Dough, bread, boodle, brass, lucre, readies, folding—it doesn't matter what we call it, but it's the key to our dreams. Most of us will never get our heads on it; we'll be satisfied just to get our hands on it.
Dough, bread, boodle, brass, lucre, readies, folding—it doesn't matter what we call it, but it's the key to our dreams. Most of us will never get our heads on it; we'll be satisfied just to get our hands on it.
In some respects, the 25-kilometre stretch of Farewell Spit is the last place you would expect to find a colony of gannets. Elsewhere in the New Zealand biological region the birds characteristically choose craggy offshore islands to build their mounded nests of seaweed, soft plants, earth and guano. Of these 20 or so colonies, the Cape Kidnappers site has been a very viewable mainland exception, while the rock stack of Motutara at Muriwai also provides reasonable viewing from the shore. Farewell Spit is home to over 90 species of birds, so it isn't surprising that a few gannets have made an appearance on the ornithologist's record sheet, along with kea, sparrows, spoonbills and a veritable who's who of waders. A census of gannets taken in 1946-47 recorded some 21,000 pairs breeding in New Zealand, a number which doubled to 43,000 in a 1980 reassessment. Together with non-breeding roosters a likely population of some 90,000 adults can be deduced today. Such a successful breeding pattern gives no surprise to the fact that from 300 birds recorded on Farewell Spit in 1983 there are now over 900 nesting sites. But what is surprising is where they have chosen to nest: three adjoining hillock-like sandy shellbanks two kilometres past the lighthouse. The establishment of this second mainland colony represents a departure from their preferred craggy headland roosts. The Australasian gannet (Sula serrator) lays its single egg between September and December. Incubation is shared by the parents for the 43 days before the black and naked chick emerges. Within a month the chick's plumage is fluffy white, but it later changes to a brown-andwhite mottle—the juvenile coloration. By May most of these juvenile birds have left the Spit to begin their flight over the Tasman. They will spend anywhere up to three years around the Australian coast south of Queensland before returning to New Zealand to breed. Although some will begin breeding as early as their fourth year, most will wait until their fifth year, or even later. Gannets form strong pair bonds with a lifetime partner. From August, a wonderful procession can be observed on the Spit as the males fly down to the high tide mark in front of the lighthouse to gather their nesting material. Debris, seaweed and marram grass are plucked up, then the birds circle around the foreshore before returning to their nests. Observers have likened the manoeuvre to aircraft in a holding pattern: individual birds collect their cargo, then take up their position in what looks like an endless circular conveyor belt before shuttling back to their nests one by one. The females stay to guard their sites—a necessity, given that unattended nests are raided and even wholly dragged away by opportunistic males. Sandy grit and faeces are the cement which holds the building materials together, and the final structure is a substantial bowled nest positioned a metre or so from its neighbour—just out of pecking range! Why have these gannets chosen this unusual nesting site? Certainly, other colonies are under severe population density pressure as numbers increase and nesting sites become scarce. A 1987 survey reported the Spit population to be composed of mainly younger birds. In established colonies these individuals would be working hard to establish territory, and would often end up as fringe dwellers. Farewell Spit offers an almost unlimited number of sites and an extended feeding range through 360 degrees. As a result of migration to the Spit, the birds have become a common site in Golden Bay, gliding across the water, then plummeting into the sea from heights of up to 30 metres to take sprats, squid and school fish. For anyone who has wondered how their bodies can withstand the crushing impact with the water when they dive, their 145km/hr entry is cushioned by inflatable air sacs beneath the skin on the lower neck and breast. Because public access to the Spit is under strict control (the area has been designated a wetland of international importance).
Beaches mean different things to different people: places to gather kai moana, places for jaded city dwellers to recharge their batteries, places to absorb the sense of order apparent in the natural world.
From the very beginnings of history human beings have attempted to make sense of the world and its varied, mutable contents. Long before the first cities were built or the first writing developed, the night sky had been patterned and named. The brightest stars were known individually, and formed the key points of constellations on to which various mythically significant beings were mapped. Also noticed were five wandering "stars" which varied not only in position but also in brilliance, and so were accorded particular significance. At first, the universe was thought of as a limited system—originally a flat earth overarched with a hemispherical cover upon which the stars hung as lamps. Thus the apparent variation in the brightness of the stars one from another was easily accounted for by assuming the sizes of these lamps varied. Sirius and the major stars in Orion were clearly large lamps burning high-quality oil, whereas the barely distinguishable scatter of minor stars were little more than rush lights. Following Aristotle, European cosmology of the Middle Ages had the Earth at the centre of a set of concentric spherical shells. The outermost were those of the Firmament, which bore the fixed stars, and the Primum Mobile which moved all the other spheres in the system, and thus the stars, planets, sun and moon. The Firmament was thought of as being opaque, but punctured with holes through which the divine light flooding the Primum Mobile could be seen. Clearly, since the world was at the centre, then all the stars were effectively the same distance from us, and their differences in brightness could be accounted for by having holes of appropriate size. In these models of the cosmos there was a neat match of appearance with reality: stars which appeared bright were indeed bright, and those which appeared dim were indeed dim. The effects of diffraction also make bright lights, even if they are pinpoint-sized sources, such as stars, appear larger than faint ones. Thus a Crucis looks bigger than 8 Crucis, and, until the nineteenth century, stars were as often talked about by size as by brilliance; a was said to be larger or greater than S. It is from this fallacy that the term "magnitude" is derived—a term which we use when discussing stellar brightness today. In the sixteenth century the geocentric model of the universe began to creak under the strain of its inability to make long-term predictions of planetary positions. The idea of spherical shells became suspect, and that of a geocentric universe was challenged. In 1576 Thomas Digges, supporting Copernicus's heliocentric cosmology, put forward the idea that beyond the orbit of Saturn there was an ". . . orb of stars fixed infinitely up [which] extendeth itself in altitude spherically and [is] therefore immovable". Thus he no longer thought of the stars as being all at the same, not very great, distance from us, but saw the solar system imbedded in infinite space with stars throughout, and some so distant that they would be invisible. During the eighteenth century the question of the shape and size of the universe became the obsession of William Herschel, whose astronomical career was spectacularly launched by his discovery of Uranus, the first addition to the family of the five traditional planets. Herschel became the first maker of large telescopes, and with these he visually discovered more celestial objects than has any observer before or since. Believing that his great 48-inch-diameter telescope enabled him to see to the edge of the heavens, he hoped to establish the distance of the furthest stars by gauging their brightness, on the basis that the further away the star the dimmer it will appear. A generation before Herschel, Edmund Halley had postulated that perhaps all stars were of about the same intrinsic brightness, and that their variation of apparent brightness was due only to their varying distance from us. Because there existed neither an adequate theory of the nature of stars, nor instruments of sufficient accuracy to make direct measurements of the distance of even the closest stars, this was not an unreasonable conjecture. Herschel seized upon Halley's suggestion and used it as the foundation of his project. Indeed, if he wished to advance his programme at all he could not do otherwise, for if the stars were to be of various brightness then he could not distinguish between a dim one close at hand and a bright one far distant. He would have no basis for judging distance. The very excellence of Herschel's telescopes yielded strong evidence against this idea of approximate similarity, for they revealed not only large numbers of clusters of stars but also the fact that these contained stars of widely varying brightness. Professional astronomers, notably the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, pointed out to Herschel that such clusters could be explained in either of two ways. It could be that they were actual clusters of stars having various intrinsic brightnesses. Alternatively, if their constituent stars were generally similar then they must be long fingers of stars lying along the observer's line of sight out into the depths of space. This last was shown to be statistically improbable, and thus the betting must be that stars were of various brightnesses. Herschel obstinately refused to countenance this objection until very late in his career. Around 130BC Hipparcos, generally regarded as the greatest astronomer of antiquity, established that the naked eye could detect five equal steps of brightness between the brightest and faintest visible stars. The bright stars, such as Aldebaran and Altair, he described as being of the first magnitude, and those on the edge of visibility as being of the sixth magnitude. It is a refined form of this scale which we still use today, having extended it to cover both brighter and dimmer objects than those considered by Hipparcos. Originally, astronomers spoke of stars of, say, the first or third magnitude, and it was quite natural that the ordinals started with the brightest and increased numerically for the fainter objects. However, today we have dropped the ordinal, and talk of a star being magnitude two or magnitude four point five. This can be confusing, as we generally associate higher numerical values with increases in quantity, whatever the measurement may be. Since the magnitude scale originated with stars which are not, in fact, the brightest, the scale has had to be extended with negative values to include more brilliant objects such as Sirius, the planets at their brightest, or the Sun. Also, as the light grasp of telescopes exceeds that of the naked eye, so the range of positive magnitudes has been extended to describe the fainter stars and those faint patches of light which mark the galaxies. As Herschel strained to measure the distances of the stars he greatly refined the techniques of comparing their brightness, and demonstrated that a star appearing to be of magnitude 1 was delivering to the observer 100 times as much light as one of magnitude 6. This was confirmed by Pogson in 1856, who showed that a difference of one magnitude corresponded to a difference in luminosity of x2.512, for 2.5125 = 100. This means that the magnitude scale obeys the Weber-Fechner Law which states that the physiological response of the eye to a physical stimulus is proportional to the logarithm of the energy flux. Our hearing obeys the same general law: perceived even steps in the intensity of sound are caused by multiplications of the impinging sound energy. This is why apparently insignificant increases on the decibel scale, dB, correspond to large increases in the perceived noise level. While Herschel developed techniques which enabled him to compare the brightnesses of stars, he was still restricted to judging apparent magnitudes, that is, their brightness as seen from Earth. He understood the inverse square law, which states that the light falling on a given point is proportional to the intensity of the source and inversely proportional to its distance from the point. But this did not help him as much as it might have, for he had no standard light source out amongst the stars which was at a known distance, and so could be used for comparison. It was not until some ten years after Herschel's death that the accuracy of the appropriate instruments was developed sufficiently for Bessel, in 1838, to measure the annual parallax of the star 61 Cygni, and thus its distance from Earth. Its real brightness—its absolute magnitude—could then be calculated. The absolute magnitude of a star is now defined as a star's brightness when viewed from the standard distance of 10 parsecs, 32.6 light years away. Today the absolute magnitude at visual wavelengths (Mv) has been established for many stars, and this enables us to compare them directly one with another. Since certain classes of stars have distinctive characteristics, once we have established their absolute magnitude then we can calculate their actual distance from their apparent magnitude (my) and the inverse square law. The Sun, my = -22.5, which is impressively bright, is My = 5, which places it, along with a Centauri, amongst the rather modest stars. In contrast Canopus, my = -0.7, is Mv = -8.5,which is 2.512135 times as bright, i.e. better than 250,000 times as luminous as the Sun. Between 1908-12 the American astronomer Henrietta Leavitt discovered the relationship between the pulsation period and light variation of the type of star known as Cepheid variables. These are rather bright variable stars, and once the distance and hence absolute magnitude of one of them was established they were used as standard candles to measure the distances of the further parts of our galaxy, and even of neighbouring galaxies. This was a great leap forward, for annual parallaxes, which use the diameter of the Earth's orbit as their baseline, are feasible only out to about 30 parsecs (100 light years) which is small compared to the diameter of our galaxy, which is about 40,000 parsecs. One of the jobs of the Hubble telescope is to observe Cepheids out to distances of about 15,000,000 parsecs, something only possible in the clarity of space. These measurements will greatly improve our estimates of the size of the observable universe as they will provide accurate distances up to fifteen thousand times the distance of Maffei I, the most distant galaxy of the "local group", that cluster of some 17 galaxies which forms our neck of the cosmic wood. We, on the other hand, are bound to the surface of our planet, and our view is dimmed by the atmosphere with its burden of water and dust. Also, the incoming light is distorted by the movement of the air, particularly rising and falling parcels of different temperatures, and masked by the scattered light from our various nocturnal activities. The map of the Southern Cross shows all the stars in it down to apparent magnitude 6.5, which is the limit for the unaided human eye under the very best conditions: no moon and neither cloud nor haze. The magnitudes are shown in tenths.
Snow began falling over large areas of Otago and Canterbury on Wednesday, July 8. The heaviest falls were in the foothills, where snow accumulated to depths of one metre or more over several days. Roads were closed, power lines brought down and tens of thousands of cattle and sheep trapped. The snow stayed on the ground for more than a week on the hill country farms, and stock rescue became a major operation involving hundreds of volunteers, including prison inmates, off-duty police and Lincoln University students. Tractors and bulldozers were used to reach stock in the more accessible areas, but helicopters had to be used to fly hay and shepherds into more remote places. Sometimes the sheep had to be dragged or lifted bodily to safety, but often it was enough to make a path for the animals by walking ahead of them and stamping down the snow. This exhausting process, called "snow raking", entailed the risk of triggering small but dangerous avalanches if attempted on the steeper slopes. Hard work in the cold conditions could also cause exposure. Keeping track of all the volunteers and their welfare was an added strain for farmers. What causes such heavy snow over farmland? It results from the meeting of cold air from the south with warm air from the north. Cold air is unable to contain much water vapour. Consequently, if the air through the entire depth of the atmosphere has come from near Antarctica then heavy snow will only fall in the mountains. There may well be some snow to very low levels, but there will not be much of it. However, when a depression brings warm, humid air down from the north, and this is undercut by very cold air from the south, then a heavy snowfall is possible. The warm air rises over the cold air, and both are forced to rise by the hills. As the warm air rises, it cools because of expansion, and this cooling causes water vapour to change to tiny ice particles or cloud droplets. When the temperature of the rising air falls below about minus 10°C the ice crystals begin to grow rapidly at the expense of the liquid cloud droplets. At first the falling snowflakes melt in the air near the ground. However, the act of melting takes heat from this air until it is cooled to near 0°C, and then the snow penetrates all the way to the ground. The more snow there is falling from high levels the faster this cooling takes place. The amount of snow is also increased if it falls through low-level clouds, where the snowflakes can scavenge some of the cloud droplets and grow bigger. Paradoxically, the snow acts as an insulator once it is on the ground. In the clear nights that followed the snowfall, temperatures dropped to minus 16 degrees at the top of the snow surface, but the ground temperature stayed near zero. Animals trapped under the snow are sheltered from the wind, and their body heat can help form small snow caves. (There is even a record of corn germinating and growing to 7cm under snow cover in Devon in 1891.) In mid winter the sunlight in Canterbury is not strong enough to melt the snow, especially since most of the light is reflected away by the snow surface. Warm winds or rain are needed for a thaw. This finally came on Sunday, July 19, when a warm nor'wester developed and the snow began to melt. The strong wind further damaged the forests where the heavy snow had already knocked some trees over and snapped branches off many others. There was a fear that the thaw would lead to serious flooding, but this did not happen because the nor'wester is a very dry wind, and much of the snow and water evaporated directly into the air. Disastrous floods have followed a number of heavy snowfalls in the past. In 1868 the Opihi River in South Canterbury ran 11km wide when swollen with melt water. The snowfall and flood of the previous year have been graphically described by Lady Barker in her account of the early days of farming in Canterbury. Thousands of animals died in the 1992 snowfall, but exact numbers will not be known until after the spring muster. The cost includes helicopter bills as high as $30,000 for some individual farmers. Many of the surviving stock were in poor condition from dehydration and lack of food, having had little more than bark or wool to eat. They were prey to illnesses such as sleepy sickness, caused by lack of sugar, and staggers, caused by lack of magnesium. The remedies for these ailments include, remarkably, strong tea with plenty of sugar—administered with a drench gun—and a couple of jabs of calcium borogluconate next to the ribs. Lack of feed for the animals reached crisis point in late July, and a plea for help elicited a quick response from other farmers. NZ Rail Ltd waived freight charges of $100,000 on a 95-wagon train bringing 20,000 bales of hay from the North Island, and allowed trucks with hay free passage on the Cook Strait ferries. More warm nor'westers were needed to promote spring growth and alleviate the need for hay, and to dry low-lying paddocks that had turned to mud when the stock were concentrated on them. The mud attracted large numbers of seagulls, and it was feared that they would peck out the eyes of any weak sheep that collapsed. Storms of this severity exact a far greater death toll if they occur in the middle of lambing. Tragically, in the last week of August another severe snowstorm hit Canterbury, and over a million lambs died. This storm was caused by the same mechanism responsible for the July storm, but the snow was heavier in some areas, particularly parts of Banks Peninsula, where drifts of six metres were reported. Worldwide, the heaviest snowfalls at sea level probably occur on the west coast of Japan. Extremely cold air from the Asian continent picks up moisture and is destabilised as it crosses the relatively warm Sea of Japan. Takada, on the coast of the island of Honshu, has a similar latitude to Auckland, and is only 20 metres above sea level. It has an annual seasonal snowfall of about 7 metres, but had just under 10 metres in the month of January 1945. During that winter snow covered the ground for more than four months. One of the worst snowstorms to hit the USA occurred in Buffalo in January 1977. Winds of 60 knots (115km/hr) caused blizzard conditions and snow drifts up to 10 metres deep. Twenty-nine people were killed, nine of whom froze in their vehicles. Total damage was estimated at $US250 million, and thousands of tons of snow and ice were railroaded out of town through fear of flooding when the thaw came. When strong winds are blowing snow around, the deepest drifts form in hollows or sheltered places. During an exceptional snowstorm in the northeast of England in February 1941—not much reported at the time because of wartime censorship—six trains were buried by snow in a cutting near Newcastle. There were about a thousand people on the trains, and they were only discovered when someone walking over the top heard their voices coming up through the snow.
A journey by horse along the old Dunstan Trail.
What would have happened to this country's place names if the British hadn't claimed these isles? French colonisers, spying the land through their portholes last century, would dearly have liked to claim southern Nouvelle Mande for King Louis Philippe. They failed, but Banks Peninsula still carries vestiges of past battles for occupation and control. The place names around Akaroa Harbour reflect a melting pot of cultures, languages, and personalities, and the resulting comedy was described by one Frenchman as "a theatre open to all sorts of ambitions." Maui was the first on stage, according to Maori legend. Having fished up Te Ika a Maui (the North Island), he was having a rest when a giant tried to attack him and his family. Maui pushed the monster to the bottom of the sea and piled rocks upon him. The monster moved, cracking the land, and the water that rushed in formed Akaroa Harbour. Maori place namer Rakaihautu was quick to recognise the volcanic crater's potential as a retirement resort. After naming the lakes of the South Island, he set his digging stick at the top of the jagged crater summit, called it Tuhirangi, and lived out the rest of his days in Akaroa. Captain James Cook thought the peninsula was separated from the mainland, and named the "island" after the Endeavour's naturalist, Joseph Banks, in 1770. Twenty thousand years earlier Cook would have been right: the two landmasses were not joined at that stage. However, the great navigator did not stay long enough to investigate, and his error was not corrected until 1810, when Stewart Island explorer and cartographer Captain Chase of the Pegasus showed that island and mainland were connected. For a time the isthmus was called Cook's Mistake before it was changed to Banks Peninsula. Errors were common in the recording of Maori names when explorers and whalers charted the area in the early 19th century. Many names were lost, and those that survived were often corrupted. Hakaroa, Wongaloor, Wageroa and Woonaloa were all given as variants of Akaroa, itself a South Island derivative of Whangaroa, meaning long harbour. In 1838, at the peak of the 30-year whaling boom that all but eliminated whales from New Zealand waters, French whaling captain Jean-Francois Langlois decided to follow the example of New South Wales land speculators,and made a down payment on 12,150 hectares of Banks Peninsula land. Back in France he used his Freemasonry connections to generate support from businessmen and the government for the idea of a settlement, naval base and penal colony in a temperate climate. The Nanto-Bordelaise company was formed, and in 1840 Langlois left France on the Comte de Paris with 69 emigrants and the naval corvette L'Aube to set up Philippeville. It was going to be the starting point for French colonisation of the South Island. When the French arrived at the Bay of Islands they discovered that the Treaty of Waitangi had just been signed, and the British had claimed the South Island a month earlier. The disappointed French carried on to Akaroa, where they began their settlement on allocated land under the watchful eye of the HMS Britomart and the suspicious looks of residents of the English town. The main street of the French town remembers the diplomatic captain of L'Aube, Charles Lavaud, who claimed that some of the settlers had arrived without even a change of underwear, while Rue Pompallier commemorates the Catholic Bishop who visited in 1840, concerned about the poor emigrants and their loss of faith. Auguste Berard, who took over as commandant of the French settlers from Lavaud, is honoured in the name of a hill which overlooks the township that he helped to develop with public works. The French influence extended across the harbour to a plant nursery in a bay named after Freemason Duke Decazes, a prosperous industrialist and politician who supported the settlement of Akaroa. Today it is called French Farm Bay, and its fertile soil supports a protea nursery and winery. Nearby Petit Carenage Bay means "little careening", and was a place for boats to be cleaned and scraped before there was a slip at Duvauchelle. It supplied firewood for ships up until the mid-1860s. French influence was not limited to place names. In 1849 Captain John Stokes of the Acheron noted the "unmistakable Frenchified carriage" of the Akaroa Maori. Stokes, who charted much of the South Island and named Mt Cook, has a bay named after him on the peninsula. Duvauchelle was named after two French brothers who traded at Akaroa from 1843, but never lived there. English magistrate Charles Robinson, who arrived on the Britomart, lived at Robinson's Bay for several years before selling up and returning to England. He said he had done his best to ensure that civilisation was maintained. Over the crater rim, Le Bons Bay is believed to have been named after the first European to land there. However, some think it means "good bay", while it is possible the name is a corruption of Bones Bay,because the whalers used to dry out whalebone there. Maori, English and French names are not the only ones to last. North of Le Bons Bay Okains Bay has a questionable origin. A trading captain was apparently reading a book by an Irish naturalist as he passed the inlet. However, no naturalist of this name has ever been traced. More credible is Menzies Bay, a nearby bay named after the Scottish family that has lived there from 1878. Six Germans were among the passengers on the Comte de Paris to arrive in 1840. They were allocated land in the bay next to the French. At the request of the residents, German Bay reverted to its Maori name of Takamatua during the First World War. Many of the descriptive names, such as Flea, Pigeon, Stony, Long, Red House and Whaler's Bays, remain. However, some of the Maori place names have been altered, despite efforts by the settlers to preserve them. Hickory Bay is a transliteration of Waikerakikari, while the Maori settlement now known as the "Kaik", a contraction of the South Island form for kainga, was referred to as the Caique. Places named after incidents give an insight into what life was like in the mid-19th century. Historians believe Goashore was dubbed following a skirmish over an iron cooking pot where a party of Maori were told to "go ashore" by a boat's crew. On the south-west coast of the peninsula, Tumbledown Bay was christened in 1842 following an episode in which George Hempelman's trusted hand Bill Simpson was returning from a whaling station with a case of spirits. The fellow rested under a tree on the hot day and opened the cargo to quench his thirst. His balance impaired, he later rolled down the hillside, breaking the bottles and his reputation. The French whalers are remembered in a reef dubbed the Frenchman's Whale after the eager visitors mistakenly harpooned a reef early one morning in 1839. French influence in New Zealand spreads beyond the planned settlement at Banks Peninsula, for several French navigators sailed these waters. One was explorer Dumont d'Urville of the Astrolabe, who in the 1820s named numerous features around Nelson and Marlborough such as French Pass,Torrent Bay and d'Urville Island. Today French surnames and architecture as well as "Rue" street names are common around Akaroa. Day trippers and weekend commuters can ponder over a croissant and café au lait what would have happened if the French had colonised the south seas Riviera and beyond. Would Geographique Nouvelle Mande be writing about Club Med Philippeville or documenting a nuclear test site in the Southern Alps?
In March of this year, the kakapo chicks of Codfish Island began to starve. Only a dramatic rescue mission could save them.
Amphibians of the plants world, mangroves have adapted to life in one nature's most demanding environments.
The filling of Lake Dunstan to supply water for the Clyde Dam will change the face of the Clutha River forever. Here we portray the Clutha that was, and salute those who fought to save the river monarch.
Three hundred and fifty years after Abel Tasman and his sailors became the first Europeans to sight these shores, we go in search of Tasman's legacy: the Dutch in New Zealand.
Ask your librarian to subscribe to this service next year. Alternatively, use a home network and buy a digital subscription—just $1/week...
Subscribe to our free newsletter for news and prizes