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15 November, 1999

Arthur's Pass, New Zealand

I met up with four of my six teammates last night. John Priscu is one of the co-Principle Investigators. He's a professor from Montana State University in Bozeman. He is a microbial ecologist coordinating a number of Dry Valley projects that focus on life in extreme environments. Jack DiTullio is an Associate Professor at the University of Charleston in South Carolina. He is a phytoplankton physiologist and biogeochemist studying DMS dynamics. John Lisle is a visiting scientist, also from Montana State. He is a bacterial physiologist investigating the interactions of bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria) and the bacteria in the lakes. Barbara Vaughn is an environmental engineer working as a technician on the project. Back home in Bozeman, she is an environmental consultant who does work involving environmental reclamation, documentation and remediation.

Early this morning, we rented a car and drove out to Arthur's Pass National Park. We were all primed to hike through native forest in the Southern Alps. The landscape was strangely triangular. Like a young kid's drawing of a mountain range, the peaks protruded in a wide arc around us. By the time we got to the trailhead, the rain was blowing in sheets. We wanted to stay dry more than we wanted to hike, so we found a cafe and watched the weather shift moods through the windows.

When the weather began to clear, we set a course for the brightest point of daylight, and drove in that direction. We stopped at an area where we heard you could snake through a cave for almost two hours before meeting daylight again at the other end. With all the morning's rain, a stream a few feet deep was flashing through it. It would not have made for wise exploration, so we only poked around the mouth of the cave, then continued on our way.

Further up the road we came to Castle Rocks- eerie, enormous limestone formations set among sweeping undulations of grass. It's the sort of landscape I love- broad strokes of sky that trick me into walking just a little farther, for yet another look over one more ridge.

We're out on our first adventure together. From the left: John Priscu, Barbara Vaughn, Jack Di Tullio, John Lisle, Valerie Sloane

The rocks stand guard over the foothills.

The exposed location allows wind and rain to shape the stone.

I'll be curious to see how these monoliths compare to the ventifacts in the Dry Valleys, where the winds can blow over 100 miles per hour.

The three Js admiring the scenery.

The trail back down the valley.

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