Day 2, Jan. 17

Kia Ora!

After a few hours of overnight rest and a comforting breakfast we left the marae to visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, a unique hydrothermal setting formed by violent eruptions, in 1886, 1900-1904, and 1917, and still active today. Along the way we could see a palette of colors from the combined action of biology and geology.

Along the margin of the streams brightly colored blue green algae, cyanobacteria, and other heat-loving microbes enjoy their existence at temperatures exceeding 50-80 C. More colors orange, red, brown, white and yellow results from mineral deposition and high temperature weathering of volcanic materials.

We returned to the marae around 6pm and gathered for lectures and discussion topics in a number of working groups: 1. Life in the extremes, 2 Planetary environments, Planetary Protection, exploration of Moon and Mars, Robotics and technology, and art and culture.

The robotic group has been involving local Maori kids, which are super curios to learn on about anything we do. Tomorrow, several kids from the surrounding marae will be visiting us!
Last but not least, we are planning for the field trip to Tongariro Volanics, aka Tongariro Crossing, better know as “Mordor” of the Lord of the Ring.

Stay tuned for a day of Astrobiology in Mordor……

Map of hot spring Waimangu trail showing the main sites we visited during this trip.
Map of hot spring Waimangu trail showing the main sites we visited during this trip.
Left: Haritina Mogusanu documenting Kathleen Campbell (left) giving a brush up lecture at the Frying Pan Lake lookout. Kath provided us with a visual ecology primer: basically how we can use the color of microbial mat and background mineral environment to infer the associated range of temperatures. Gray (100 ºC to 80 ºC), orange to green colors (94ºC to 60 ºC), and brown color (45 ºC to ambient).  Right: Example of early silicification by opal A microspheres hiding the microbiological component, with green cyanobacteria still visible underneath. Silica sinters are exposed (subearial) hot spring deposits formed by the precipitation of minerals during cooling and litterally mummyfying alive bacteria and other organisms living in the neighborood.
View of Frying pan lake and Cathedral steaming rock in the background. Lyly pad like structures formed by floating biomass
View of Frying pan lake and Cathedral steaming rock in the background. Lily pad like structures formed by floating biomass
Left to right: More views of Frying pan lake, Cathedral steaming rock and spots of hot water bubbling the processes release variable amounts of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) gas depending on water pH.
Left to right: More views of Frying pan lake, Cathedral steaming rock and spots of hot water bubbling the processes release variable amounts of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) gas depending on water pH.
Top left: Hot water creek along Waimangu trail. More lectures on hot spring and orange and dominating green colors suggesting temperature closer to 60 ºC (Top right). I am taking a picture of Carol Stoker, taking a picture of a teacher taking a selfie. Annalea (not in this pictur), is also taking a picture of me taking pictures!
Top left: Hot water creek along Waimangu trail. More lectures on hot spring and orange and dominating green colors suggesting temperature closer to 60 ºC (Top right).
I am taking a picture of Carol Stoker, taking a picture of a teacher taking a selfie. Annalea (not in this pictur), is also taking a picture of me taking pictures!
Left to right: Steve from Mars Society of Australia deploying Junior the rover and testing spectral imaging of sinters and photosynthetic biomass along the margin of the stream.
Left to right: Steve from Mars Society of Australia deploying Junior the rover and testing spectral imaging of sinters and photosynthetic biomass along the margin of the stream.
Various pools and streams
Various pools and streams
One of several hiding and vocal frogs in a low temperature freshwater pond
One of several hiding and vocal frogs in a low temperature freshwater pond
Last stop. Haritina (Hari) at Warbrick Terrace, our last stop before riding back on the park’s bus. Warbrick Terrace consists of yellow-orange colored silica platform with stromatolitic features. Hari sees swimming shapes in the drying up pond, and we check out…
Last stop. Haritina (Hari) at Warbrick Terrace, our last stop before riding back on the park’s bus. Warbrick Terrace consists of yellow-orange colored silica platform with stromatolitic features. Hari sees swimming shapes in the drying up pond, and we check out…
The rise of tadpoles: Tadpoles at Warbrick terrace taking advantage of a decreased temperature in the pool.
The rise of tadpoles: Tadpoles at Warbrick terrace taking advantage of a decreased temperature in the pool.