Thursday, April 21, 2011


What a great day we had yesterday!  The sun came out and we had a wonderful  morning whale watching.  Kaikoura is a sleepy seaside town that has come back to life with whale watching and dolphin expeditions.  Just offshore is the Kaikoura trench where the bottom drops from 300 feet down to 3000 feet!  The perfect place for sperm whales.  The boat crew uses a hydrophone to listen for them and we found one right away.  It is believed that they use sound waves to paralyze their prey and have been known to knock a man unconscious.  As the whales are getting ready to come to the surface the pings become more rapid, called "shotgunning."

Listening for whales with hydrophone


He came up to the surface for just a couple of minutes and went back down again  Then about 10 minutes later came back up and stayed on the surface for about five minutes.  This was a whale they have been seeing here for about 20 years.  They come to the surface to stock up on air.  Then they sound for about 50 minutes.  It was amazing!  We also saw a few dusky dolphins closer to shore.

Feeding in these waters were a couple of albatross species and these petrels (I think they are Cape Petrels)
To give  sense of scale, the boat is the same as ours--about 55 feet long--and the whole whale is not showing
Then there was a chance to shop along the main street in town for about an hour--a big hit! 
Our lunch today was individual "meat pies" that we got from the local bakery.  Very Kiwi and everyone loved them--delicious!  Especially enjoyable as we ate them at a seaside park/seal colony--what a gorgeous sunny day.  The kids were really loving the up close views of the fur seals who were sunning themselves on the rocks.

Then it was back on the bus and heading south to Christchurch, where we visited the Antarctic Centre and learned all about the desert continent.  The Centre is located right next to the airport and the hangar where expeditions begin the 10 hour flight down there.  I think they said there are 60 research stations there!  The most fun part of the visit was the ride around the dirt track in the Haggalund, almost like a roller coaster!

This is us tracking through water up to the windows!

We arrived at our accommodation in the Meadow Park area of Christchurch (NZ's 3rd largest city) in time to let the kids shop at a nearby mall before dinner.  Then after dinner we all learned the Haka, a Maori war chant.  These kids are smart--they picked it up fast and did a great job learning the Maori words and actions.

Aidan teaching us the haka

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