescale. Glaciers are the final remnants of the last ice age. I tried to capture the waterfalls that turned to mist before hitting the ground and the blueness of the ice the best I could. What I did not capture was the sound and sight of a chunk of ice breaking away. The sound went on for minutes before I, and the other onlookers, saw the chunk of ice fall and smash to pieces on the rock below. For m audience, these pictures will have to suffice:
While Rob Roy was amazing, it was definitely a more popular hike, therefore my next goal was to reach one more remote. Originally, my plan involved hiking up to an alpine hut, staying the night, and then continuing onto the glacier, but the weather chose not to cooperate. In order to access the trail, I had to wade through a stream, which was so cold my ankles hurt for about five seconds and then went numb. The main problem was a storm front was moving in for that evening threatening to dump so much rain that I may not be able to make it back across this stream for a couple of days if I chose to stay the night. Therefore, I chose to condense this trip into one long day, which didn’t seem unreasonable. For better or worse, much like Vermont, the West Coast of NZ seems to operate under the assumption that switchbacks are for wimps. This climb was like doing one-legged squats for 2.5km. Fortunately, the old growth forest around me was beautiful and somewhat distracted me from my physical distress:
Then, I broke out above the treeline and it is hard to describe how amazing the view was, though I am also terrified of heights, as Alex can attest to, and I had to make a real effort to not keep my eyes on the trail the whole time. That exposed ridge you can see above the river of clouds is what I had to walk across:
My original goal was to walk right up to the glacier, but the weather promised for the evening started rolling in early to the point I could hardly see anything around me, including the trail. Rather than becoming another statistic, I chose to hike back early, but not before catching some incredible distance shots of the glacier. While taking pictures, I got to hang out with the local Kea, alpine parrots unique to NZ. They are also known as thieving Kea because they are so curious and intelligent (apparently as smart as monkeys). So, while taking pictures, I had to keep waving them away from my backpack because they kept trying to take my stuff. It was both entertaining and annoying, but their lack of fear let me get some good shots of them with my camera:
Despite a cold, windy, wet trip back to the base of Mt. Armstrong, the trip to Brewster was amazing.
That’s it for writing, but I also created some videos to share with my former colleague, Jen Chavez-Miller, an amazing educator to whom I am indebted. She has a grant with National Geographic, allowing her to take students into the wilderness to be explorers, so this was my contribution to support their efforts. These are not edited, so they are not great videos, but hopefully you will enjoy checking them out here. Try not to laugh at my apparent suffering. It’s funny to think about all of the promotional videos from Patagonia, REI, etc. made up of beautiful shots and reflective looking athletes because that is only a very small portion of the experience. Most adventures are actually mostly suffering with some views and moments of euphoria built in to make it all worth it.
Next week, I head out on a four day backpacking trip, so I will have plenty more pictures and stories to share soon.
Here is the first of three posts in which I describe recent adventures. For this one, you have the privilege of seeing fur seals! The first time I went, I hiked with a friend through the hills outside Wellington to Island Bay where the seals call home during the winter months. Despite intense wind, the hike through the hills was not too bad, but then we started walking along the coast and the wind was so strong that we were being hit with sand, salt spray, and even pebbles. It was a quite unpleasant 3km, but definitely worth it. Here are some pics from that first visit:
Thankfully, I had a second chance to head to the coast, but on my mountain bike this time and I brought my good camera and a tripod to hang out with the seals. The wind was better, but the terrain was quite steep for a mountain bike. I accidentally spilled some water on my disc brakes after a long descent and was shocked to hear a hiss and see the water evaporate away. In the end, I made it safely to the coast and there was a gentle wind, allowing me to really appreciate the coast. However, seals smell terrible and, without the wind, I really just had to hold my breath for as long as I could. Lucky for you, I have provided pics of seals without the smell:
That’s it for this post, but head on to part two to see some glaciers.
Just because I fell off the northern hemisphere doesn’t mean I’ve totally disappeared. I figure it’s time I dusted this thing off and provided some updates. Since my last post, I have been enjoying Wellington’s Green Belt and Zealandia, an eco-sanctuary. If you want to know more about these, just click on the links and it should take you to the respective websites. If not…oops. The public transportation around Wellington and into the suburbs is pretty amazing with extensive bus and train routes. Even better, the trains allow one to take their bike to the surrounding areas without needing a vehicle, which is great since people drive on the wrong side of the road here. I still make mistakes checking for oncoming traffic when crossing the road, but thankfully I have only ridden my bike into oncoming traffic once (sorry mom and dad).
But enough rambling! The pictures below come from Wellington’s green space, which is often more brown than green because of vast amounts of grazing/farm land, something I did not expect when I first arrived. Although Wellington is a coastal city, the coast is largely defined by large hills, as you can see:
Who knew the New Zealand forests are where the Smurphs reside? Anyway, while the Green Belt is amazing, it is nothing compared to Zealandia. For some brief background, aside from a single species of bat, NZ evolved without mammals, therefore many species of birds became ground dwellers. However, when people arrived, they brought possums, rats, mice, cats, etc., which, because birds had not evolved to defend against or compete with mammals before, decimated many native bird species. Since 1990, Zealandia has pioneered special fencing and traps that rid eco-sanctuaries of mammals, thus allowing native bird and lizard populations to flourish again. Walking into Zealandia, one is first shocked by all of the unique bird calls and then shocked again by the sight of some truly fascinating birds. Here are some shots:
And here are just a few more photos out of Zealandia that I like:
Next, I’m trying to con my way onto glaciers with some scientists, so I’ll let you know if that works out. That’s it for now!
So from Saturday to Monday I did an amazing backpacking trip with a fellow US teacher known as the Tongariro Northern Circuit. It was absolutely stunning although I was not convinced I had actually left New Mexico given how similar the terrain was for much of the trip:
Both of those mountains you see are actually volcanoes and it was really cool to see a perfect cone shape on one of them. Unfortunately, but understandably, we were not actually able to hike to the top of either of those volcanoes because they are sacred to the Maori. Anyway, climbing wasn’t really part of day one, but we were treated to mountain streams, some shade, and a sweet waterfall:
Day two was the crazy day, where I started to catch a foul smell and was concerned it was me. Thankfully, that smell was actually from sulphur being emitted from volcanic vents:
It is important to know that the trip to these vents was not free, but required physical sacrifice:
With that said, the vent picture may be underwhelming because you can’t smell the sulphur or hear the sizzle, but another reward was a collection of the volcanic alpine lakes near the top of the climb:
As the wind ripped around us and the loose rock crumbled beneath our feet, we finally made it to the real top of the climb, intersecting with the world famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Here we saw the vibrant colors of an area that had recently experienced a minor eruption:
And just to give a sense of scale, here is my hiking partner looking at a stunning view:
The hike down continued to be stunning, but the footing was quite uncertain so I don’t really have anything in the way of pictures and day three was only a quick rolling terrain hike out. Any other pics I have are quite underwhelming, but hopefully I have given you a sense of how amazing some of the New Zealand terrain is.
Thanks for reading and sorry it has been so long since my last post.
On Friday, I had my first mountain bike experience. Fun fact: the front and rear brakes are on opposite sides in New Zealand. Thankfully, I was not punished by this fact, but I was wondering why my bike acted so funny on the descents. Also, even though my bike was a rental, my pedal fell off halfway up the mountain. I am grateful to the two riders that stopped and lent me a tool to fix the issue. Finally, although I took a bus up the mountain, for whatever reason, all the buses were cancelled for the ride down, therefore I had a wonderful walk back to the city. Despite all of this, and maybe partly because of it, I had a great and memorable experience. I went with one other American and we did a mix of level 2, 3, and 4 grade trails, which were beautifully constructed on Makara Peak just outside Wellington. Here are some photos for you to enjoy, which includes a terrifying line bridge over ravine:
Wellington has a, expansive, beautiful botanical garden that is free to the public, though you can pay five dollars to take a cable car to the top. I just so happened to be visiting the park on its 150th anniversary and was asked to give my opinion on video as part of a promotion campaign, so basically I’m now a star. A major initiative for the park is the restoration of native plants, though they have allowed certain pines introduced by the Europeans to remain because they are hundreds of years old. Also, they have a rose garden made up of hybrids that they have carefully cultivated, which was very cool. Here are some photos I took for your enjoyment:
Lastly, I am very proud of this picture (hint: look closely):
That’s all for now!
To start, here was the view from the window after 16 hours in the air:
It is hard to describe how amazing it is to finally be here. After arriving, I tried to sleep in, but failed miserably and ended up at Te Papa, which is the national museum of New Zealand. At some point I will sort through all of the pictures and upload them for your enjoyment, but for now I will share a couple of highlights:
The World War II figures above celebrate New Zealand’s sacrifices and, although it is hard to tell, the figures are massive (at leaste 5x my size). Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Terracotta Army figures were a visiting exhibit. I have always wanted to see them, but didn’t expect it to be in NZ!
Once I settle in I plan on doing some extended posts, but this post is really just meant to break the silence. I will leave you with a view of Wellington from the Botanical Gardens (with a cricket field below):
Signing off until next time.