The students are off again! This time on their final adventure— hopping on an airplane back to the States. As another season of inside jokes, kayaking with dolphins, and other “only in New Zealand” adventures come to a close, I find myself reflecting on what made this semester unique. While swimming with dolphins or living in a convent are very rare and extraordinary opportunities, most CCSP students have been able to share those and similar experiences in their time here. They’ve all been able to play a song for our Music and Musings time, stay with a local family for a home stay weekend, and see the wonders of New Zealand from the West Coast to Wellington.
But something new and exciting about this past semester in particular was the amount of time students were able to dedicate towards research hours for Marine Ecology, taught by local professor Jody Weir. Every Wednesday afternoon for the majority of the semester students were either dropped at Point Keen or the Ohau waterfall to count seal pups, staked out at various beaches to scan for dolphins, helped with dedicating the new “Hutton’s Hub” for our local Kaikoura bird, the Hutton’s shearwater, or even helped with collecting data of Little Blue penguin chicks!
And if that doesn’t sound cool enough, between the two weeks of Marine Ecology and Research all seventeen students were able to go out on Jody Weir’s research boat for a morning. What that means is spotting TONS of dolphins, penguins, albatross, seals, and even a whale!
To get an even better idea of what this experience was like, read it from the words of CCSP student Judith Marklin (Houghton ’17) in an excerpt from her research journal:
April 11, 2016
We went out on the research boat today with Jody for KORI (Kaikoura Ocean Research Institute) research. It felt so good to be on the water. Even though it was a clear, sunny day, I still decided to wear the Mustang suit – a full-body, bright orange life vest. I felt intense and awkward at the same time. We went out to Haumuri Bluffs and spotted Dusky dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, albatross, a Hutton’s shearwater, small orange crayfish/crab things… It was incredible to be so close to the wildlife. The two seals were doing synchronized yoga while holding their flippers!
I was scanning the sea from the 6 o’clock position to 9 o’clock when Jody got word of a humpback whale close to shore. Humpbacks are not native to Kaikoura, but rather, are spotted passing through as they migrate. We sped over and waited for it to resurface. The suspense built as I scanned the glassy surface of the water. Suddenly, we heard the blowhole as it resurfaced not ten feet from our boat. Jody cut the engine, and we watched in awe as it slowly came toward us, gliding a foot under the surface. It passed right behind our boat. It was a small, young one – but still incredible. I saw its outline from above, fins outstretched and white spots along it’s back. I couldn’t help but be humbled. Praise the Creator and Sustainer for these glimpses of sacredness.
I can’t help but agree with Judith; at the end of the day, being able to live in a place so beautiful, near an ocean teeming with such a variety of life, there’s nothing left to do but sit in awe and praise of the Creator of such a beautiful creation.
Student Life Coordinator
Creation Care Study Program