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Townsend's expedition was a challenge in New Zealand wilderness

Published on Wednesday, September 11, 2013

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Townsend's expedition was a challenge in New Zealand wilderness

Photo courtesy Joel Townsend



Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Joel Townsend



Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Joel Townsend



Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Joel Townsend



Joel Townsend, 22, of Greer, completed a 77-day wilderness expedition traveling in New Zealand with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

To begin the semester-long journey, students took to the water in sea kayaks. The Marlborough Sounds area was the outdoor classroom for this section of the semester. Students began by learning basic kayak techniques and water travel skills.

The course traveled 134 nautical miles during the kayak section as the students encountered penguins, New Zealand seals, dolphins, Portuguese Man of War jellyfish and endemic birds such as wekas and saddlebacks.

The pleasant weather made for great travel for the majority of the course. They experienced the rough water of Cape Lambert and Cape Jackson at the Cook Straight.

The course curriculum focused on leadership development, risk management, outdoor skills, sea kayak travel and environmental studies. Each student had the opportunity to be the leader of the day. Feedback was given to those in the leader roles to develop judgment and decision-making skills. Visiting the wildlife sanctuaries of Motuara Island and Blumine Island, along with paddling around Cook Straight, were highlights of this section of the course.

The course then transitioned onto the hiking section, where students traversed the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island. Traveling through the landscape of Nelson Lakes National Park provided Townsend and his course mates with ample opportunities to experience a variety of terrain.

The course traveled on and off-trail through river valleys, mountain passes, deep forests, tussock, scree field and the mountaintops above the tree line. During this section the curriculum focused on first aid, travel skills and environmental studies.

For the first 19 days of the section the course experienced warm, sunny weather, while the remaining days were overcast with rain and wind.

A seven-day student led expedition was highlighted by crossing Three Tarns Pass in adverse weather.

The final section of the semester-long course was sailing aboard two Chieftain-design 38-foot sloop rig boats. The course experienced moderate winds for the most part, punctuated by three days of strong gusty conditions. During this section, students achieved a good level of technical boat handling and sailing through participating in all roles onboard such as navigation, helming, sail handling, steward and engineer.

Each student developed a good foundation as a competent crewmember on a sailing vessel. Townsend and his course mates returned from New Zealand to their respected homes as competent and responsible wilderness travelers and leaders.

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