Once it was thought New Zealand had escaped the worldwide dominance of dinosaurs. Not any more. The discoveries of a group of amateur palaeontologists in Hawkes Bay have changed everything.
Once it was thought New Zealand had escaped the worldwide dominance of dinosaurs. Not any more. The discoveries of a group of amateur palaeontologists in Hawkes Bay have changed everything.
Remember those museum visits of childhood: school buses lumbering into the carpark while swaying teachers cautioned "no running please, and keep your voices down"? And, once inside, the galleries of labelled objects frustratingly quarantined behind glass? Looking at the old coastal cutter Rewa, bedded in oozing harbour mud alongside a wormy wharf, the air alive with gull cries and the sound of trickling water, it is hard to reconcile such memories with the present. Yet the Rewa, dating from 1886, sits in a museum, too: Auckland's newly opened Hobson Wharf, the trading name for the New Zealand National Maritime Museum. For director Rodney Wilson, the $12 million project represents a "new breed" of museum which attempts to continue the traditional roles of heritage preservation, interpretation, education and scholarship, but in more engaging ways. From the scuba-clad plunge of Auckland mayor Les Mills into the Waitemata Harbour in February 1992 to "turn the first sod," the direction of Hobson Wharf has been unswerving. Recognising that all New Zealanders originally came from somewhere else, the museum celebrates the country's heritage of Polynesian, Maori, Dutch, English, and French navigation. "We are a maritime people. We are from ocean-voyaging nations. This place is about interpreting ourselves in such terms," says Wilson. The museum tells the story, until now strangely neglected, of our ongoing relationship with the sea, from pre-European fishing and navigation to late-twentieth century ocean racing. It is a heady mix of history and representation, with artefacts juxtaposed against audio-visual displays and theatrical setpieces. The front entrance, a mere bowsprit or two away from the massive, cradled bulk of America's Cup challenge KZ1, itself has historical connections with the sea. Called the Launchman's Building, it was for many years home to shipowners and agents servicing the Hauraki Gulf. In the main building are resonant assemblages, including a coastal whaling station on a shelving beach strewn with bones and bleached timber. A whaleboat lies hauled up on the shingle next to heavy tackle—makeshift windlass, tryworks and blubber pots. Nearby stand raupo-thatched whalebone sheds. It is a scene of mournful desolation heightened by the rasp of the sea, overlaid with whale talk. A few steps away is a reconstructed immigrants' cabin of the 1840s. As people walk through the gloomy steerage accommodation, the cramped quarters creak and tilt disturbingly. A hatch above sweeps light across the worn floorboards. "If it had been like this when we came, I don't think I would have bothered," says a white-haired woman groping for support. Other visitors studiously search a computer database of nineteenth century immigration records to learn about their ancestors. On-screen information includes names, ages and occupations of migrants along with shipping details. Polynesian settlement is examined in a woven flax and lashed timber canoe hall, Hawaiki. Here the Maori and Pacific canoes are dominated by the twin-masted 23-metre outrigger canoe Taratai from Kiribati. Other traditional vessels include the Waan Aelon Kein, a Marshallese outrigger walap, the Drua, a double-hulled Fijian canoe and, berthed in the museum's marina, the Atiuan voyaging canoe Enuamanu 1. Also afloat are the towering 50-metre steam crane-ship Rapaki, the brigantine Breeze and the newly built scow Ted Ashby, a replica of the flat-bottomed traders once common on Auckland waters. Indeed, the list of boats in the Hobson Wharf collection—there are over 100—reads as a who's-who of New Zealand maritime history. They include the country's oldest jetboat, the dory in which Colin Quincey rowed the Tasman Sea and a delightfully refined 1930s speedboat. The museum also houses a fascinating collection of outboard motors, dating back to a Wisconsin Row-Boat 1918 model, as well as interactive navigation instruments and a large hall of immaculately restored New Zealand centreboard yachts. There is even a seaside shop and a late-1950s bach called "Wai Whare," complete with chromed chairs, plastic flyscreen and ceiling beading that doesn't quite line up. Stepping across the rock-edged, paua-studded path into that time capsule. with its sounds of lawns being mowed and contented children shouting above the surf, is to bridge a gulf back to innocence. Such evocations are a measure of the museum's success. Wilson didn't want Hobson Wharf to become "a cultural video parlour" of second-hand electronic experiences. It enjoys the advantage of having real artefacts, the actual products of history, there to be seen and touched. But, equally, the museum is dedicated to preserving and interpreting human skills and experience. Throughout the year, in eight commercial workshops on site, visitors can see boatbuilders, sailmakers, a woodcarver, a scrimshander, boat restorers, riggers, Maori and Pacific craftspeople and others at work. Many of the workshops offer evening classes. On the water, people can get experience of another kind, taking a short spin around the wharves in the steam launch Puke, learning to sail in the Soling keel boats of the Rangitoto Sailing Centre based in the marina, or involving themselves in Hobson Wharf's heritage sailing programme on board the Ted Ashby, the Breeze and other museum craft. Wilson's vision of a living museum has been ably realised in the perfect maritime setting of Hobson Wharf, where boats still plying the Waitemata offer a convincing link with the present. The museum, which has such indispensible twentieth century cultural additions as a restaurant. 480-seat convention centre and art exhibition space, intends to remain innovative. Among future plans: classical recitals, a candlelit Christmas event and, next March, the opera HMS Pinafore, to be performed, naturally, on the water. "We sail the ocean blue, and our saucy ship's a beauty . . ." Now, you can't get more lively than that.
For NASA, these are indeed the nauseating nineties: four years and four partial or total mission failures. Following the six Apollo visits to the moon and the faultless performance of the Voyager vehicles, it seemed that NASA was master of its trade, that nothing was beyond reach. Building on these successes, its missions became more ambitious and its space vehicles more sophisticated. The on-board computers increased in power by leaps and bounds as the control functions for the new multi-task missions multiplied. But hand in hand with these developments went the increasing possibility of failure. That possibility has become actuality. Starting with the horrid technical and managerial errors of the space shuttle Challenger explosion in January 1986. there has been a series of major disasters or malfunctions. The first images from the Hubble Space Telescope, received May 20 1990, raised hopes that were soon to be dashed as tests showed that the main mirror had a manufacturing defect. Knowing precisely the nature of the problem. it has been possible to electronically massage the data transmitted back to earth and so recover high-definition images, but at the cost of a loss of light-gathering power. In August 1990, the high-definition radar mapping of the cloud-covered surface of Venus from Magellan teetered on the edge of total failure. The attitude control computer developed a fault, and for 14 hours the spacecraft was pointing away from Earth, transmitting uselessly into space, before control could be regained. This problem happened five times, significantly reducing the amount of data recovered from the mission. 1992 saw the Galileo mission to Jupiter thrown into disarray when a locking pin on the main transmitter aerial failed to disengage, severely reducing the rate of data transmission. But now comes the most savage blow of the decade: the Mars Observer has gone missing. For 11 months, this spacecraft has been hurtling towards Mars—the first NASA mission to the red planet since the successful 1979 Viking landings. Everything went as planned until, as Observer was approaching Mars, the command to pressurise the fuel tanks was transmitted. This was the first step in the command sequence for firing the retro-rockets. But the result was silence. Observer's transmitter did not switch on, and in spite of pleas, commands and screams from Earth there has been no other response. Far beyond the reach of the most powerful radar, Observer is effectively lost. We do not know what has happened or where the spacecraft is. Did the retro-rockets fire and the craft go into orbit as planned, or did it just plunge on into the depths of space? Either way, the mission is a total failure—a billion dollars lost, and years of design and construction gone for naught. What is more, subsequent missions which were to use not only data from this mission but also its transmitting facilities will have to be recast. These failures constitute a major setback to our exploration of the solar system and of deep space. Whatever the contribution of other nations, the fact is that the US taxpayer has borne the brunt of the billion-dollar costs of off-Earth physics and astronomy. In the face of the continuing domestic economic troubles, NASA's already reduced budget is likely to be cut yet further. As if this tale of woe were not bad enough, there is the increasing likelihood of worse to come. During our 40-year spree of launching space vehicles, we have been treating our immediate neighbourhood as we have our oceans—as a rubbish dump. Any superfluous item on a voyage was jettisoned, and as a result, Earth is surrounded by a cloud of high-velocity debris. This material ranges in size from particles of aluminium oxide, the ejecta from solid fuel boosters, to dead satellites. Between these extremes is an assortment of parts and fragments either dumped or the result of accidental explosions or deliberate destructions. All this material is in a wide variety of orbits, some highly elliptical with velocities of the order of 10,000 to 70,000 metres per second (36,000 to 250.000 kph). The kinetic energy of a moving object is equal to half the product of its mass multiplied by the square of its velocity (K = 1/2mv2). Thus, at high speeds very light fragments can have counter-intuitively high energies. For example, the kinetic energy of a postage stamp moving at 10,000 metres per second is equal to that of a medium-calibre rifle bullet. So a fleck of paint probably only 10 mm across was able to crater, though not puncture, the windscreen of a space shuttle. In 1987, US space flight centres were tracking more than 6000 objects the size of a softball or larger. Any collision with this material would completely destroy a space vehicle. But these objects are only the tip of the iceberg, for as the size decreases, so does the number increase—dramatically. An estimated 30,000 fragments down to the size of a marble, millions upon millions of flakes of paint and slivers of metal and thousands of trillions of dust particles are all in circulation. These last are too small to do lethal damage at a blow, but their cumulative effect can be to destroy the solar panels which supply the power for satellites. They may also pit and erode optical surfaces of cameras and telescopes, rendering them useless. So serious is the problem considered that in 1984, on only the eleventh shuttle flight, Challenger placed the Long Duration Exposure Facility in orbit to study the effect and frequency of impacts by natural and man-made space debris. Recovered after six years, the LDEF's exposure panels had registered 40,000 impacts per square metre. man-made debris accounting for the great majority of these. Such results throw severe doubt on the projected life of observational instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Moreover, the total number of orbiting particles is continually increasing as collisions further fragment the larger shards. Debris impacts are the suspected cause of several satellite failures, and may have contributed to the explosive disruption of spent booster stages which still contained fuel. The effects of space debris are not limited to the hazards which they pose to existing and projected orbiters and space vehicles on their way to the planets. Of increasing concern is their interference with our view of the cosmos and the gathering of electromagnetic, particularly optical, data. This is the raw material upon which we build our theories of the universe, our galaxy and the solar system—the fundamental setting of human existence. Large objects, spent boosters, jettisoned aerodynamic shrouds, reflective foil shields, redundant or failed satellites, together with the hundreds of functioning payloads, increasingly interfere with Earth-based astronomy. The hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the great telescopes, designed to detect those whispers of light coming from near the edge of the observable universe, are now continually threatened with the overloading of their ultra-sensitive detectors by light from the highly reflective orbiting objects crossing their field of view. And the picture gets even worse. Added to the ever-increasing interference of light pollution are proposals to place giant reflectors in orbit about the Earth. During the last few years, a number of these projects have been floated. For the Russians, it was to be an attempt to mitigate the effects of the long arctic night in Siberia, for a Frenchman a piece of "space sculpture," celebrating the centenary of the Eiffel Tower, and for the American Celestis Corporation a strictly commercial proposition to put the ashes of loved ones into low Earth orbit in shiny canisters. With such schemes afoot, for all that they are presently blocked, the stage is being set for the last great act of environmental vandalism. The fashionable theory of market forces will doubtless see the attack renewed in the name of GNP. Designs for commercial and political space advertising are rumoured. Such celestial billboards will each have the brilliance of the full moon, blinding telescopes to far galaxies and our children to the glory of their own, the Milky Way. In a world at last beginning to take seriously the damage we are doing to the surface and atmosphere of our planet it is already past time that our concern should also reach out towards the stars.
Heavy rain fell over large areas of New Zealand during the weekend of June 12 and 13. The heaviest falls occurred over the hill country of Buller, Nelson and Western Marlborough, where between 100 and 200 mm of rain fell in 24 hours, causing rivers to flood. A man was killed on Saturday evening at the height of the downpour when his car left the road in the Buller Gorge and plunged into Brown Creek. Poor visibility as well as bad road conditions are likely to have contributed to the accident. The flow of Brown Creek peaked at five metres above normal on Sunday morning, and the car could not be retrieved until Monday. The Buller peaked at about 12 metres and was described by one eye witness as "filthy brown and full of logs travelling at 35 kilometres an hour." A number of roads were closed by slips, and the Grey River took another two hectares of land at Kamaka, bringing the flooded river to within 50 metres of State Highway 7 and the railway line. In Marlborough, the Wairau river reached its highest level in ten years, peaking at 6.7 metres above average. More than 100 bull calves were marooned in the upper reaches when the river flowed through a gap in the stopbank caused by a flood two years ago. A tin shed from a gravel crushing plant was washed down the river and was for a time mistaken for a house truck. Mudslides in the Marlborough Sounds pushed two baches into the sea. Fears were expressed that they would become navigational hazards. These were put into perspective by the Marlborough District Council harbourmaster, who pointed out that the amount of timber in the baches was about one fifth that of the logs and stumps normally seen floating in the Sounds after this sort of rain. Slips and surface flooding closed some roads in the Wellington area for a time. A canoeist in the flooded Hutt River was tipped out of his canoe and knocked unconscious. Although he was pulled from the river and resuscitated, he died in hospital several days later. Heavy rain also fell over the centre and north of the North Island, causing rivers to rise. What caused such heavy rain? A trough of low pressure intensified as it moved across the Tasman Sea towards New Zealand during Saturday. As the pressure became lower in the trough, the number of isobars increased, and so the wind strength in the northwesterlies on the eastern side of the trough increased. The northwest winds brought relatively warm, moist air towards New Zealand from further north. As the strong winds drove the air against the mountains it was forced to rise, and consequently was cooled by expansion, forcing much of its water vapour to condense and fall out as rain. The rising of the air in the middle atmosphere was also helped by the presence of a strong maximum of over 330 kph in the high-altitude jet stream that was moving east across the Tasman Sea in the latitude of Cape Reinga. Where air exits from the jet maximum on its poleward side, divergence occurs, forcing air from lower levels to rise. (See Issue 14). Although in many places the heavy rain occurred predominantly in the hills, on the west coast of the South Island the rain extended all the way down to the coast. Westport, for example, had 83 mm in the 24 hours to 9 a.m. Sunday. As the strong northwest winds blew towards the Southern Alps, the air near the Earth's surface was too stable to rise easily, and was mostly deflected southwards to run parallel to the coast as a northeast wind. This air current is known as a "barrier jet." The northwest wind further out to sea rises over the barrier jet, much as if it were a solid obstacle like the hills. Since the air in the northwesterlies is rising before it reaches the coast, it begins to drop its rain before it reaches the land. On the western side of the trough, beyond the deep low of 962 Hpa, there was a broad belt of gale and storm force southerlies. These winds moved a large amount of cold air north into the 'Tasman Sea, and this air subsequently crossed the North Island on Monday with squally showers, some thunderstorms and hail, and snow on Ruapehu. A truck was blown over on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and a yacht was driven on to the rocks at Orakei. In the western Bay of Plenty, a man was drowned when a three-metre runabout capsized as it headed out to sea from the Kaituna river mouth. The squalls were so strong because the cold air became so unstable as it moved over the relatively warmer ocean surface in New Zealand's latitudes. Surface wind speeds are normally much less than the wind speed a thousand metres up, because of friction. However, when the air is very unstable there are vigorous upward and downward air movements, and these bring the stronger winds from aloft down to the surface for short periods of time. The overall driving force for the weather is the fact that the tropics receive far more energy from the sun than the poles do. However, the temperature in the tropics does not keep inexorably rising, because the wind and the ocean currents transport heat away towards the poles. This ultimately gives rise to the anticyclones and depressions we see on the weather map. So the next time a deep depression moves some particularly cold air over you, just remember, that is their job; that is what they have to do in the interests of a well-ventilated planet.
Dave Gunson's childhood was spent on the side of the Mersey River. He and his friends would play happily on its oil-clogged sands as Liverpool's sewage oozed sluggishly past on its way to the sea. It was the sort of river, he recalls, where "if you fell into it you'd have to go to hospital for a tetanus check." Strange then, coming from that environment, that he should have become an astute observer and recorder of nature in New Zealand. Gunson is an artist, an amateur naturalist, an author. One of his books, Collins Guide to the New Zealand Seashore, has become a popular text for New Zealand family seashore explorations. The meticulously crafted posters which he creates for this magazine—on subjects such as spiders, mangroves and deep sea fish—have become one of the hallmarks of New Zealand Geographic. His search for the information can take him on tortuous routes. Take, for instance, his drawing of the internal organs of the tuatara (Issue 6). One can't dissect a tuatara to acquire this knowledge—they are protected animals And photographs from those few scientists who have had a legitimate reason to do so were not taken with illustration in mind. To piece the picture together, Gunson spent hours with those scientists, poring over all available material until, gradually, they had together recreated the tuatara's internal landscape. Gunson's illustrations of New Zealand's dinosaurs and marine reptiles for this issue presented another set of problems. When pterosaurs flew over our mountaintops and elephant-sized sauropods stalked our plains, there were no scientists, no cameras—no one to record visual impressions. And, because of New Zealand's violent geological upheavals over the last 65 million years, there are no complete skeletons, just scattered fragments of bone. Yet, with careful extrapolation based on similar finds in other countries, whole animals can eventually be deduced. But how does one decide, for instance, what colour these creatures were? Were they the dull greys and browns of elephant and rhinoceros, or—consider this—might they have been as vividly coloured as their living relatives, the birds? Gunson, whose paintings appear in the article, and Geoffrey Cox, who created the poster, approached their subjects independently of each other. Look for the differences. "When I got home, the late afternoon sun was making the land glow and wayward river glitter. Riverbed gorse blooms scented the air. Quail were calling. Clouds radiating from the mountaintop prepared to turn sunset gold . . ." Ted Reynolds is writing of his Marlborough home. Formerly with the New Zealand Herald, Reynolds now delivers a weekly column for that paper about his new life as a vineyard owner in Dashwood, near Blenheim. Those of us who worked with Reynolds in Auckland recall a man who lived his life by following his heart. When daily obstacles bleared our vision, it was Reynolds who showed us that a prison was of one's own making. His gentle humour reminded us that our world, too, was of our own making, and could be full of possibility and wonder. When you read his story on earth houses you are glimpsing a dream that formed and flowered slowly in his head during his Herald years. Now, the sculptured curve of his own rammed-earth house sits gracefully among the rolling McCahon hills of Marlborough. Last year, Reynolds' vineyard produced its first crop. But life in the country is not all "Hey Nonny Nonny"—not all birdsong in the air and sun on the back. As this magazine went to press, Reynolds was battling with authorities to deal with "the wayward river" which is wandering dangerously close to his home, threatening to cut away the river terrace on which it stands. Thousands of his regular Herald readers anxiously await the outcome. We wait with the familiar concern we have for someone who, by his blend of compassion and laconic wit, has touched our lives and fed our dreams with his own.
There were no clean hands when Jill and David Moorhouse's neighbours joined them to restore a 19th century earth building on their farm in the Awatere Valley, near Blenheim, Today, many of those early "cob" dwellings are still standing, and earth building is enjoying a renaissance as a new generation discovers the magic of mud.
Hacking his way up the brittle flanks of Linda Glacier, alpine guide Charlie Hobbs leads his climbing partner towards the summit of Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest peak. Vast snowfields that lie within the shadow of Cook and its neighbour, Mt Tasman (left, background), are the source of some of this country's mightiest river of ice.
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Thanks, you're good to go!
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