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Smithsonian Journeys to Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand

By | March 26, 2015

But the best treat had been saved for last! After disembarking from the boat, we headed over to the nearby airport for a flight on small planes back to Queenstown. We were incredibly lucky with the weather on this trip having clear skies, spectacular vistas and a smooth flight home. I was fortunate enough to land the copilots seat in the front of the plane and thus had magnificent views as we flew over the ice clad mountains of Middle Earth. It was easy to see why Fiordland National Park was chosen for the epic shots of magnificent scenery used in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogies!

All in all, one of the most enjoyable days that I have had in a long time!


Tom Iliffe is a Professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston and a Research Associate with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Prior to coming to Texas A&M in 1989, he worked for 11 years as a Research Scientist at the Bermuda Biological Station. He currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Biospeleology (cave biology) and Scientific Diving, as well as a Study Abroad course in Tropical Marine Ecology held for two weeks on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. He has a Bachelor'’s Degree from Penn State, a Master's from Florida State and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas Medical Branch. Tom has been a scuba diving instructor for the past 40 years and a cave diving instructor for 33 years. He is recognized as one of the world’'s foremost experts in the biology of submarine caves, having led research expeditions to numerous locations around the Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian and South Pacific Oceans. He has published more than 210 scientific publications and has collaborated in the discovery and description of over 250 new species of marine organisms. Tom is the 2013 recipient of Texas A&M’s Newsmaker Image Award and 2013 TAMU Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Teaching Award. Documentary films featuring Tom'’s cave diving research have appeared on the National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, History Channel, Outdoor Channel, PBS, and NOVA, as well as French and German Public TV.

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