Christchurch, New Zealand
In the past three weeks I’ve had a lot of fun visiting classrooms around Crystal Lake and our surrounding area, talking about WISSARD and what’s in store for our science team in Antarctica. I love being able to teach about one of my favorite places, and to get students/teachers enthused about following our work with the WISSARD Project. I’ve now talked with about 4,000 students and teachers since early November, and I’m ready to get to the ice and get busy with the scientists.
Here in Christchurch, New Zealand I’ve had the chance to visit a very special school, North New Brighton. This school was heavily damaged in an earthquake in February of 2011. At that time I got my students in Crystal Lake involved in a service project we called “Lunchboxes of Love.” We bought new soft-sided lunchboxes and filled them with school supplies and sweet treats. These were mailed to a teacher, Lauren, at North New Brighton. She distributed them to her students. Today I got to meet Lauren and those students. I also met many of the wonderful teachers at the school, and got a tour of the earthquake damage.
Lauren shared her experiences from the time of the earthquake. Not only did things shake, fall, and crash in many parts of the school, but when they took students out to the open fields they used for sports, here’s what happened. Something called liquefaction occurred right out on the field near their evacuation point. Basically the ground swelled up like a small hill and then a geyser of muck erupted on the field. The saturated sediments shot up and created quite a mess on the field. This same liquefaction happened in many locations around Christchurch as a result of this earthquake.
The photos below that show the results of earthquake damage. As I walked through what used to be the library and computer area of the school, the floor was very uneven…almost like trying to walk on a ship rocking out in the ocean. Not only are rooms in the school still not repaired or cleaned out, the same is true all around areas of Christchurch. It is clear that recovering from such a large earthquake is no easy task, but the people of Christchurch are resilient and determined to recover.
Thanks to Lauren and the students in her class for making me feel so welcome! It was great to meet you!
After visiting North New Brighton School, I drove less than two minutes to the local beach to take a look around. It’s hard to believe something so devastating happened, when you see a beach as pretty as this one.
I turned my attention toward the central part of Christchurch and drove with my friend Alissa to the central business district downtown. It’s incredible that so many of the places I loved and saw just two and a half years ago have been damaged or are gone. Bed and breakfast places where I’ve stayed, restaurants I’ve been to many times, squares I’ve wandered through, and most of all, the once beautiful Christchurch Cathedral…all wiped out by the quake. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of the people of Christchurch as so much of their city was destroyed. They are moving forward to repair or demolish many buildings.
The Arts Centre (beautiful stone building above) was one of my favorite places…the sign out front said it might be opened again in 2015. Meanwhile, temporary shops have been created downtown, with colorful shipping containers being used instead of permanent buildings.
Our final stop downtown was a quick visit to the Canterbury Museum for the new exhibit about legendary polar explorer Robert Scott, and his last expedition to Antarctica in 1910. The statue on display was one that rocked and broke off its pedestal on the day of the earthquake.
Just as Scott was determined to reach the South Pole, the city of Christchurch is determined to recover and move forward. This is still a beautiful area, and I’m glad I had time to do some exploring!