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Adventurous Students Vie for Antarctic Expedition

Monday 12 June
Announcement by the Royal Society of New Zealand
For immediate release

Adventurous Students Vie for Antarctic Expedition

The first of six teams of high-school students are off on Freemasons-sponsored documentary-making expeditions around the country today – made more adventurous by the inclement weather. The teams will film scientists at work in various spectacular locations. The prize for the best expedition video is the ultimate BIG Science Adventure – a trip to Scott Base in Antarctica.

The Pakuranga College team, Monique Higgins, Eileen Gallagher and Jenny Suo, were to depart by helicopter to rugged Stephens Island from Wellington's Queens Wharf this morning. Their departure is delayed by high winds. Stephens Island, off the north of the South Island, is home to 30,000 or more tuatara – one for every two or three square metres. The team will follow the work of Victoria University researchers on the island as they investigate the territories, temperatures, and parasites of this ancient species. They'll then return to Wellington courtesy of the Royal NZ Navy boats the Wakakura and the Moa.

Three students from Timaru Boys' High School were due to fly from Timaru to Gisborne, where they leave for the Chatham Islands on Tuesday, on the Royal NZ Navy ship Resolution. But because snow has closed Timaru's airport, the team has had to hire a 4WD to get to Christchurch. Once on the Chathams, with GNS Science's Dr Hamish Campbell, they'll learn to interpret the island's story from the rocks, flora and fauna. The team will be accompanied by a film crew from Close Up.

All of the teams are travelling with new graduates from the University of Otago Natural History Film-making Course, to give the students planning and technical assistance. The teams also have brand new MacBook Pros on loan, complete with the latest video-editing software, thanks to the Apple Computer Division of Renaissance Limited.

More details on all of the BIG Science Adventures are included below.

The Royal Society of New Zealand is very grateful to Freemasons New Zealand, Antarctica New Zealand, and the Royal NZ Navy for their wonderful financial and in-kind support for the competition, which is life-changing for many students.


Previous media releases on the competition can be seen at
The winning videos can be watched at

Teams and their adventures:

Burnside High School. Video: Dolomedes Aquaticus and the work of Michelle Greenwood
BIG Science Adventure: Molten Matters, Bay of Plenty/Taupo area

The energetic and intelligent "two-legged freaks" from Burnside made a video about the habits of Dolomedes Aquaticus, more commonly known as the New Zealand fishing spider, to win their place on this competition. Now they'll turn to the unpredictable and truly scary habits of volcanoes, starting with White Island. Their intrepid hosts – led by GNS Science's Dr Brent Alloway – are used to staring into the mouths of these untamed monsters that will one day show their awesome powers again. He'll show them around the Taupo Volcanic Zone, where most of New Zealand's deadly volcanic activity has occurred. The team had better be fit - they'll be going right to the top of Ruapehu to see the breathtaking Crater Lake and across part of the Tongariro Crossing to see the Red Crater.

Dates: Sunday 25 June – Sunday 2 July
Science: Study of Volcanoes/Geothermal areas
Students: Reuben Todd, Melissa Hay, Allen Carbon
Teacher: Ms Claire Wichman
Principal Scientist: Dr Brent Alloway, GNS Science

Nelson College. Video: Cawthron, Creating an NZ Icon
BIG Science Adventure: Whales and Dolphins, Northland

Two of the boys - Michael Potton and Michael Holmes - demonstrated their talents at video making in the Transit of Venus video competition two years ago and won a place on the expedition to the UK to observe the 2004 Transit. This time, their video about the cultivation of paua at the Cawthron Institute in Nelson has earned them a place on the expedition to the Bay of Islands where marine biologists are studying whale and dolphin populations. They will spend much of their time on the water, and will have the opportunity to visit Great Barrier Island, which is not far from the marine laboratory at Leigh, 1.5 hours north of Auckland.

Date: Saturday 17 June – Sunday 25 June
Science: Study of whales and dolphin populations
Students: Michael Holmes, Michael Potton, Robert Whittaker
Teacher: Mrs Leigh Riley
Principal Scientist: Dr Scott Baker, University of Auckland

Pakuranga College. Video: My Neighbour's Planet
BIG Science Adventure: Stephens Island (Tuatara)

These girls found a superb talent for their entry video in Jennie McCormick, their now famous neighbour. Jennie is an amateur astronomer who, from the comfort of her home in Pakuranga, found a planet by observing the changing light from a star on her computer. Using her kitchen bench, two apples and a tomato, she explains Einstein's simple but powerful technique of microlensing, which enables astronomers to detect the presence of planets. Having conquered this topic, the girls will now investigate the habitat of our oldest residents - the tuatara - which lived on our land for millions of years alongside the dinosaurs. Somehow, they survived the mass extinction of life c65million years ago, only to be driven from the mainland by the pressures of human habitation, and the predators that came with them. The team will be flown by helicopter to their last outpost - rugged Stephens Island - off the north of the South Island. The Navy boat will uplift the party, requiring some
skill given the very rough waters, and all but inaccessible coastline.

Dates: Sunday 11 June – Sunday 18 June
Science: Study of Tuatara habitat
Students: Monique Higgins, Eileen Gallagher, Jenny Suo
Teacher: Mr Gordon Lawrence
Principal Scientist: Sue Keall/Dr Nicola Nelson

Pukekohe High School. Video: The Iron Production Process
BIG Science Adventure: From the Mountains to the Sea, Fiordland

This team produced a very competent programme on the steel making process, gaining access to NZ Steel's plant in Glenbrook and some superb shots of the furnaces and molten metal. The boys will now travel to far southern latitudes to join scientists in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, where they will have quite a different topic to elucidate - the study of the food chain. Captain Cook was the first European scientist to make measurements in Fiordland - he tested a prototype of John Harrison's new clock, which finally enabled sailors to estimate longitude with reliable accuracy.

Date: Sunday 18 June – Sunday 25 June
Science: Food Webs
Students: Tim Clauson, Allen Crimmins, Alec Wild
Teacher: Ms Lisa Ooi
Principal Scientist: Dr Stephen Wing, University of Otago

Timaru Boys High School. Video: S'no Problem
BIG Science Adventure: In the Footsteps of Dieffenbach, Chatham Islands

These boys have shown 100% determination to get their story and make it into the finals. Their video on climate change and hydro electricity is exciting and powerful; they chose very topical subjects and made the most of the fabulous mountain scenery near Timaru. They have been assigned to the most remote location - the Chatham Islands - where they will learn to interpret the island's story from the rocks, flora and fauna. Their expedition party will travel there from Gisborne on the Royal NZ Navy ship Resolution, which has been deployed on special orders from Admiral Ledson. They return to Devonport, Auckland, on the Resolution, a chance for some rest and relaxation in the big smoke before flying home to Timaru.

Dates: Monday 12 June – Friday 25 June
Science: Study of Geology/Flora-Fauna
Students: Thomas Westaway, Michael Price, Omeed Howey
Teacher: Mr Tony Bunting
Principal Scientist: Dr Hamish Campbell, GNS Science

Wellington High School. Video: Teenage Sleep Patterns
The Search for Distant Planets : Lake Tekapo

This team made an extremely professional video on teenage sleep patterns, with information clearly presented through some excellent interviews. These highly creative young people now have the challenge of presenting the work of the planet hunters. Their nocturnal habits will be perfectly suited to keeping the astronomers company on their lonely vigils at Mt John Observatory, exquisitely sited at the heel of beautiful Lake Tekapo. Weather permitting, they will glide over the Southern Alps, which encircle Mt John, and travel to the nearby glaciers.

Dates: Friday 16 June – Saturday 23 June
Science: Astronomy
Students: Hannah Newport, Josh Barnes, Joe Russell
Teacher: Mr Mark Sweeney


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