Thursday, February 8, 2007

New Zealand Facts and Figures

Everyone always asks the same questions about New Zealand, so I'm compiling a list of facts so I can stop repeating myself. If something is left unanswered, either leave a comment or see if you can find it at the New Zealand pages at Wikipedia or The World Factbook.

General Facts
Area: about the size of Colorado or the United Kingdom
Capital: Wellington (The southermost capital in the world!)
Largest City: Auckland (pop: 1.2 million)
Time Zone: UTC +12 (Thanks to Daylight Savings Time differences, currently noon on Friday in New Zealand is 6pm Thursday in Pittsburgh.)
Highest Point: Aoraki/ Mount Cook (3,754 m/ 12,317 ft)
Yesterday's High in Auckland: 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Farenheit)
Yesterday's High in Pittsburgh: -8 degrees Celsius (17 degrees Farenheit)

Number of Humans: 4.1 million
Number of Sheep: 43.1 million (estimated)
Number of Cows: 4.4 million
Number of Hobbits: 0 (estimated)
Major Ethnic Groups: European 70%, Maori 8%, Asian 6%, Pacific Islander 4%
Official Languages: English, Maori, New Zealand Sign Language

Political Matters
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Head of State: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (You still swear allegience to the Crown to become a New Zealand citizen.)
Prime Minister: Helen Clark (head of the Labor Party)

New Zealand separated from the rest of the continents somewhere between 80 and 100 million years ago. As this is well before the rise of mammals, there are no indigenous mammals to the country save two species of bat, meaning the remaining animals (such as the kiwi and the now-extinct moa) lost the ability to fly. (This also means there are no kangaroos in New Zealand. Sorry, folks, that's Australia.) Unfortunately, animals introduced relatively recently by human settlers have decimated several animal species, and have driven several to extinction.
Interestingly, New Zealand is the last major settled landmass in the world- the native Maori did not settle the islands until about a thousand years ago, and the first permanent European settlement dates to the 1820s. Despite this (or perhaps because of), New Zealand is the source of several social reforms in the world: women first got the vote in 1893, in 1894 the first arbitary system to settle industry/union disputes was formed, and the first old-age pension was introduced in 1898. As a result of this, New Zealand is sometimes referred to "the social labratory of the world."
Famous New Zealanders include, among others, Peter Jackson, Ernest Rutherford, and Sir Edmund Hillary.

Plans Thus Far
Dates of Trip: February 12th- July 6th
Place of Study: University of Auckland (enrolled students: 39,420 total)
Start of Term: February 26th
End of Term: late June (last final exam TBA)
Classes: 4 (physics lab, electrodynamics, geophysics, contemporary problems in new zealand history)
Residence: O'Rorke Residential College (in the British sense of the word)
Number of People I Personally Know in NZ: 0 (don't worry, I've talked to people, just don't know them)
Amount of Worldly Posessions: whatever fits into 2 checked bags and a backpack

Sounds fun, doesn't it? This is actually all very well and carefully planned out, but I know I'll be writing more about things later and I don't want to get boring before I leave, so that's it for now... if I missed a crucial statistic let me know.


Don said...

Don't get lost among the sheep! I had no idea those outnumber people 10:1.

Your blog seems like a great idea for all of us.

Safe travels!

Don M.

Linda said...

Just because I'm a bio dork, I feel I must correct you on a minor point- the moa didn't lose its ability to fly after NZ separated. A whole group of modern birds, including ostriches, emus and moas, decended from the same group of flightless birds way back when Africa, Australia, NZ were all attached. I'm not sure about the kiwi- that really may have lost the ability to fly on NZ. Anyway, thats your bio lesson for the day ;) (I know you would do the same to me if it was an astronomy thing).

Anonymous said...

Well, I checked out the weather. Sure it will be warm. But the UV index is 11. It doesn't get higher than that! Yvette, I need to to do an experiment for me. When you get there, cover yourself in egg. I don't care what flavor of egg. Then roll in flour. Next, stand outside and time how long it takes you to get a crisp, golden brown breading. Finally, report that time to me. And as with any scientific experiment, rinse, lather and repeat.