Assignment #1: Tongariro and Whitianga
We will be doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on January 28th, then staying the night in the Tongariro National Park.
The Tongariro Alpine crossing is rumored to be the best one day hikes in New Zealand one of the top ten day treks in the entire world according to http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz/. I guess we will have to see for ourselves! But, from the looks of it, a trek that takes you across such a wide variety of landscapes and offers you magnificent views of mountains and the Emerald Lakes (named because of their color due to leached minerals) as well as paths along streams and on ancient lava paths sounds like it might as well be one of the best day hikes in the world!
To learn about the geological history of the region, I would recommend looking at these links: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/historic-volcanic-activity/3 and http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=38. These sites explain the history of the eruptions in the area and explain that Mt. Tangariro is not a single volcano, but it is a series of craters. There has been volcanic activity starting 300,000 years ago. 100,000 years ago was the beginning of the Ice Age, when these early eruptions were suspended. Valleys were formed when the ice retreated. Of particular note in the area is Mt Ngauruhoe, which is the youngest vent in the area with activity starting about 2500 years ago and last erupting about 35 years ago in 1975.
Last but not least, to please the eye, I recommend this website: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/650621. If you click through the photos on the left, the image on the right shows you the corresponding point on a Google Earth Map. This is an interesting way to compare the aerial view of the topography to an image taken from the ground. It gives you a better sense of the varied geography of the region. I think it is especially interesting to see the green turquoise lakes (filled in craters) in both images.
We will be staying 2 nights in Whitianga , starting on January 8th. According to the Whitianga entry on Google Earth, this location is pronounced "Fitianga" and it is a small fishing town on Mercury Bay on the North Island of New Zealand. The pictures on Google Earth show the shore in town to be lined with palm trees and the water is dotted with sail boats. The tourism site, http://www.whitianga.co.nz/gallery.html, has some beautiful photos of the region.
Here is some history of Whitianga, according to this site: http://www.whitianga.co.nz/history.html, Whitianga has a history rooted with the sea and seamen. In about 950 AD, the Tahitian explorer and sailor Kupe landed in Whitianga and called it, "TE WHITIANGA-a-KUPE - the crossing place of Kupe". Later, in 1769 Captain John Cook landed in Whitianga. He spent a little under 2 weeks taking astronomical data and observing Mercury and determining the location of the Bay (currently known as Mercury Bay). Currently, this area is a fishing town as well as a tourist destination.
As for the geology of the region, the book "The Field Guide to New Zealand Geology: Rocks, Minerals, and Fossils" on Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=t-cOAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA151&lpg=PA151&dq=Whitianga+geology&source=bl&ots=-iYefY_Z35&sig=YAx6Of6PbLGveYAAOKu3PH1wjHU&hl=en&ei=IobTSuu-GYrflAeEoM2oCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CCYQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=&f=false offers an in-depth explanation of the geology of the region. The rhyolite of the region ranges in age from 3 million to over 6 million years old. The rhyolite in the region is "often flow banded (banded by layers in flowing lava) "(152). Also prevalent in the region is andesite that has been altered due to hot water flowing through the cracks and pores and depositing dissolved minerals within the andesite. For more detailed information, I would recommend checking out the book link it has tons of diagrams and information.