Just prior to going to Antarctica in late November 2005, Joe spent seventeen days on vacation in New Zealand (The US Antarctica Program is supplied and run through its base in Christchurch, so to take vacation there seemed obvious.). He explored by car the northern half of South Island and the central portion of North Island. Most of the trip was centered around visiting geologically interesting areas or locations used in filming the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.


Definitely the star attraction on North Island is Mount Ruapehu, an active volcano which experienced a major eruption in 1995, and smaller ones in 1996, 2006 and 2007.

(below) Another large volcano on North Island is Mount Egmont (also called Mount Taranaki) (below). This volcano has been very quiet in the last century. Its last geological activity was back in the 1850s or 1860s when it produced a lava dome, which subsequently collapsed, inside the crater. A moderate ash eruption was reported in 1755, and a major eruption, similar to that of the 1995 Ruapehu eruption, occurred in 1655.

(right) Some beautiful scenery in an area called Leith Hill and Cave Stream, about 100 kilometers northwest of Christchurch.

Central New Zealand

Mount Doom

The cloud-capped and snow-draped Mt Ruapehu, looking more majestic than terrifying. Ruapehu was used as a stand-in for "Mount Doom", in the movie, "Lord of the Rings".


This is the iconic tree seen in "Lord of the Rings" near Frodo and Bilbo's home in "the Shire". This particular tree is located on the private land of a sheep farmer.


Edoras, the hilltop town, where King Theoden of the Rohan lives in "Lord of the Rings". This little hill, in fact called Mount Sunday, is located in the middle of a valley surrounded by numerous braided streams and is only accessible with a four wheel drive vehicle. None of the original "Lord of the Rings" set remains on the hilltop.


(left) The "Dimholt Road" or the "Paths of the Dead" in "Lord of the Rings". In actuality, it is called the Putangirua Pinnacles, a geological formation consisting of eroded alluvial conglomerate deposits. A very fascinating place located on the southernmost shore of North Island, New Zealand.

(above) The valley in which "Helm's Deep" is located in "Lord of the Rings".