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Exploring Christchurch, New Zealand

After a long flight from Denver to Christchurch, I finally arrived and had a moment to rest, explore, and prepare for the next leg of the journey to Antarctica. I stayed at the Elms Hotel, accompanied by a group of about 20 other scientists and support contractors. Although we did have a lot of gear and preparations to make for our flight to Antarctica, we were given a morning and afternoon on one day to explore Christchurch. For timeline clarity, I explored Christchurch on November 11th – but am posting this as the November 10th blog post, to fill in gaps in the blog. Full Photoset

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In February 2011, Christchurch was hit by a huge earthquake. The quake severely damaged much of the city, and even today, almost two years later, the clean up and reconstruction is still in progress. Christchurch is a beautiful town, and despite the continued destruction evident all over town, it has still retained its unique charm and beauty. All over town, there are spring flowers blooming, new buildings being constructed, and novel new shipping containers temporarily/rapidly deployed businesses sprouting up.

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By far the most interesting aspect of Christchurch’s post-earthquake reconstruction efforts were the shipping containers. All over town, in bulldozed lots, street corners, and malls, there are corrugated steel shipping containers. Shipping containers and cheap, plentiful and strong, and tons of them have been imported into the city. Cut, stacked, fitted together, and painted, these containers are forming the rapidly developed basis for new businesses in Christchurch. Sometimes standing alone, and sometimes in small groups, life springs from the containers.

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In fact, in central downtown, there’s an entire mall made completely from the containers. Called the Re:Start Mall, it consists of neat rows of boxes, stacked on top of each other, containing all sorts of coffee shops, supermarkets, clothing stores, and cultural centers. The mall seems to be doing well, and on the day I visited with a group of weather balloon scientists, the place was packed with locals, eating out on cafe patios, and buying bags of licorice from the extremely well stocked grocer. (And yeah, that was actually me buying the licorice.)

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I also took time to explore the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. These gardens lie just west of downtown, and are an oasis of beauty right next to the recovering street grid. Walking paths and a lazy river snake through the grounds, and dotted throughout the foliage are small squares and monuments. During my walk through, I found the World Peace Bell, and the Rose Garden.

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At the end of the day walking around town, I met up with another group of scientists for a drink and to listen to some music at a local pub built out of shipping containers, and then a bit of thai food sold out of a converted RV connected to a shipping container kitchen.

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