15-Jul-2005 -- The "wop-wops." That is a term that my friend and colleague Stephanie Eddy tells me that New Zealanders use to describe "out of the way" places. They are the places "beyond the black stump" (another New Zealand term) or the "boonies" as they are referred to in North America. That is where we found 45 South 170 East.
It doesn't get much better than this: Exploring the physical and cultural geography of New Zealand using GPS and GIS, with the best colleagues one could wish for. A Pan-Pacific group of mathematicians, geography and science educators, GIS professionals, and computer scientists from the USA and New Zealand converged on 45 South 170 East one fine winter morning. Another confluence visit seemed like the perfect complement to our two-week adventure. We had just completed participation in a GIS institute in Queenstown and many of us had climbed to 45 South 169 East the previous day. Latitude 45 South Longitude 170 East was considerably easier and almost as wonderful.
We departed Alexandra, New Zealand, at 8am, driving east on Highway 85, arriving near the confluence site at 910 am. Upon leaving the highway for the field to the northeast, Murray, our Confluence Ambassador, found a gate with a telephone number for the farmer who owned the land. He phoned the number, and in no more than a few minutes, the farmer arrived with his daughter. What a country! The landowner knew what we sought, and after a few minutes, we were bounding for the confluence in our large rental van. When we came to a ditch, we walked a few hundred meters. Murray, meanwhile, drove a different way and was able to park quite near the confluence. After a minimal amount of confluence dance, owing to the lack of trees at the site and wide open spaces, we arrived at the confluence at 925 am.
The confluence lies on level ground in a field of low grass that had probably been previously grazed. It lies in beautiful semi-arid basin and range country of Central Otago. The characteristics of this part of New Zealand are quite continental, although, of course, we are really on an island. It is in the Ida Burn Valley between the Ragedy Range, bounded by the Blackstone Fault, and the North Rough Ridge, bounded by the Garibaldi Fault. Tors of schist rock 20 meters high dot the region. Evidence of rock and soil creep from freeze-thaw cycles is everywhere. The confluence is near the drainage boundary between the Taieri River and the Manuherekia River. We saw sheep and cows in the distance but no other people and few dwellings. The closest town is Wedderburn, about 5 km south.
We stood there for awhile, taking photographs and enjoying the beautiful mid-winter day and each other's company. The elevation on the GPS units read 644 meters, the skies were nearly completely cloud-free, and the temperature read 2 degrees C (36 F). I had been to 45 South once before, during the previous day, but never to 170 East. Obtaining a 10-degree confluence (170) was an extra-special treat. After about 25 minutes at the site, we drove out the way we came, continuing to the southeast coast. Not far from the confluence, we stumbled upon a curious object of cultural geography: The Shoe Fence.