Updated News from Dr. Channon Price in Cape Town, So. Africa
Happy New Year!
To me it seems as if I haven't updated you in forever, but the calendar tells me it's only been six weeks. Perhaps there's a bit of psychology involved, in that "it was last year". Perhaps there was a lot going on.
Academically, the major notable is that we are on the verge of beginning the 2013 school year here in South Africa. Undergraduate classes begin on the 28th, but the Honours in Physics programme will start in a few days. The final enrollment has still not settled, but there will be at least ten students, and possibly as many as twenty. Thus, the enrollment in that programme continues to increase, which is a good measure for the growth of the department and of physics in South Africa. I am looking forward to teaching the E&M course, and am working hard to prepare my notes and class materials. I'm sure that it will be a learning experience, in both directions!
The rest of this message relates my various perambulations around the country. If those depictions are no longer interesting, you have my apologies -- because there are stories and stories within stories to pass along.
The day after I made my last post I headed north on an itinerary that was cobbled together from a variety of impulses. Thanks to my long-time friend Pat, there was a search for the "fantasmic" succulents of the Karoo which lead me to the most amazing plant nursery in Vanrhysdorp. My quest to overnight in each of the South African National Parks took me and the faithful Fabulous Sentra to Namqua NP outside Kamieskroon. Because I would be "close" -- just a few hours extra travel -- I headed north to Violsdrif and across the border into Namibia. (After a lifetime of driving across the US-Canada boarder, this was an eye-opener.) Then I headed east through Pofadder (named after the Puff Adder) to stay at Augrabies NP. The primary attraction there are the major falls over which the mighty Orange River plunges, but I was also looking forward to a hike. Then it was back to Cape Town, but by a different route: through the trickster flats of Verneukpan to Calvinia and then over a 200+ km dirt road just west of Tankwa-Karoo NP.
(Call that last a trial run before I stay there, probably next month.) All-in-all, I got a good taste of the sun-splashed expanse that is the Northern Cape province in December, just before the summer solstice.
Back in Cape Town, I had just a couple of days to get ready for the holidays. My daughter arrived from the Bay Area, in the late evening on Monday the 17th. She barely had time to recover from ten hours of jetlag -- within 36 hours of her arrival we were picking up the camper/motorhome that I had hired for our big trip. Sedona picked up her third time driving solo in ferrying Fabulous Sentra back home -- in mid-day Cape Town traffic, on the left side of the road. Way to go, girl! And then we were off, headed to Jo-burg to meet my son's flight two nights later.
On the way we passed through Northern Cape province, Northwest Cape province and into Gauteng province, and stayed at Karoo NP and Mokala NP, where Sedona started her tally of wild animals spotted. Channon had even less time to recover from jetlag than Sedona (but then he basically started on the East Coast), as his first night was spent in the camper, and we were on the road heading east and north about six hours after he landed. That day was spent traversing the highly scenic escarpment region of Mpumalanga province, and ended next to a dam reservoir in Limpopo province. The next morning -- December 23 -- we entered Kruger NP for an eight night stay that saw us awaken on Christmas morning in the tropics and close the year with a truly memorable day. I'll save the multitude of details for the web albums (and I am burning midnight oil to finish those, even as I further defer working on older albums -- but they will *all* be completed eventually, I promise!), and just limit myself to this: Kruger is everything that it's said to be, and more. We were amazed day after day by what we saw (and heard, and smelled, and felt), and I encourage everyone who has the opportunity to visit there.
On New Years Day we headed mostly south through Kwa-Zulu Natal province and into Free State province, and spent the night at elevation in the Drakenbergs in Golden Gate NP. The next day we skirted the edge of the mountain kingdom of Lesotho on the way to Mountain Zebra NP on the edge of the Karoo. The following day we entered Eastern Cape province (yep, that's all nine provinces), spending part of the day at Addo Elephant NP before stopping for the night at the Storms River Mouth campsite in Tsitsikamma NP, where we camped just 7 m from the Indian Ocean seashore. The last day saw us traverse the Garden Route along the southern edge of the continent before ending in Cape Town. Final numbers: 6250 km, nine provinces, seven national parks, and over 7000 pictures. It was an amazing trip, and then some, but the best parts were meeting many many South Africans (in and out of the parks), all of whom were friendly and generous and wonderfully helpful to the three strangers.
The following day Channon had to return to the States, as his school has an extremely short holiday break. Sedona was able to stay for another six days, during which she got to dip in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time (and this after wading in the Indian Ocean at Tsitsikamma), hike at the Cape Point, and swim with a penguin at Boulders Beach -- and just generally hang out and enjoy the warm summer. On her last full day here, she and her college friend Jen and I climbed Platteklip Gorge onto Table Mountain and rode the cable car down (must more exciting that way!) I am so fortunate that they could join me for the holidays, even as I am missing them again from afar. I know that I'll never forget this trip, and I suspect that they won't either.
I still have five parks that I've never visited (and three more that I haven't overnighted in) so there are yet more travels being planned. Plus, there are still too many hikes unmade. I'll keep you posted on all that and more in future notes. Until then, I hope that you all keep well and enjoy a safe and beneficent beginning to 2013!
THESIS/DISSERTATION DEFENSES UPCOMING:
Poul Jensen, PhD Space Physics Candidate, will be defending February 7th, Look for flyers in the GI Building, as well as, the Reichardt Bldg.
THESIS| PROJECT DEFENSES PRESENTED
Congratulations for the following Graduate Students who have defended in the last few weeks:
XUANYE MA | PhD Space Physics Candidate | Title of Dissertation: "Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability And Magnetic Reconnection At the Earth's Magnetospheric Boundary"
KEEGAN KEPLINGER | MS Interdisciplinary - Physics/Neurosceince Candidate| Title of MS Thesis: "Transient Spatiotemporal Chaos in a Morris-Lear Neuronal Ring Network Collapses to Either the Rest State Or A Traveling Pulse"
CHRISTOPHER WATSON | MS Physics Candidate| Title of MS Project: "A Portable Calibration System for Infrasound Microphones"
PHYSICS NEW DEPARTMENT CHAIR
Dr. Curt Szuberla
Dr. Curt Szuberla has been chosen by his faculty peers to become the new Physics Department Chair, beginning 1 July 2012, for a two year term.
Department Chairs not only have to handle their own academic classes and research,but also all the departmental academic and administrative business.
Dr. Szuberla joins the faculty and staff of Department in thanking the current Chair, Dr. Ataur Chowdhury, for his outstanding service and commitment to the Department and its students. Dr. Chowdhury provided leadership for the Department in a challenging environment, facing fiscal and program issues with aplomb. He will continue to serve the Department as a much-valued faculty member.