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Being a tourist in Rotorua

So the last few days I have been focusing on being a tourist. My walk into town the other day was a great experience. There were a few mud pots on the way, so I took some video of those. You’ll have to check out my instagram @mamamoilanen, I have a few on there.

Mud pots on the way into Rotorua
Mud pots on the way into Rotorua

I did some shopping for souvenirs, and had some lunch at a cafe. I am falling in love with the pies. New Zealand does savory pies, and muffins. They are delicious.

Steak pie, SO yummy!
Steak pie, SO yummy!

They are getting ready for Christmas down here, it is very different for me to be walking around in a t-shirt and listening to Christmas music!! Many people were out and about shopping and they have decorations up.

Decorations in downtown Rotorua
Decorations in downtown Rotorua

The flowers are blooming and the air is fragrant. Although in Rotorua you do also get a whiff of sulfur smell from all the geothermals, which is not as pleasant.


More beautiful blooms on my walk
More beautiful blooms on my walk

After my walk and the geologists got back from sampling we had to say goodbye to a few members of our group. Damien, who is a teacher in Christchurch, and Dr. Ayla Pamukcu who was with us after just being in Antarctica. So we dropped them off at the Rotorua airport.

All the geologists together.
All the geologists together.

Then we headed to Blue Lake for a quick swim. It was nice and refreshing! Once again an odd experience of going swimming in a lake in December!! 🙂

Blue Lake
Blue Lake

Our Holiday park had natural hot springs that they put into pools for people to sit in. So basically a natural hot tub!! I don’t know the temperature, but it was pretty hot!!


Then we cooked dinner. We have been grilling a lot of vegetables, including eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and onions. And to my own surprise I have been eating and even enjoying the onions!

Each night the grad students present their projects and ideas to the professors and the other grad students. They are able to get suggestions from each other and possibly other ideas on how to approach their area of research. I follow along for a while and then they are 90 miles above my head again! 😉

The next day, Thursday December 14th, we all went out to breakfast to a place called the Fat Dog. It had enormous portion sizes. My hot chocolate came in a bowl and I had a mountain of french toast. I couldn’t even finish it all! I was absolutely delicious though!


My mountain of french toast
My mountain of french toast
Bowl of hot chocolate
Bowl of hot chocolate

Then we headed to a geothermal park. It was super cool. It was called Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. I did some time lapse video that is pretty fun. I am hoping to get that loaded to the TV at school for Monday. The area is covered with collapsed craters, boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles. The air smells like “rotten eggs” because of the Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) that is being formed because of the water that contains sulfur is boiling.  We also saw some orange and neon green. The orange was because of the presence of the chemical antimony and the neon green was a mix of colloidal sulfur and ferrous salts. The water was super hot and full of dangerous chemicals, so swimming in it would be a very bad idea. But there are some birds that live in and around that area. We saw a Pied Stilt feeding on insects and it was very unconcerned about the acidic hot waters it was walking in.



Ok, I am a few days behind, the internet has not been my friend, I will try and get another blog post in tomorrow on the plane. Yep, that’s right, my adventure is almost over. It has been a wonderful time, but I am ready to get back and squeeze my loved ones. More tomorrow….

Good bye Ocean, Hello Rotorua

We’ve moved on to the second leg of our trip to a town called Rotorua.

It was sad leaving the ocean and our beautiful view, but there is more to see as we adventure on.


Part of a jelly washed ashore.

We headed out of town after we packed up and cleaned up.

We stopped at an outcrop next to Lake Rotoiti and collected some samples there.

A praying mantis visited us at the Lake Rotoiti outcrop.
A praying mantis visited us at the Lake Rotoiti outcrop.

In this area there was a marae, which is a special building to the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand. I am hoping to learn more about them while we are in Rotorua. As were were driving down the road we could distinctly smell sulfur. Which was a clue we were getting close to Rotorua. There is significantly more geothermal activity here.

The New Zealand Christmas tree - Pohutakawa
The New Zealand Christmas tree – Pohutakawa
Geothermal power plant in New Zealand
Geothermal power plant in New Zealand

We did some sampling at a quarry in Rotorua after lunch and got a huge pumice, hopefully I can bring it back to show everyone! The pumice they were collecting was from the Rotorua eruption that occured 15,000 years ago.

Sampling pumice in a quarry.
Sampling pumice in a quarry.
Giant pumice
Giant pumice

After we were done sampling we headed to check in to the Holiday park we are staying in. They are like campgrounds, but have a wide variety of accommodations. Big cabins, small cabins, campervans, open sites where you put up your own tent. Before I left I was a bit nervous about where we would be staying and what it would be like, but so far both cabins have been super nice. I grew up camping, but have become a tad bit more “high maintenance” as I age gracefully! 🙂

Swanky cabin in Rotorua
Swanky cabin in Rotorua

We did some more sampling in the countryside which was beautiful. There were a couple of outcrops that took some time trying to figure out which layers were from which eruption. These geologists use maps and other scientific papers that have been written and published by other scientists to determine the location and other things about the eruption deposits, it is quite amazing to witness.


We ate lunch on the shores of lake Taupo. It is the largest lake in New Zealand. It is a caldera lake, which means when there was a large eruption and over time the area filled in with water. Everywhere I look around here I see hills, and mountains, which were formed from volcanic activity. It is crazy to think of how it must have been thousands of years ago when all of this volcanic activity was going on here.

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo

The group I am with really wants to connect with our students in DB, so I sent an email to the teachers hoping they could get the students to ask some questions and we will respond with some video answers.

There are fields upon fields of sheep and cows here too.


Well, I am off to take a walk into Rotorua to check it out. I stayed behind while the geologists went sampling this morning. I wanted to get caught up on the blog and answer some emails. Sending love to all back home.

Walking on a Volcano!!

Today was a great day! I got up early and was able to talk to my family. I am missing them big time, but trying to focus on the amazing experience I am super fortunate to be a part of.
Today we went to White Island which is an active volcano. Actually all volcanoes in New Zealand are because they have erupted in the last 10,000 years, but White Island is currently active. We took a boat ride out, and the ocean was VERY choppy. My tummy did not really like it at all.


But we made it out there and it was worth it. We saw fumaroles which are basically holes with sulfur, and water vapor coming out and mudpots which is boiling mud! Even just a few days ago it was ashing. I got some great footage, but I don’t think I can attach it to this site. We had to wear hard hats, and gas masks. They told us what to do if there was some activity. We had to make sure we stayed on the paths so we didn’t break through…it was super amazing.

A fumarole spewing out sulfur and other nasty gases.20171210_104416


This is a picture of the center of the volcano.

The ride back was much better, and I was able to chat with a few members of the crew. One of them had just graduated from high school 2 weeks ago. It was cool to get his perspective on things American and I was able to ask questions about things Kiwi. Then another member of the crew just graduated with her Biology degree from the University and has decided to go on another year and become a teacher! So we certainly had a few things in common and had a pretty nice chat. Not much wildlife sightings on the trip though, which was a bummer. I did see one flying fish, and a dorsal fin, of a dolphin, as well as, many birds. I was amazed at how close they fly to the water’s surface.

I guess I better get some rest, we are packing up and moving to another location tomorrow, Rotarua. I believe we may be sampling on the way over.

Saturday December 9th

Hello from New Zealand!
We added 2 members to our group last night. Dr. Ayla P. flew in from Antarctica, she is a scientist who is also really into volcanoes too. Damien flew up from Christchurch, New Zealand. He is a high school teacher from down there who I am going to be collaborating with. Everyone in our group is super nice. I am learning a ton from all of them. A lot of the time they are talking 90 miles over my head, but it is just cool being around people who are super passionate about their research. They question each other and share ideas all the time, first thing in the morning, over morning tea or coffee, at lunch, riding in the van……pretty much constantly!
Today we took a ride up to the Matahina Dam. Dr. Chad Deering gave a talk about the Matahina eruption.20171208_150253[1] 20171208_151200[1]

We also discussed the eels that live in the rivers and how the local people deal with helping them get past the dam to spawn. They live up in the lakes and rivers and then head out to sea to spawn. There is a project where people collect the eels in barrels and drive them up and around the two hydroelectric dams.

We drove to find some more samples and had to hike in on a logging road. They are clear cutting, and it looked like a moonscape! There are also these huge holes on the side of the road to deal with rainwater runoff. Those pictures are on my phone, so I will have to add them tomorrow.

After we collected the samples we went into a town called Kawerau and sat down and talked about how we, as a group of teachers and scientists, can bring this information and experiences to our students. And find a way to share it with other teachers as well and create resources for others to use. We had a lot of good discussion and I look forward to working with Damien and this group of scientists.

After lunch we rode up to Terawera Falls. It was absolutely amazing.



We also took a dip in the river, it was chilly but very refreshing. It has been a bit warm, and I may even be getting a  tan!

Tomorrow we are taking a boat out to White Island, which is an active volcano. It is going to be so cool!

Look for an update tomorrow after our trip.

Love to all my people.

Friday December 8th – Day 2 of Field Work

Good evening from New Zealand!

It is almost bed time here, I am still thinking in Michigan time, so it is 4:00 a.m. back home.

This morning started off just as yesterday did, breakfast and then jump in the van and headed out to hunt down some samples. It was very windy this morning, and a bit overcast. We spent much of the morning searching for the right outcrop of rocks. Many were inaccessible or covered in vegetation. We were looking for a site of the Mangaone group eruption to collect samples from. The groups are collecting pumice to bring back to their labs and analyze.

These are some of the samples we collected. I was even lucky enough to get in on the action and was pretending to be a geologist today! Super fun! The scientists make sure they label their sample bags and get a GPS location written down. They are all taking notes in their Geology field notebooks making detailed observations.  We collected samples at another site before heading back to home base.
Dr. Adam Kent collecting samples
Dr. Kari Cooper taking initial observations of the samples of pumice
Graduate student Tyler labeling a collection bag.

When we got home we went for a little dip in the Pacific Ocean. It was salty, but glorious! There are these clear jellyfish that are washed up and in the water. They seriously look like chunks of clear jell-o. They don’t seem to be able to sting though, so that is good. I will try and get some more pictures of the jellyfish and ocean tomorrow.

-Mrs. Moi

Thursday December 7th

I woke up to the beautiful sounds of a Bell bird and was able to watch a gorgeous sunrise on the beach. A quick call back home to find out that snow day #2 was underway!! A little bit of breakfast and we were off for my first day of geology field work. Our first stop was a location overlooking Ohope beach. 20171206_151920To be truthful I was having a hard time focusing on the geology with that beautiful ocean in sight! I took many pictures and videos of the volcanologists in action! Collecting pumice samples at different eruption sites in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. I am gleaning some information from these scientists who are trying their best to educate me, but they  seem to speak another language! Lol! The passion that these professors and students have for their research is an amazing thing to witness. One of the things I am hoping to do is interview them all to learn more about their life’s path.  I am having a tough time with limited internet to get this updated and add pictures as I wish. Please stay tuned as I try and get a good system going for this.

The Adventure Begins!

December 4
We are on our way!! We left early this morning and drove to Marquette through the rain, which is crazy weather to be having in December. We flew to Chicago, and then on to Los Angeles. We had quite a long layover so we did some reading, people watching. discussed the objectives of the project, (basically educating the non-volcanologist; me, and ate some yummy food! We left for Auckland at 11:00 P.S.T., which is 2:00 a.m. E.S.T., WAY past my bed time. So the first thing I did was get some sleep. We are currently 7 hours into our flight, so we are somewhere over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, only 6 more hours to go! It is 2:30 a.m. on December 6th in New Zealand, and 8:30 a.m on December 5th back in Dollar Bay. Through our travels we have fast forwarded to the next day!