It’s time to go back—to the Kimberley.
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Albatrosses and sea lions, little blue penguins and takahē live next door to humans in Dunedin, a city perched on a knot of land on the Otago coastline.
Tall, dark and lonely, formed from a mountain peak drowned by the sea, D’Urville Island is a rugged sentinel between Nelson’s Tasman Bay and the gentle filigree of the Marlborough Sounds.
Once, trampers emerged from the bush on the Wangapeka to the offer of a cuppa and a yarn.
When the sun takes a hiatus to the northern hemisphere, it’s tempting to follow… but where?
By the time Choie Sew Hoy arrived in Dunedin, Otago’s first gold rush was sputtering out. The supply of alluvial gold that could be extracted by pans, cradles and sluice boxes was gradually dwindling, yet large deposits remained, buried in river gravel. Sew Hoy was a merchant rather than a miner—his Dunedin store imported and exported goods to Australia, China, the United States, and Great Britain—and in the late 1880s, he persuaded other Otago investors to try a new type of gold extraction. His steam-powered bucket dredge on the Shotover River was so successful that, in 1889, it launched a second gold boom in the area. After the Shotover, Sew Hoy started looking for new claims. The Nokomai Valley in Southland was known to contain gold, but miners hadn’t been able to work there because its gravel layer was too deep. Gold extraction would require hydraulic sluicing, which used a lot of water, which the Nokomai Valley didn’t have. Sew Hoy had both patience and capital. He paid work crews to build two water races to the Nokomai Valley—one of them becoming New Zealand’s second-longest, extending 47 kilometres from Roaring Lion Creek in the Garvie mountains. It took a team of 30 men three years to cut it by hand, using picks and shovels. And it was with picks and shovels that, more than a century later, Southland farmer Tom O’Brien and a small group of volunteers cut the walking and mountain-biking track that now runs alongside it. It took them two years, working under sun, snow, hail and rain, as the first racemen did, using only materials found on the land. Blackmore Station has been in O’Brien’s family for several generations. The land straddles two regions: on one side, the tawny gold hills of Central Otago, and on the other, the green river valleys of Southland. In the centre is a schist tor, Welcome Rock. Today, the Roaring Lion Track is a 27-kilometre loop for walkers or intermediate-grade mountain bikers. Along the way are fragments of mining history, swimming holes, and, if you’re looking closely, Powelliphanta—giant carnivorous snails. The track begins near Garston, about an hour’s drive south of Queenstown, and must be booked in advance online at Welcome Rock Trails. It can be accomplished in a day, but two huts on the tops—the historic Mud Hut and newer Slate Hut—allow people to break their journey. They overlook the Nokomai Valley, where Sew Hoy’s company eventually made a fortune. Though Sew Hoy died in 1901, his gold operation continued under the direction of his son and, later, his grandson. By 1932, the Nokomai Hydraulic Sluicing Company had extracted £223,043 worth of gold.
Some of the most incredible experiences in Queensland sit on straight line between Cairns and Cape York, the northern-most tip of the Australian continent. For travellers who have wearied of Surfer’s Paradise, a treat awaits.
There are five ways to identify the deadly myrtle rust this summer. Do you know them?
You know you’re in for an adventure when the map says Zebedee, Wandjina and Bungle Bungle.
On Monday, February 13, an electrical fault on Early Valley Road at Lansdowne near Christchurch sparked a fire. An hour and a half later, another fire was reported several kilometres further east, near Dyers Pass, one of three roads crossing the Port Hills. By Wednesday night, the fires had joined to become one large conflagration, burning more than 2000 hectares, destroying nine homes and numerous other buildings and resulting in one death before they were finally extinguished, 66 days later. The fires started when a dry northwest wind was blowing. It wasn’t particularly strong, but the northwesterly had low humidity, typical of air that has crossed a mountain range. During its descent from the top of the Southern Alps, 3000 metres above sea level, the higher atmospheric pressure compresses the air, causing its temperature to rise. By the time it reaches Christchurch, it is often 10 degrees warmer than before it crossed the alps. Most of the water carried by the air falls as rain when it rises over the mountains, so there is very little moisture left once the air reaches sea level on the Canterbury side, where the humidity can be as low as 20 per cent. Heat radiating from the flames dries the fuel in the fire’s path, evaporating much of the water inside wood and foliage. Evaporation happens more efficiently when the surrounding air has low humidity. In addition, heat radiating from the flames travels more easily through air with low humidity—water molecules in the air intercept infrared radiation from the flames, then re-radiate that heat in all directions. Lower humidity means fewer water molecules in the air, and so infrared radiation from the flames is more directional: more of it reaches the fuel. The Port Hills fire accelerated rapidly when the wind increased on Wednesday, February 15. It was now blowing from the northeast, meaning that at first, it brought back the low-humidity air spread over the ocean by the previous day’s northwesterly. A day later, the northeasterly was blowing air that had spent a long time over the ocean. Consequently, humidity shot up to 100 per cent at the top of the Port Hills, and 90 per cent lower down, helping firefighters control the blaze. As temperatures rise around the world, wildfires are becoming larger and more frequent. The tropics are expected to warm faster than Antarctica in the decades to come. The increasing temperature difference between these two regions will strengthen westerly winds over New Zealand, raising the risk of wildfires over eastern areas of the country.
One of the most important historic buildings in the New Zealand mountains.
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