THE trip of a lifetime taken each year into the heart of Fiordland’s Deep Cove is set to pack a little extra punch for Southland pupils after a selfless donation from Southland Girl’s High School Year 8 pupil Sophie Ineson.
Sophie donated her Sky-Watcher 6-inch Dobsonian telescope to the Deep Cove Outdoor Education Trust after she won it with her essay entry in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) Scientist for a Day competition.
It was the second time Sophie had won the competition.
She took the telescope into Deep Cove late last month after she realised the location would be a perfect place for it to be used.
Sophie’s mother, Sharee Ineson, said donating the telescope to the hostel seemed a logical choice.
“Honestly, it was instant. When Sophie found out she had won the competition second year running, it was instant; ‘I’m going into Deep Cove, that’s a place it can be used, and used by lots of people’.”
Sophie said she knew most Southland Year 8 pupils went there, and it would be well-used for learning and inspiring futures.
“I feel that if they use and they learn about it with their teacher or guide, they could learn more about the stars and planets they could see at that time.”
It might encourage pupils to look into it more after, she said.
“Then they will have knowledge of what is out there and look at what they can do.”
She hoped the clear Fiordland night skies, free of light pollution, would foster interest in space as pupils experienced space’s vastness through the scope.
Briefly stopping to lie down and look up at the stars during a class night trek had left an indelible memory with her.
“It was really cool to look at all the different stars. We saw some shooting stars and different constellations. It was a nice moment just to stop and look.”
But seeing the same sky through the scope once it was set up took everything to a new level, she said.
“My whole class came out of their bunk rooms to look at the stars and planets we found.”
She was surprised by the detail of the planets which could be seen, particularly Venus.
Deep Cove Outdoor Education Trust trustee Bruce Smart said the trust aimed to introduce a wide variety of experiences to children and it was hard to know what lasting affect the Fiordland experience had on their futures.
“But every now and then you flick someone’s switch.”
Mr Smart said he was “blown away” by Sophie’s generosity, especially from someone so young.
The addition of the telescope left a legacy for future pupils visiting the hostel and significantly expanded the resources the trust had to offer, he said.
“This is a whole new aspect that can been added to Deep Cove.
“I’ve said to teacher after teacher, when you are walking back at night time after seeing the glow worms, get the kids to look at the night sky. Now there’s a real reason to be looking at the night sky.”