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Location - New Zealand's Westland National Park

Updated Tuesday, 27th February 2007

A description of New Zealand's Westland National Park, the location for the filming of the BBC/OU's Rough Science 3

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New Zealand landscape

The Rough Scientists were located on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island, which covers 151,000 square miles. The west coast is a rugged stretch of coastline, part of the Westland National Park, where the land is dramatic and lush, the beaches pebbled and rocky, overlooked by ice covered mountain peaks. The area is peppered with crystal clear lakes, which act as mirrors to the peaks and surrounding landscape, and an extensive network of rivers meander their way around the island.

New Zealand boasts 27 mountains, the tallest being Mount Cook, at 3,755 metres, located on the South Island, and is the highest peak in Australasia. The South Island lies upon two tectonic plates, which collide with each other, resulting in an effect called 'crustal shortening'. This has caused the Southern Alps to rise in a line, virtually the length of the island, while landslides are also a feature of the environment.

The island also has some amazing forests and provides some of the most extensive areas of lowland eco-systems in New Zealand including kahikatea, beech and mimu forests, and upland forests comprising southern rata, kamahi, silver and mountain beech and alpine species.

Perhaps most dramatic of all the attractions is the Franz Josef Glacier which also lies within the Westland National Park and can move up to 5 metres a day, although generally it moves at the rate of 1 metre a day. Many glaciers world-wide have been retreating, but this amazing glacier continues to flow almost at sea level, through a temperate rainforest. This incredible combination of ice and temperate rain forest is unique, both in relation to New Zealand's glaciers and in providing an ecosystem unknown anywhere else in the world.

It is against this stunning backdrop, in the Westland National Park that a disused sawmill was located, a few miles from the town of Franz Josef, which acted as the base for the Rough Scientists to conduct their experiments for six weeks. They resided there over July and August, which is winter in New Zealand and temperatures are in the region of 0-10 degrees celcius and rainfall can be 50-60 mm per month. The annual rainfall amounts to about 5 metres and the winds on the west coast can be icy, when driven from Antarctica.

Our Rough Scientists, needless to say, went packed with some serious warm clothing for them to survive a New Zealand winter.


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