The creation of New Zealand's first marine reserve in 1977 was a bold scientific experiment and a test of public opinion. Editor Kennedy Warne revisited the reserve to see what effect protection has had.
The creation of New Zealand's first marine reserve in 1977 was a bold scientific experiment and a test of public opinion. Editor Kennedy Warne revisited the reserve to see what effect protection has had.
Before the end of summer more than 100,000 school children will have seen the two giant panda bears residing at the Auckland zoo, despite opposition from the World Wildlife Fund and the New Zealand Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. The two pandas, Fei Fei and Xiao Xiao, are on display until mid-January when they will return to the Baishuijiang Natural Reserve where they were born. Both Fei Fei and Xiao Xiao were rescued as babies, found starving on the edges of the reserve. Murray Mitchell, executive director of the New Zealand office of the World Wildlife Fund, says he doesn't approve of the panda visit at all, but because New Zealand is at the end of a world tour for the pandas "we decided not to do anything placing an injunction on the visit." Head keeper at the zoo Mick Sibley believes the case would be different if the pandas were of breeding age. He believes the fact that pandas are endangered—less than 800 are believed to survive in the wild—will impress the 250,000 expected visitors to the zoo, and may cause them to consider their own endangered species. This cause is helped by the Forest and Bird Society which sets up a stall at the zoo on weekends, drawing attention to the giant weta, kakapo, black stilt, black robin, and kokako—some of our most threatened species. Mick Sibley believes that after this zoo visit "100,000 kids will be talking conservation."
One of the Coromandel's most famous visitors is back. Willie, or Humphrey, a three-tonne sea elephant who hit international headlines last year when he adopted a Wharekawa dairy herd and refused to return to the sea, has been seen in the neighbourhood again. Early in November he was spotted in the Whangamata estuary and has attracted a steady stream of admirers. Willie first visited the region in 1984 when he ventured ashore near Tauranga. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries officers named him Willie after one of their number. Seeking new ports of call, Willie headed north up the Coromandel Peninsula. He displayed a fondness for Tairua and Pauanui. There, animal lovers set up a Willie Watch roster to ensure people who flocked to see him did not get close enough to be in danger. Then, last year, his regular spring on-shore sortie turned into an extended holiday. Instead of remaining on the beach, Willie, or Humphrey as he was named by Whangamata school students, came ashore on to a Wharekawa dairy farm, showing a strong desire to be near the cows. In the next two months he waddled through fences, broke water lines and foiled attempts to tranquillise him and return him to the sea. Eventually, a heavy charge electric fence was used to fence him into a drainage channel area. One day he just wasn't there, having returned to the sea. Now Willie, or Humphrey, is back, visiting old haunts around Whangamata. While he is a tourist attraction, Department of Conservation officers are reminding people not to get too close to the large sea mammal because he can move very quickly when aroused. His regular appearances are out of character for sea elephants. Usually they head for subantarctic regions for the mating season.
The treasury’s 1988 coin issue is helping the cause of the yellow-eyed penguin. Though Treasury probably won't part with any cash for the cause, the new one dollar coin will increase public awareness of the threatened species. The coin, designed by Waikanae artist Maurice Conly, shows penguins in a typical shoreline situation. Only 18,500 sterling silver coins have been struck, with a further 45,000 coins struck in cupro-nickel. None will be circulated as everyday currency. The silver coin is selling at $46 and the other at $4.50. In issuing the new coin Treasury is joining various groups and individuals led by the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust in a campaign to increase public awareness, gain additional knowledge and increase habitat protection for what is arguably the world's rarest penguin. Known in Maori as the Hoiho, or "noise-shouter", the yellow-eyed penguin grows to about 60cm and is the largest of New Zealand's five native penguins. There is an estimated population of only 5000, with 700 thought to be mainland dwellers and the rest located on Stewart Island and the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. (See "Life on Campbell Island", pages 35-38). It is found only in New Zealand waters and is not closely related to the world's 15 other penguin species. Sedentary by nature, the adult birds remain close to their breeding grounds throughout the year. Only the juveniles travel north up to 500km to winter feeding grounds. Loss of natural breeding ground is the main cause of population decline. Land clearing, disturbance by man and grazing animals, predators and changing climate and ocean conditions are the main influences. Worldwide attention will be focused on the yellow-eyed penguin in December 1990 when it will feature as the logo of the 20th International Ornithological Congress in Christchurch.
Welcome to the first issue of New Zealand's own geographic journal. Our mission is to explore New Zealand's wildlife and environment, our people and towns, our history and natural heritage. Our publication will celebrate the evolution of New Zealand and New Zealanders, We are confident about this country and we want to inspire New Zealanders to share in geographical research and outdoor adventure. Personal and physical challenge such as that faced by Graeme Dingle and the young offenders in their recent "Journey" (page 39) is not just an inspiration but an example of what we can do, individually, with determination and application. We shall be saluting New Zealand achievement in every facet of geography. In our pages you will meet people, visit places, learn about technology and its everyday applications, go on adventures and read about our unique birds, animals and plants. There is much to learn, discover and enjoy within this country and its South Pacific neighbours, There is much to protect and preserve, New Zealand Geographic will examine the important geographical themes of our times and the global threats to our fragile web of life, Our columns will, we hope, stimulate New Zealanders to be enthusiastic and proud of our heritage and to respond creatively to the challenges we face, In a world at risk, these qualities may prove to be our best hope of survival. But we need your support. The only way this journal can succeed is if you get behind it. Please get involved by subscribing to New Zealand Geographic. Part of each subscription will go into a fund for the sponsorship of scientific research and expeditions. We look forward to an exciting future in this publishing adventure. Please join us.
Mountaineer Graeme Dingle's 1200km odyssey with six young violent offenders was a journey he would later describe as the most difficult and stressful adventure of his career, and one that nearly claimed his life.
A piece of state of the art technology originally developed for the military is exploring one of earth's last frontiers—under the ice of Antarctica. It is a remote operated vehicle (ROV), known as the Phantom, a mobile underwater camera capable of recording high quality pictures at depths inaccessible to divers. The ROV has been jointly bought at a cost of $250,000 by the University of Otago and Television New Zealand's natural history unit. The portable vehicle, which needs a small crew for cabling, piloting, camera operation and technical maintenance, is powered by high voltage thruster motors and includes a control console, high resolution camera and fibre optic cable. Each motor is one horsepower. The camera stored on board is similar to one used by Television New Zealand for outside broadcasts, except that it is sealed in an underwater housing. A separate 35mm camera is used for still photography. It is controlled from the surface and has its own flash unit. The ROV can dive to depths of 700 metres—ten times the depth a diver can reach. The ROV'S first job in New Zealand involves filming for a documentary called "Under The Ice" for the Wild South series. The 50 minute film will be the first documentary to concentrate on life under the ice, says natural history unit producer Neil Harraway, who left for Antarctica in December. As this issue of New Zealand Geographic went to press, the team had completed its first dive with the ROV. In a short message from the icy continent, Harraway simply said the experience was "superb, fantastic, amazing." The predominant life form under the ice is the sponge, with colonies of different species and colours covering the entire seabed. Below 30 metres, where ice never forms, the sponges live for centuries and grow up to two metres wide and two metres high. Living among the sponges are orange seaspiders, white sealice, huge lavender-coloured nemertean worms, red and white urchins, orange starfish and red anemones. In the cold, undisturbed water, the animals have grown huge. Scientists say that the constantly low water temperature of two degrees below zero acts as a growth stimulus. The ROV was developed by Deep Ocean Engineering in California. It can be deployed from a helicopter, inflatable boat or conventional ship. The vehicle is hollow, with most of the engines and control machinery housed inside the hulls. Aside from the cameras and lights, little is outwardly visible. Otago University intends to use the ROV to further its research around Otago Harbour and the peninsula, while TVNZ has plans to explore the depths of Fiordland where it will investigate an unexplained sonar reading at 120 metres outside Milford Sound.
In fact, Don Merton is the only one of his kind. As a senior conservation officer for the Directorate of Protected Ecosystems and Species, he is New Zealand's sale officer working full-time on endangered birds.
Fiordland Private Museum stands among a jumble of weathered cabins eight kilometres from Marian Corner where the tourist route continues to Milford Sound via the Homer Tunnel. It is a onetime Public Works Department camp known as Henderson's and there is a transient look about it — like everything in the area — as if awaiting the next flood to wash it away. Yet this small building, a mere 500 square feet, holds within its walls a slice of history that is filled with heroic endeavour... and magnificent failure. The curator, Murray Gunn, is the only son of legendary bushman and mountain guide Davie Gunn. Murray's ferreting instinct, combined with a penchant for identifying and recording historical objects, has kept him in the Hollyford Valley for the past 34 years, collecting the memories of a remarkable era. Murray's lifestyle is 'almost pioneer'. He uses electricity only when there are enough people staying in the camp to warrant starting the generator. He has no telephone and anybody wishing to book a cabin has to send a telegram, without expecting a reply. Apart from peak times, the camp is quiet. Dougal McScratch, Murray's long haired black and white with a bit of tan dog died about three years ago, and is not to be replaced. The camp and museum are on National Park land, and introduced animals are technically not allowed. A man he fondly calls The Recluse lives in the camp much of the time, and he has frequent visits from Beansprout, a locally famous hermit (apparently named because on one occasion he removed his hat and revealed beansprouts growing in his hair). Getting the exhibits to the museum has been a job in itself, often involving a two day journey by boat and packhorse. But the result of Murray's efforts is a unique collection of pioneer artefacts and objects of interest. Every nook, cranny and corner (including the rafters) is packed with the memorabilia and paraphernalia of those who dared to explore and settle this wild, inhospitable region, south of the Arawata River to Milford Sound and west of the Main Divide. Many of the exhibits date from the settlement of Jamestown at Martins Bay in 1870. High hopes were held for this remote outpost at the climax of the southern gold-rushes. It boasted the shortest distance to Australia and eliminated the risk of sailing ships having to face the Roaring Forties on their way to Dunedin, the country's busiest port at that time. The only problem was getting across the Divide. The access was never finished and starvation finally drove the settlers out. The McKenzie brothers, Malcolm and Hugh, were the only ones to remain at Martins Bay after the turn of the century. Cattle farmers, they eventually sold out to Davie Gunn in 1926. Among the museum's exhibits is a draught board they fashioned on the bottom of a barrel, along with a ploughshare and anvil from the abandoned McKenzie homestead. Some say the roads were n trade if vessels were enticed to the western side of the province. A few Maoris survived because they were able to grow their sweet potato and camp on the sand dunes, out of sandfly range. These, and a variety of little known facts and figures, are duly recorded next to the relevant artefacts in the museum. More recent developments and catastrophes are also there, such as the completion of the Homer Tunnel in 1953 and items on the numerous search and rescue missions that have been mounted in the area. A twisted propeller is all that was recovered from one airborne jaunt that ended in disaster. But it is the stories of people that make this museum so distinctive that breathe life and soul into it. Real people. Characters that, thanks to Murray, have left their indelible mark on these great U-shaped hanging valleys, among the glaciers and icefalls of towering 1500m buttresses — the highest mountains in the world to come straight from sea level. There are the families: the McKenzies, Greens, Martins and Webbs, the explorers, the loners, hermits and drifters. Chief Tutoko, Quentin McKinnon, Donald Sutherland, Samuel Turner, William O'Leary (Arawata Bill), Captain Alabaster, Patrick Caples, James Hector, Talbot, Graves, Williamson and Barrington, to name just a few. And, of course, Davie Gunn. Davie originally left for Martins Bay in 1926 to "wrestle the neglected McKenzie cattle back under control." To do this he set up a series of camps between Martin's Bay and the Eglington Valley, where he lived in primitive conditions before setting up base camp, first at Deadman's Camp and later at Henderson's. Murray joined his father in 1954. A year later the Hollyford River claimed Davie's life and in 1956 Murray began his museum. In the middle of the room stand the pack saddle boxes made up for Samuel Turner's attempts to climb 2746m Mt Tutoko. It wasn't until Turner's sixth attempt in 1924, with no expense spared, that he finally made the top. On one of his earlier attempts he came close to starvation. According to Murray, Arawata Bill used to do a bit of prospecting in the Red Hills area, but it was only an excuse. It was the mountains, the bush, the birds, the exhilarating loneliness that drew him, and the ever-changing face of nature on a grand scale. The museum records Arawata Bill's crossing of the Barrier Mountains, over a 1500m pass through snow and ice, in his thigh gumboots with only his old horse for company. Murray's little museum is strong with the aura of endeavour and the will to survive — blended and served up with a touch of backcountry humour.
An international celebration of nature, based in Dunedin, is planned for 1990. Television New Zealand's inaugural Pacific festival of Nature Films, scheduled for the end of November that year, is to coincide with an international bird preservation conference in Hamilton, and in Christchurch, the 20th International Ornithological Congress. The year 1990 will see the Commonwealth Games, the 150th anniversary of Government in New Zealand and the 50th birthday of the country's ornithological society. Up to 1000 people are expected at the Ornithological Congress in Christchurch. TVNZ expects up to 300 of them to attend the five-day festival, and about 200 film and television documentary makers to submit their work. The IOC is also planning an international photographic challenge and a stamp exhibition. The 50th International Council for Bird Preservation is pencilled in for Hamilton in November 1990. Details of the down-under nature festival are still sketchy, but a feasibility study is nearly complete.
Once hunted to the point of extinction, the Kaimanawa wild horses now thrive in the harsh high country of the Desert Road. Ironically, their rapidly increasing numbers pose a threat to the fragile native plants of the area. In the developing ecological tussle the horses are again in the firing line.
If David Bellamy could have his own way, his new television series on New Zealand natural history would be titled Raiders of the Last Ark. But Stephen Spielberg won't let him, so he's had to settle for Moa's Ark. The Hollywood sci-fi movie producer has apparently threatened to sue Bellamy if he adapts the title of his box office smash, so instead just the last chapter of his book will carry it. Either way, the theme of the TV series (and the book which accompanies it—Bellamy's 35th) is that New Zealand is the earth's last ark, floating along for thousands of years with its rare and beautiful plants, birds and animals still intact, then along come the raiders who wreak havoc on the land in just a few hundred years. The moral of the story is that New Zealanders are uniquely placed to save what's left of this "last bit of real estate". The famous British botanist is on a four-month visit to New Zealand this summer mainly to help the New Zealand Natural Heritage Foundation get off the ground. Most of his time will be spent filming four 50-minute television programmes, which are to be screened in 1990, and teaching at Massey University where the foundation is based. The foundation's mission, developed jointly by Bellamy and Massey's Professor Brian Springett, is to conduct a major public assessment of New Zealand's natural heritage, to celebrate it and to work out ways of using and protecting it. With its main thrust in 1990, the foundation will produce TV programmes, publish two books (the other is on New Zealand ecology), develop a New Zealand heritage package for tourism and educational materials for schools and create an extramural university course on New Zealand's natural heritage. For England's Botanic Man (the name of Bellamy's first top-rating TV show) the chance to champion the cause for conservation in New Zealand is "pure pleasure". He makes no secret of his love for New Zealand, a country he has visited almost 30 times in 20 years. The 6ft 2in former deckchair attendant, sewer inspector and painter of white lines on roads is just as well known in New Zealand as he is in his homeland for his dynamic and flamboyant television presentation style and his public protests on conservation issues. Arrested in Tasmania in 1983 during a demonstration opposing the Gordon River dam project, his most memorable New Zealand experience, he says, was a run-in with angry residents of the Minginui Forest area. At first the local Maori timber workers regarded him as a greenie whose media campaign to stop logging was adding to the threat of unemployment for them. "A couple of big fellas on motorbikes got me in a bush-hut, rather roughly forced me down on a bench and to my amazement pulled out a crate of beer, put a bottle in my hand and said, 'What are you doing here?' At first it was frightening but I was then able to explain that by saving the forest they could preserve their own heritage and employment for their children from tourism." Later, on the local marae, Bellamy was accorded an official welcome as a friend and given a carved staff as a token of gratitude for the message he brought the people. He says his message to the Minginui people is the same one he'll be advocating in Moa's Ark. "New Zealand's strange and unique flora and fauna are heading for extinction unless you can get your conservation act together. Considering your tiny population, if New Zealand can't get conservation working, no one can." The key, he believes, is to integrate conservation values into the educational syllabus of schools from primary right through to 6niversity level. "You have a truly amazing country with many world firsts to its credit... the world's biggest moss, Dawsonia superba; the world's smallest moss, Ephemeropsis; the world's biggest buttercup, Ranunculus lyalli; the world's biggest thallose liverwort, Monoclea; and the world's biggest leafy liverwort. And you have many unique and seriously endangered species of bird and animal." Bellamy believes tourism holds one of the keys to our future. "The thing that annoys me that you get about 0.02 per cent of all the tourists in the world and yet your tourism industry brought in almost half as much as agriculture last year. Your poor farmers are dying of drought, so what they should do is put the land back into trees and quadruple the number of tourists coming here. You should take advantage of your Government's stand on the nuclear issue and tell the world that your country is the cleanest and your food is the purest." Moa's Ark deals with many aspects of Maori land claims and fishing rights. It also traces the history of the Treaty of Waitangi. But Bellamy the publicist will not disclose details. "You'll just have to wait until 1990 and see when the series goes to air." However, the forever-talking font of quotable quotes does let one relevant Bellamy-ism slip. "As far as the Treaty of Waitangi is concerned it doesn't matter who owns the resources or has sovereignty over them, it's how you use your resources that matters most."
A green gecko in the Auckland area has the unusual habit of throwing off yellow progeny. Herpetologists describe the yellow offspring as a colour morph—a genetic variant which lacks the ability to produce blue pigment. There are seven varieties of green tree gecko in New Zealand. Opinions vary as to whether they are seven separate species or all members of the same species, but only the Auckland geckos are known to have had yellow offspring. New Zealand Herpetological Society president Brian Humberstone says the Auckland variety Naultinus elegans is found south to Taupo and north to Hokianga and the Bay of Islands. The geckos can grow up to 20 cm long, and vary from dark to light green. Some have distinctive white markings in stripes or patterns, others have none at all. Humberstone says it is thought the yellow offspring occur at a rate of between one in 500 births to one in 2000. The "yellows" as they are known to lizard lovers, vary in colour from pale to dark yellow, with or without markings, with some a bright sulphur. The yellows have a low survival rate in the wild because their bright colouring makes them easier targets than their naturally camouflaged green parents. Their prime habitat is manuka scrubland, a habitat which is a permanent state in some areas of New Zealand and a transitional nursery stage for native forest regeneration in others. The geckos are most often found on manuka trees between 1.8 and 3m high. Diurnal creatures, they eat flying insects like flies, beetles and moths, but will not touch ants, Humberstone says. They rely on a claw and use a prehensile tail as a fifth leg to climb, sometimes to the top of manuka 8m high. There are five major sites for the green tree gecko around Auckland and three rescue areas where society members are pulling out the creatures to save them from subdivision-prompted land clearances. The main area known for the yellow forms has been Manuka Rd in Glenfield, where about 30 yellows have been found in the last 15 years. That area has been completely destroyed with the last of the scrub cleared about two years ago. Former Heritage Park natureworld assistant supervisor and former herpetological society secretary Bob Porter, who has just left New Zealand for the larger reptiles of Australia, says colour morphs are not unusual in the animal kingdom, but are more often found in birds rather than reptiles. Budgerigars are naturally green, their other colours having been bred in captivity, while goldfish are brown in the wild and are selectively bred through to their bright aquarium gold. Porter says he has only ever heard reports of the yellow geckos occurring in Auckland and says the phenomenon could be the result of a restricted breeding pool after large numbers of geckos were wiped out by development.
From the pure white silica sands of Parengarenga Harbour to the bottles, jars and windows we come into contact with each day, the making of glass is both a science and an art. Louise Callan takes a look at this unique and timeless substance.
In the dusk of a summer's evening the smoke from barbecues and campfires rises into a darkening sky full of brilliant stars. Centre stage is the Pot, with a line of three stars forming the bottom of a southern hemisphere saucepan or dipper. These stars run across the celestial equator, so they are also visible, upside down, in the northern hemisphere. There they are known as the Belt and Sword of Orion the Hunter, a giant figure of a man holding a raised club and surrounded by a group of animals. Adolf Hitler is said to have wanted to rename this constellation after himself. The stars in the handle and base of the Pot are young, only a few million years old, and they lie in a part of the sky where even younger stars are still forming. Binoculars will show up one of these star nurseries in the middle of the handle of the Pot. Here there is a beautiful nebula, a cloud of dust and gas lit up by the young hot stars which have formed within it. Some are not even visibly shining yet, but watch this space—in years to come they will blaze out through the dust clouds. A simple way to measure distances in the sky is with a hands pan. Stretch your arm as far as you can, spread your fingers wide, and the distance from thumbtip to little fingertip is about 20 degrees on the sky. Using this measure, one handspan from the right hand star in the base of the Pot reaches Sirius, the brightest star in the whole sky. Sirius means 'scorching', so named because Mediterranean people saw this star approach the sun in the hottest part of the year and assumed that it was causing the extra heat. It is also called the Dog Star, because it 'dogs' Orion the Hunter, and from this association comes the name 'dog days', for the sultry days of late summer. Sirius is bright partly because of its closeness to the Earth (about eight and a half light years) but also because it really is a giant star, nearly 23 times as luminous as our sun. On the other side of the Pot, a hands pan from the left hand star in the base takes you to Aldebaran, an old red star in the eye of Taurus the Bull, with the V-shaped Hyades cluster forming the Bull's nose. Further left again is a little cluster known variously as Matariki, the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. Six brighter stars are easily visible to the naked eye, although a telescope shows more than 200. There is some argument as to whether one of an original seven bright sisters has faded, or whether the cluster was given its name only because seven was considered a magical number. The sisters feature in more legends and literature than any other constellation. Often these stories mention rebirth or renewal and are linked with the beginning of the northern agricultural year, the beginning of the monsoon in Asia and with the corn harvest in western European traditions. Maori elders watched in the dawn for the first appearance of Matariki from behind the sun on a date near enough to the shortest day, and used it to set the beginning of a new year. South African tribesmen called the Pleiades the 'hoeing stars'—a sign that it was time to begin another farming cycle. Many constellations are only chance alignments of stars which are really at different distances, but the Hyades, Pleiades and Pot are all real families. The Hyades are the closest, at about 150 light years. They are a crowd of about 200 stars all travelling together in the same direction, and probably formed from the same dust cloud. The odd man out among them is Aldebaran itself, which is an unrelated star in the foreground. The Pleiades are more than twice as far away. They are one of the youngest clusters, only formed about 50 million years ago, and a telescope shows them still cocooned in the smoky nebula from which they formed. The stars of the Pot are much further away—so distant that the light which reaches us from them this evening began its journey more than a thousand years ago. Among the planets, Jupiter is unmistakeably bright through the summer. Steady your binoculars against a doorpost and see if you can find Jupiter's moons as minute points of light which change position from one night to the next. Venus is still a morning star, low in the dawn twilight.
Award-winning landscape photographer Dennis Brett took his cameras to a rain-soaked Te Anau in October and returned with these striking images of a liquid landscape.
The northwest wind in Canterbury drives people crazy. Suicide rates go up and domestic violence increases, and when this hot, dry wind reaches gale force physical destruction becomes widespread. On October 15, 1988, Canterbury farmers watched in despair as thousands of tonnes of topsoil, already bone-dry from drought, were blown out to sea by a northwest gale. Hundreds of hectares of crops were destroyed, either through windburn or the sandblasting effect of the dust-laden wind shearing plants off at ground level. Arcing power lines started many fires, roofing iron was torn from buildings and a couple of large power pylons were toppled. At Christchurch airport the peak gust recorded was 90km/hr while inland the wind was estimated to have reached 140km/hr. Comparisons were made with the disastrous storm of August 1975 in which even stronger winds were recorded: sustained winds of 115km/hr and peak gusts of around 160km/hr. Road, rail, power and telephone links were cut in many places from Wairarapa to Southland by falling trees and power poles. Vast tracts of forest were laid waste, buildings were demolished, boats sank at their moorings and a number of chickens were blown out to sea. To understand why these spring-time gales occur it is necessary to look at the origin of the wind itself. Wind is caused by the difference in temperature between the equator and the poles. Because the earth is spherical the tropics receive far more sunlight than the poles. This heats up the tropical air and causes it to expand, so much so that the part of the atmosphere where the weather takes place is almost twice as thick at the equator as it is at the South Pole. As a result some of the air spills out from equatorial latitudes and moves towards the poles. As it does so it moves closer to the earth's axis of rotation (the line through the poles around which the earth spins) and speeds up. This wind starts off as a northerly, but because the earth is spinning from west to east it becomes a westerly wind by the time it reaches New Zealand. The principle behind the speeding up of the wind is easily demonstrated by spinning in a swivel chair with your legs extended horizontally in front and your arms behind. When you pull your arms in and bend your knees your rate of spin increases dramatically in order to conserve angular momentum. It is the same principle ice skaters use to execute high speed pirouettes. In spring the South Pole is at its coldest, so the temperature contrast between the pole and the equator is at its greatest. Consequently the strength of the westerly wind reaches its peak at this time of year. In addition, when northwest gales blow across the Alps, wave motions can be set up in the atmosphere which cause the winds to be much stronger downwind of the mountains. Far from sheltering the Plains, the Alps can actually increase the wind's force. Why is the wind so hot and dry when it reaches the Canterbury Plains? Again, the answer lies 100km away at the Southern Alps and the effect they have on the wind as it passes over them. As air rises it expands because atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude. (This is why it is so hard to breathe on top of Mount Everest. At that altitude one lung-full of air contains about one third the oxygen that it does at sea level.) Conversely, as air sinks it is compressed. Anyone familiar with a bicycle pump knows that air gets hotter when it is com pressed. Fridges work on the opposite principle of expanding gases cooling down. So, as air ascends on the Hokitika side of the Alps it cools due to expansion. This causes water gas to condense as tiny droplets of liquid water, which we see as clouds, and from which rain is formed when the droplets coalesce. The process of condensation releases heat and this effectively reduces the extent to which the air is cooling. Everyone has experienced the reverse phenomenon at the beach when getting out of the water. In order for water droplets on the skin to evaporate they rob heat from the body, making you feel cold. As the air descends on the Christchurch side it becomes compressed, warms up and the cloud evaporates. But the cloud base is much higher on the descending side because most of the moisture in the air has fallen out as rain. Therefore the descending dry air heats up at a much faster rate than it cooled down when rising inside cloud on the West Coast. The result? Air reaching sea level at Christchurch is much hotter and drier than it was when it commenced its ascent at Hokitika. The 1988 spring has been windier than most. In the months from July to October most reporting stations from Wellington southwards have had considerably more days than normal when gusts exceeded gale force. In fact, in October Wellington had 29 such days, which is a record. West of the Alps Milford had 1967mm of rain which is three and a half times the average and a record for October. The reason for such a windy spring may well be connected with lower than usual sea surface temperatures near Antarctica, but as yet climatologists have not unravelled the mechanisms involved.
The goldminers of the 1860s wrote a colourful chapter in the history of New Zealand place names. They were tough, practical men in a strange and empty land. New towns mushroomed overnight and they often disappeared just as quickly. They were heady years and there was a vitality, and sometimes a sardonic humour, to the name-giving. Not for the gold seekers the nostalgia for places left behind. The rocky ranges in the arid vastness of Central Otago became the Knobbies, the Raggedy Mountains and the Old Man Range. A hundred creeks and gullies from the Coromandel to the West Coast simply bore prospectors' names. There was Jones's Terrace and Liverpool Dave's and Gabriel's Gully where Gabriel Read, with only a butcher's knife, unlocked a bonanza. The names Antonio's, German Flat and Chinaman's Creek are reminders that fortune-seekers from around the globe came here in search of riches. In all this long list of names, none shines more brightly than that of George Fairweather Moonlight. Wherever there were goldfields there was soon a Moonlight Creek, Moonlight Gully or simply a place called Moonlight. George Moonlight became a legend in his own time: flamboyant adventurer, storekeeper, explorer, publican and above all else, prospector. A romanticism grew around him, but his name might not have been Moonlight at all. The tale the miners embraced was that Moonlight was a loner, an elusive will 0' the wisp who worked by night and who would lead those who could find him to certain gold. There were other legends. Roaring Meg, the turbulent stream that plunges into the Kawarau River not far from Cromwell, brings vivid images of a red-headed barmaid named Maggie Brennan. Maggie kept law and order in her grogshop by the force of her voice and the impact of a short-fuse Irish temper. It didn't take the diggers long to equate the sound and fury of a mountain torrent with Maggie's forceful character. Roaring Meg the stream became, and though its voice is now muted by a hydro power station, the name and the legend live on. Cromwell itself was not named by the miners, but they had a hand in it. The story goes that when surveyors arrived to map the town a group of Irish prospectors saw their presence as a threat to their claims. Suspicion turned to anger and anger to violence. A fight erupted and peace wasn't restored until the head of the survey party sternly warned "Stop! Get back to your diggings or I'll put the Curse of Cromwell on you!" The town became Cromwell and the name 'The Junction', where the Clutha and Kawarau rivers converge, disappeared from sight. Tempers flared again in Cromwell when Cromwell and Clyde were vying with each other to become the county centre. Noted politician and entrepreneur Vincent Pyke preferred Clyde, calling Cromwell "the city of dust storms and typhoid". Enraged residents hanged an effigy of Pyke on the steps of the town hall, dragged it through the streets and flung it off the bridge. Other names blossomed on the goldfields and none more forgettable than No Town. When the survey party looked at their map they declared that it all looked quite impressive on paper, but "it's really no town". And there was Merrijigs, a few kilometres from Reefton, which in those days was better known as Quartzopolis and achieved fame as the first town in New Zealand to boast electric lights in its muddy and potholed streets. Reefton and its pubs were a magnet for miners but the track was rough, criss-crossed by creeks and in heavy bush. Getting there meant dancing a merry jig, and perhaps a merrier one by lamplight on the way back to the diggings. Legends still dot the rivers, streams and gullies where the gold fossickers briefly paused. There was Charleston, said to be so named because at least seven diggers named Charles had claims there. And who was Red Jack, the legendary red-bearded giant who ruled his domain in the gold-rich Grey Valley by sheer physical force? He unearthed a nugget weighing more than 58 ounces but is best remembered for the district still known as Red Jacks. The miners have gone and the easy gold is gone too. But the riches of the names the miners left behind still stirs the imagination and adds colour, and some excitement too, to our maps.
On the map it's just a speck in the vast Southern Ocean, lashed by the winds of the Furious Fifties. Yet scientists and weather staff queue up for a chance to live in this remote southern outpost. Raewyn MacKenzie went to find out what draws them there.
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