Yesterday morning (I’m writing this on Thursday), I was driven to Picton, detouring through the famous Marlborough wine region (vineyard below), famous for Sauvignon Blancs. But I also saw some Pinot grapes on the vines.
The ferry from South to North Island, and vice versa, goes between only two ports: Picton and Wellington (New Zealand’s capital). There are two boat lines; I took the Interislander Ferry. The distance traveled is 93 km (58 mi); the voyage lasts a tad over three hours; and it takes a long time to leave the Queen Charlotte Sound, passing mist-clad mountains:
Still not in the open sea after nearly an hour: leaving the Sound:
It was too misty to see much as we approached Wellington, but this is what the Interislander Ferry looks like. It takes cars and lorries, too, but that’s expensive.
The ferry was very large and had good food and so-so internet. It also showed rugby games on Sky TV. Note the silver fern emblem on the side.
After arriving in Wellington, the New Zealand Humanists had drinks with me in a local pub, and then we repaired to the President’s house (Sara Passmore), where one of the Humanists, Gaylene Middleton, had spent a long time making a lovely (and New Zealandish) dinner for everyone.
We had roast leg of local lamb (cut up below), Yorkshire pudding, salad, and beetroot. “Pudding” (I’m not sure if that’s what they call it here) was fresh mixed berries with whipped cream and ice cream, washed down with your choice of beer, red or white wine, or cider. Many thanks to Gaylene for laboring over the tasty dinner and Sara for helping and providing the venue:
Mini-puds (right)! They were good.
Sara Passmore is renowned for playing the musical saw, which I’d never heard before. She plays very well, bowing the straight end, holding the saw between her legs and vibrating it, and bending the tip to and fro. It sounds very eerie, like a theramin. I tried it today when she wasn’t at home, and, like everyone save Sara who tried it last night, I was horrible at it.
Here’s Sara playing one of her three saws (one is electric!)
This morning I spent a few engrossing hours at Wellington’s famous Te Papa Museum, which has collections of natural history, geology, and especially anthropology, concentrating on the Maori.
There was also a special exhibit on the disastrous (for the ANZAC forces) Gallipoli Invasion, partly sponsored and created by the Weta Workshop, itself made famous for creating costumes and props for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movie series. Jackson, a Kiwi, lives in Wellington.
There were eight models of soldiers who participated in this WWI campaign, which killed over 2800 Kiwis. Each soldier was modeled 2.4 times life size, so when you see this:
It’s actually this big (I’m told these very realistic models are products of the Weta Workshop):
The Gallipoli campaign lasted between April 25, 1915, and January 9, 1916; the initial April date is celebrated throughout New Zealand as ANZAC Day. The Turks, commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s first President), inflicted a resounding drubbing on the Allies, and their victory is said to have been pivotal in giving Turks their consciousness as a nation.
Here’s a Maxim machine gun used by the Kiwis. Four of them died manning this weapon, and the gun was hit four times by Turkish fire. You can see a bullet nick on the front edge of the barrel.
Below is a letter written from Egypt by a Gallipoli survivor to his daughter, but he was later killed in Egypt and never made it home. You can see the heartbreaking notation at the bottom of the letter by the daughter:
He is dead now
Daddy is dead now
Below were the only messages that Gallipoli soldiers were allowed to send to relatives and loved ones in New Zealand. They just filled in the blanks (second photo), and clearly weren’t allowed to say anything that would distress the folks at home.
The most interesting exhibit was about the Maori and the European settlers, divided into separate sections of the Museum’s third floor.
The following three photos show how forested New Zealand was before the Maori arrived from Polynesia about 1280 AD. The first European to reach New Zealand was the Dutch captain Abel Tasman in 1642, who left in a hurry after three of his sailors were killed by Maori in a misunderstanding. It was not for another 127 years that another European visited: Captain James Cook. Regular visitors from Europe didn’t come till the end of the 18th century when whaling and settlement began.
When Europeans arrived, Maori had already deforested much of the island, and Europeans denuded much of the rest. The first picture shows the pre-human situation, when about 85% of the land was forested, and the rest unsuitable for trees because of altitude and climate:
What the Maori did:
And then Europeans:
Both Maori and European also drove many of the unique native species extinct, especially after European introduction of weasels, stoats, and the Australian brush-tailed possum. But Maori also ate the moas into extinction and knocked back many native birds for their feathers and meat (there were no mammals to hunt save bats).
Here’s one species that was driven to extinction by Europeans and Maori: it’s a female Huia (Heteralocha acutirostris). Last seen in 1907, it’s believed to have been driven extinct by deforestation, a desire for mounted specimens, and the male’s tail feathers, used to decorate European hats and to adorn high-ranking Maoris. Some biologists, including my recent host Don MacKay, think that the hui still survives in some remote valleys in the North Island.
Its beaks were made into watch fobs and the like! Oy!
Here’s a painting of the Huia with male in front and female behind. Note the pronounced dimorphism of the beak, identifying the specimen above as a female. According to Buller’s Birds of New Zealand (via Don MacKay), this may denote dimorphism of niches, with males specializing on grubs from soft rotten wood and females probing for grubs in holes in harder wood.
Don found what was the main food of the huia in a woodpile by his house. It’s the fat “Huhu grub” of the beetle Prionoplus reticularis, much beloved by the Maori as a delicacy when roasted (Wikipedia notes that it’s supposed to taste like “buttered chicken”). Here’s a photo I took with a coin for scale; it shows about half the grub:
A Maori feather cloak:
Maori gaffes and fishhooks. They did not use metal, but made all their implements, weapons, and tools from bone, wood, and stone:
Pounamu, local jade (nephrite), also known as “greenstone”. It is very hard and was used by Maori for adzes, weapons, and jewelry. It’s still worn as jewelry by both Maoris and Kiwis:
Here are the remains of a very early Maori midden; I’ve put the key to the numbered items below the photo. Note that there are remnants of moa eggs and bones (#8, the big one, is a moa leg bone), and implements made from moa bones. The nine species of moa were hunted to extinction by the Maori by about 1400 AD. It took only about 100 years to wipe out millions of years of ratite evolution.
A kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot (Strigops habroptilus). This is a rare stuffed specimen.
Wikipedia says that as of June of last year, there were 154 kakapo left; they are of course critically endangered and are living on island reserves. Recovery will be slow as they are infrequent breeders. The photo below shows one humorous and fruitless attempt to collect sperm (probably from Sirocco!) by letting the kea mate with a human wearing an “ejaculation helmet” on the head. I suppose we’ll hear jokes about giving head. . .
Maori pounamu war clubs:
A wooden war club:
A Maori war canoe, elaborately carved and very long. I show some of the carving at front and back (front is to right in first photo below):
Right above the front keel: