New Zealand Student Tours

Tectonics - Alpine Fault

The fast moving, fault between the Pacific and Indo Australian plates cuts the length this zone (40mm p/a compressing / sliding.  

While travelling in this zone we enjoy a rare opportunity of exploring a major world fault line on land due to a special twist the the subduction process.  (These junctions are usually under the oceans).

We see the land here twisting and shattering with lineal movements and at the same time, compressions are uplifting the spectacular towering Southern Alps. Rivers and valleys bend to its moving forces. (40mm yearly)  Earthquakes are common with this process; some recall frightening stories when they occasionally strike a community. Massive landslides, uplifted terraces and rifted lakes are all formed from the transverse movements along the junction of these giant plates.

The path through New Zealand
The Great Intercontinental Fault slides under the sea on the east of the North Island then on land it passes through two of the South Island's Zones ( Mining & Milling and Glacier & Scenic) before slipping into the Tasman sea to the west of the Fiord Zone.

We explore the fault at various locations and learn to recognise its features and effects on the land.


Slicing inside
We explore a newly carved glacier valley where we actually see the inside of the major moving fault.  We discuss the movements and processes involved.  With familiarization gained here, guests learn to recognise the same type of features found along other world renown faults elsewhere.

Local information centres help us understand the concepts with photos, dioramas, maps models and diagrams. 

Signs of the activities
Often the line of the fault is clear as it divides the two giant planetary plates. Interested group members can learn to  become familiar with the features and recognise the signs for themselves.


Protecting People
Towns were often established near the fault as it created opportunities for various industries (mining, tourism, harbours).  We learn how the (very rare) times when earthquakes damage the towns and roads.  We explore some of the simple ways communities here protect themselves and prepare for the occasional destructive event.

Well formed public roads and pathways enable visitors to see
the features with ease.


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