Scientists can read the lakes and old-growth forests in the foothills of the Southern Alps and learn about what's come before.
The spectacular snow-capped Southern Alps straddling the coast of New Zealand's South Island are an ancient reminder of the land's turbulent history.
For millions of years, the shifting Australian and Pacific tectonic plates below have been pushing together, buckling, breaking the ground and moulding this mountain range.
To the north, at Gaunt Creek, the fault line extrudes from the ground. It's one of the few places on earth where you can touch a fault.
On average, the plates move 2-3 centimetres a year relative to each other. It may sound slow, but in geological time that's a blistering pace.
In studying the Alpine Fault, scientists have created a timeline of its history and they know it makes very big shifts, on average, about every 300 years.