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B1.2.1 General NZ is a long narrow country lying roughly North/South with mountain ranges running much of its length. It is predominately mountainous with some large coastal plains and is a little larger than Britain, slightly smaller than Italy, and almost exactly the size of Colorado. The only 'geographical feature' New Zealand doesn't have is live coral reef. We have all the rest: rainforest, desert, fiords, flooded valleys, gorges, plains, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, geothermics, swamps, lakes, braided rivers, peneplains, badlands, and our very own continental plate junction... As a result of the latter, earthquakes are common, though usually not severe (patience... :-) For more information, go to sci.geo.geology, and download the earthquake maps for this week. The little black line snaking through New Zealand is the plate boundary. A good URL for this is: http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/QUAKES/WEEKREPS/LATEST/world.gif Also try http://www.gphs.vuw.ac.nz/geophysics/geophysics.html http://www.civeng.carleton.ca/cgi-bin/quakes and http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/quakexe/quakes which lists the strong earthquakes worldwide during the last few days. You can get almost instant info about larger quakes from the US Geological Survey at: http://www.usgs.gov/research/environment/hazards/earthquake/ Or try gopher://gldfs.cr.usgs.gov:79/0quake for a simple record of any quake. [not at all sure how this works. help?] -------------------- B1.2.2 Miscellaneous Figures Mt Cook: highest point in NZ. A landslide in December 1991 lowered the 3764m summit by about 10 metres. NZ has 28 peaks over 3000 metres. The lowest (Mount Aspiring) is the only one outside Mount Cook National Park. Also within the park is the Tasman Glacier, which is about 20 kms long. The North Island's main mountains are all volcanoes: Ruapehu (2797m/9175'), Ngauruhoe (2291m), and Tongariro (1968m) in the centre, and Taranaki (2518m) to the west. Lake Taupo; 40.2 km long, 27.4 km wide, 606 sq km, depth 159m Lake Waikaremoana; 19.3 long, 9.7 km wide, 54 sq km, depth 256m The artificial lakes in the North Island deeper than both are Lake Ohakuri (287m) and Lake Whakamarino (274m). Lake Wakitipu 77.2 by 4.8 km, 293 sq km is 310m deep. It's noo but a puddle compared to Lake Hauroko (443m deep). Both are glacial in origin. -------------------- B1.2.3 Flora And Fauna It is still hotly debated whether or not New Zealand was *completely* submerged between 60 - 30 mya. There are now two competing views as to NZ's biogeographic history: (1) the traditional view, that our biology - especially the vegetation - is a living example of a 'Gondwanan' fragment that has a lineage directly traceable back to when NZ split off from Gondwana (maybe as early as 90 mya or as late as 75 mya, depending on who you believe). (2) a more recent view, that actually almost none of our current plants and animals can be traced in a continuous lineage back to Gondwana, and instead have all arrived via long-distance dispersal from Australia and SE Asia, maybe even as recently as 20 - 10 mya. There is some compelling fossil evidence for this view. For those interested in this, an excellent though clearly biased account of this second view is given by Mike Pole in a recent review (The Journal of Biogeography, Vol. 21 pp 625, 1994). In any case during its time of isolation, birds have continued to arrive and develop in NZ without large predators, making them vulnerable to recent arrivals. The predators that have really been widely destructive were the mustelids, cats and European rat species. The most important impact of pre-Europeans was the widespread burning used in moa-hunting especially in the drier areas of the South Island. We have the worlds largest flightless parrot (kakapo), the only truly alpine parrot (kea), the oldest reptile (tuatara), the biggest earthworms, the heaviest insect (also the largest weta), the smallest bats, some of the oldest trees, and many of the rarest birds, insects, and plants in the world.... NZ is home to the world famous Tuatara, a lizard-like reptile which dates back to the dinosaurs and perhaps before (260 mill years?). The only member of its order (Rhynchocephalia) it is now restricted to protected offshore islands which you have to have special permission to visit. Specimens are kept at some zoos. The only native land mammals are two rare species of bat. NZ's many endemic birds include the flightless kiwi, takahe, kakapo and weka. Far too many species of bird have become extinct since humans arrived on NZ included the various species of Dinornis (moa) the largest of which stood up to 2.5 metres high. While the rare takahe (Notornis australis) can be seen in semi-wild conditions at Te Anau, the Kakapo is too endangered to be on display anywhere (see quote below). For those who are interested, the following NZ CD is available: New Zealand birds: Information on more than 300 bird species, plus over 500 photos, video clips of NZ attractions and birds, and 20 windows bmps. Available from: Protech International PO Box 324 Nelson New Zealand Ph/fax 64-3-5451799 There is also some unique insect life such as the Giant Weta and glow worms. Other than two spiders, there is a lack of any deadly poisonous things (snakes, spiders, etc.) which is why NZ Agricultural Regulations are so strict. The great kauri trees in the few remaining kauri forests in Northland are very old with some believed to be up to 2000 years old. Much of the South Island is still forested, particularly the West Coast. ----- firstname.lastname@example.org (cakes) has provided the following article (advice on legality requested!): Reprinted without permission. RACE AGAINST TIME TO SAVE ANCIENT PARROTS Reuters, 19.01.96 WELLINGTON, New Zealand. After a peaceful existence spanning millions of years, the survival odds seem stacked against New Zealand's native parrot, a fat, flightless bird called the kakapo. With only 50 kakapo left in New Zealand, Britain's World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC) recently placed the bird on its list of the world's 20 most-endangered species predicted to become extinct during 1996. "That bird has so much stacked against it," said Kevin Smith, president of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand. Only one kakapo chick has survived into adulthood since 1990, although three more are almost there. "At the moment the clock is just ticking. Unless there are some chicks fledged in the next five years the kakapo's prospects are very bleak," Smith said. Fully grown kakapo weigh up to eight pounds, heavier than most other parrots, and are bright green in color. Scientists say the bird existed without significant threat for millions of years. Their decline began 1,000 years ago when humans arrived in New Zealand, bringing predatory mammals such as cats, dogs, rats and stoats. Flightless native birds, including the kiwi, moa and kakapo, had not developed defenses against predation. "Some were literally eaten alive. The kakapo's only defense was to sit very still, and predators basically had meals on wheels," said Janet Owen, Department of Conservation (DOC) Director of Protected Species. She said kakapo populations were plundered as a food source by Maori and European settlers alike, and their natural habitat was largely destroyed by the clearance of rich forests. Hope seemed lost in the late 1960s when it was found all kakapo known to exist were male. Then the discovery of a single feather on Stewart Island, at the foot of the South Island, led to a hitherto unknown population of about 200 birds, including females. But cats discovered this kakapo haven at the same time. "By the time we could do anything about the cats, the population had plummeted to around 50 or 60 birds," said Paul Jansen, head of DOC's Kakapo Recovery Program. The kakapo were moved in the 1980s to the relative safety of Codfish, Little Barrier and Maud islands, dotted around New Zealand's coastline. The nests need video monitoring as they come under constant attack from rats, and Maud Island is occasionally invaded by stoats swimming over from the mainland. The male kakapo abandons the female after mating, forcing her to leave the nest dangerously unattended while she feeds. What is more, kakapo are reluctant breeders mating only once every four or five years. They also have a history of laying infertile eggs. Despite the hurdles facing the kakapo, the WCMC's prediction of imminent extinction is overly dire, DOC says. While the kakapo is critically endangered, it is a national treasure which can be dragged back from the brink of oblivion. "Results will take a while because they're long-lived birds. We think they live around 60-80 years, so they won't be wiped out this year," DOC Director-General Murray Hosking said. Over the next 10 years the recovery program aims to establish a younger breeding population, although numbers will probably remain similar as older birds die. "Conceivably we will be giving help to the kakapo for at least the next five decades, if not longer," Jansen said. Smith is sharply critical of the amount of funding the government provides for endangered species research. DOC has a $660,000 budget for kakapo research in 1996. "We've become too insulated in New Zealand we don't realize just how special our native plants and animals are. There's a niggardly, pathetically small amount of money going into conservation, and we reap what we sow," he said. Smith said predation was causing the decline of New Zealand's bird populations in general, and forest habitats were gradually being destroyed by possums, deer and goats. "New Zealand's wealth has been generated out of the 75 percent of the country we've cleared. Unfortunately we're not using any of that wealth to save those species that are trying to survive in the little remnants we left them," Smith said. "The dawn chorus in our forests, which used to be a real feature of New Zealand, is in many places becoming more of a solo." Reuters I found this article on a bird-related web site - I can't recall which one as I've scanned many over the last few weeks. Recently I saw a television program on the Discovery channel, which highlighted the plight of the kakapo in much the same manner as this story. -------------------- B1.2.4 Climate The NZ climate is temperate with no real extremes; the north tends to be warm temperate. Being an island nation, the yearly range of temperatures is quite small, around 10 degrees Celsius variation between winter and summer. NZ enjoys long hours of sunshine throughout the year making it an ideal year round destination. In winter the South Island mountain and central North Island do have heavy snowfalls providing great skiing. Summer: December - February Winter: June - August sunshine Temperature (C) rainfall rain hours mean max min daily av. (mm) days sum win Kaitaia 2113 15.6 29 0 1429 138 Auckland 1904 15.7 28 3 23 14 1289 140 Tauranga 2217 14.3 29 -2 1363 118 Hamilton 1981 13.5 29 -5 1236 131 Rotorua 1872 12.7 30 -4 23 12 1509 123 Gisborne 2173 14.1 33 -2 1079 113 New Plymouth 2157 13.4 26 -1 1514 142 Napier 2187 14.3 32 -2 830 92 Palmerston North 1764 13.2 28 -3 991 127 Wellington 2008 12.7 27 1 20 11 1305 124 Nelson 2372 12.2 28 -4 22 12 1005 96 Blenheim 2449 12.9 32 -4 671 84 Hokitika 1889 11.6 25 -2 2809 168 Christchurch 1992 11.9 34 -5 22 10 668 85 Timaru 1828 11.4 32 -4 586 81 Milford Sound 1828 10.5 25 -3 6213 183 Queenstown 1865 10.4 30 -5 21 8 832 93 Dunedin 1645 11.1 29 -2 19 10 802 119 Gore 1665 9.7 31 -5 894 137 Invercargill 1595 9.7 28 -5 1040 157 (some of the table above was pirated and I seriously doubt it's accuracy... Anyone care to confirm it?) Ross Levis kindly offered: All the weather links you should ever need are located on my ISP page at: http://www.enternet.co.nz/weather.html which links to VUW and shows some other Antarctic pictures. Frank van der Hulst and Tony Wilkes provided (combined and mildly amended): NZ Metservice forecasts, including TV-style maps showing forecasts: http://web.co.nz/weather/ Satellite weather pictures from VUW: http://www.rses.vuw.ac.nz/meteorology/pictures/ [ see also ...meteorology/maps.html and ...pictures/ir1/latest.jpg ] These are in mono. For similar maps in colour: http://rs560.cl.msu.edu/weather/ Weather of the whole region, including NZ. Up to 3-day forecasts, including satellite pictures and maps showing isobars & sea surface winds over the Tasman & NZ: gopher://gilgamesh.ho.BoM.GOV.AU/1/1/Australian%20Weather%20Information gopher://gilgamesh.ho.BoM.GOV:70/11/Australian%20Weather%Information/Weatrts [ not sure if the second one is correct ] Latest (3-hourly) weather satellite images: http://geog.canterbury.ac.nz/weather/index.html The NZ sites seem to be somewhat intermittent, and often their latest images are 3 or 4 days old. The Aussie site is probably the most useful. Airways Corp also has a Web site http://www.airways.co.nz/index.html which contains articles from their latest magazine. Also at http:/www.sel/bldroc.gov/today.html are sunspot details and solar activity, which is of interest to radio hams (among others). Hugh Grierson adds: Point your browser at gopher://gilgamesh.ho.bom.gov.au:70/ and follow the links "Australian weather information ..." -> "Weather Charts". There is also: http://www.xtra.co.nz/metservice/index.shtml but that requires a Java capable reader.
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