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the Degree Confluence Project
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New Zealand : North Island

14.2 km (8.8 miles) NE of Ngatira (Waikato), Bay of Plenty, N. Island, New Zealand
Approx. altitude: 556 m (1824 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 38°N 4°W

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  38°S 176°E (visit #2)  

#1: Markus and Andrew at the stash site

(visited by Bob Jordan, Andrew McGlone and Markus Stirnemann)

20-Jun-2000 -- It is 8.15am on a winter's day as close to the shortest day that you can get and I should have been at work 15 minutes ago. But not today -- hooky it is called. Taking a day off when you should be working. We are in Markus's 4WD and we are heading to some place that has a mathematical name S38 E176.

It is in the dark bush not too far from Rotorua, and some guy has put an ice cream container there with some goodies in it. None of the goodies are worth the effort that we will put into it. Andrew is muttering in the front seat something about "should have spent more time learning how to use this thing" as he furiously punches buttons on his Garmin GPS II+. There are a whole lot of new words that I have not heard before -- waypoints, WGS84, and others. Finally he seems happy and puts the thing down on the dashboard and proudly says that we are 38km from our objective and that the bearing is 111° Great the technology might just allow us to make it.

As we motor forward at a steady 100km/hr the GPS seems to be pointing the way and telling us that we are doing about 100km/hr. He must have set it up right -- just maybe my earlier fears are unfounded? Just in case though I have the ultimate weapon -- all of the maps of this area that one can buy, and I can read them (I think)! After an hour of driving my trusty map tells us that we must turn off this main road and head off into the wilderness. The GPS seems to be saying the same thing and thinks that we have passed the goal and that we are getting further from it. It is now only 5.5km away. We follow some old forestry roads with expert guidance from map and mapreader and soon come to a road end that is 1.6km from the goal. 9.45am and we are off along the well formed bush track. The bush is too thick for any satellites to be found except in a clearing on the way that shows we have halved the distance in only 15 minutes. Hey this is easy. Another 15 minutes and we come to a lovely little lake in the bush - Lake Hiwiroa. Also, this is the end of the track and we still have 300m at 239° magnetic to go. We soon head off and find just how thick the bush is. Supplejack - a half inch vine that can hold a man fast -- and it comes in thickets always exactly where you need to go. So no coverage here from the satellite birds above; we need to find a clearing. The first clearing is a failure - or is it us? The second is a little better and we find that we are now only 110m from the goal and at 240° magnetic. Hey we are holding our course well. More floundering and we find a gulley clearing that must be marginal but hey we get another fix -- 50m still 240° -- amazing. Even more floundering still and we find a large windblown tree which I can climb up. I am momentarily entrusted with the GPS and even I get a reading after a lot of arm waving. The goal is now 10m at 20° or is it 20m at 40° away - we must be close. "Hey Markus move away from me - right a bit - should be there". "Whoopee there it is" he yells. We all gather around the small white container with the GPS words on it. It is just sitting in the bush not even hidden -- but who would come here?

So we made it after less than two hours much of which was waving that damn GPS in the air. We are so pleased that it is nearly 20 minutes before we bother to open up the container and fill in the book. It appears that we are the first visitors since Peter McKellar located it here just over two weeks ago. What a privilege, and what a nice place -- a very large tree just to the North -- nice. We share a packet of chewing gum from the stash and put in a pen and a choccie bar. Didn't really feel like taking much -- just getting there was enough.

After nearly an hour at the site we decided to head off -- and that is where the real fun begins. But first a little history. Andrew's GPS is a couple of years old and was bought in the States. These two things mean that it does not contain the NEW ZEALAND MAP GRID. Now this grid is unique to New Zealand and is maybe 300m out from WGS84 which is used to define the confluence points. So when you attempt to plot yourself on the map using the rather inadequate latitude/longitude marks on the edge of the map you put yourself where you are not. But it is hard to tell in the bush - one bush looks like any other. Well add to this the inexperience of the team -- yes you guessed it we didn't put in a waypoint at the car. Really we felt that we would not need GPS going back as we all had reasonable experience finding our way around in this bush, but we did assume that we were in the bush at the stash point co-ordinates that I marked on the map -- remember -- 300m out! Also this is lowland bush with no major peaks poking out to guide us -- all just low hills etc.

Well -- No probs -- just head East and we will hit the lake. Too late to read the manual at this stage -- never did understand that trackback stuff anyway. Well to confound things the true course back is 60° -- you know, complement of 240° -- hey we are engineers aren't we? and not 90° which is east. Add to that the fact that we choose a few easy options to get around that damn supplejack and seems that before long we are heading nearer to 135° (SE). Do your sums and we are heading at about a right angle to the lake direction -- but no worries -- it is only 300m after all. We find the stream and yes it is heading south -- we are OK. But as we head along the stream it swings around to the SW -- that is not right -- it doesn't do that on the map? I wonder which planet we are on guys? Get another fix and plot it on the map -- cunningly using the incorrectly located confluence point that I plotted at home. Funny it is still telling us that we are where we are not. Hey guys, it's getting late, the days are short, before long we might have to use that L word. Didn't they say that even Daniel Boon used to get temporarily misplaced for a few months at a time? Well we flounder around in this valley for a couple of hours trying our hardest to make it run North South like the map says - damn thing seems to have a mind of its own. We might just have to camp out soon guys. Finally Andrew, muttering unnecessary apologies about learning how to use a GPS, makes a totally irrational decision to march a compass course back along the line to the stash where we left about three hours ago with about a 20° extra towards North (my cunning innovation) to make sure we hit something we knew. We finally stumble onto the track about 5 minutes from the lake and get to the bush edge at 5.10pm with dark imminent.

Well in hind sight we all know a lot more about the GPS vagaries now. We know that you need to set waypoints, what the different grids mean, and have had some valuable experience marching in the bush with a compass. I think we all benefited from the experience and agree that it would have been far less fun if all this had not happened. Andrew now has the NZ map grid downloaded and installed on his II+, I have a GPS of my own and we are looking seriously at the other 11 confluence points in the North Island of New Zealand.

A night out (considering our cumulative experience in the NZ bush) would have been hard to explain to our friends and families, and even harder to our colleagues back at work. And it was soooo close!

So if you tackle this confluence, make sure you have the right map (NZMS260, sheet U15), a compass, AND the New Zealand Map Grid installed on your GPS! A little knowledge of the NZ bush would also be useful - or not ;-).

Thanks Peter for a lovely Divine Stash point - we had fun - really


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#1: Markus and Andrew at the stash site
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