On a wing and a prayer
Poised to pounce, the praying mantis takes its name from a fancied,but not altogether appropriate,resemblance to the folded arms of the prayerful.
Poised to pounce, the praying mantis takes its name from a fancied,but not altogether appropriate,resemblance to the folded arms of the prayerful.
In a world where mayhem is passe, not many items pique the curiosity of the satiated consumer. One that may apparently still do so is the giant squid. Reports of the local recovery of a large specimen recently have generated a wave of media interest worldwide. Wildlife documentaries regularly disclose the courtship rituals of chimpanzees, social proclivities of porcupines, the fertilization of corals. But there is nary a one on giant squids for the simple reason that even in this age of the information superhighway, little is known about them. Probably not a single healthy live specimen has ever been seen by a scientist. Apart from the fact that they live in the sea, nothing is known of the world they inhabit. Are they creatures of the deep? Most probably. But do they patrol the seabed or swim in the middle depths? Despite all the deep water fishing with huge nets that goes on these days—especially around New Zealand—giant squid are almost never captured. Most of the few that are found turn up moribund and damaged on the coast, usually in mid to high latitudes. The largest specimen on record anywhere was a 20-metre individual washed up on Lyall Bay, Wellington, in 1880. Over the last century, a smattering of specimens have been recorded from southern Japan, Great Britain, Scandinavia, Iceland and the east coast of North America. Earliest records (1639-1790) came from Iceland, where one was said to have had a beak so large that it filled a cart. More reliable are reports of several specimens from around Newfoundland late last century. On one occasion, fishermen in a small boat investigated some floating wreckage. The "wreckage" bit at the gunwale and threw a tentacle over the boat. While grown men panicked, a 12-year-old boy had the presence of mind to hack the tentacle off. Not long after, another giant squid was stranded ashore. This one was described as alive and thrashing, and ploughed a 10-metre-long furrow in the beach with the jet of water from its siphon. A tutor at a Norwegian Fishery College reported that a giant squid arched out of the water and pursued a row boat in one of the fiords, while in the mid-Atlantic a ship's captain claimed to have clocked a giant squid at 20-25 knots. Then, as we all know, had it not been for the bravery of Ned Land, a giant squid would have done for the nefarious Captain Nemo and his Nautilus in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Giant squids are the largest invertebrates known. They are cephalopods (a type of mollusc), kin with octopus and cuttlefish, and cousins of toheroa, snails and chitons. The animal can be divided into three sections: the arms, head and the streamlined body proper. Eight thick muscular arms—each three or more metres long and attaining a circumference of 50 cm around the base—surround the mouth, together with two much longer tentacles. Although very slender, these are muscular and, near their distal end, expand into a pad that is lined with toothed suckers. The rest of the long tentacles are smooth. Each arm also bears two rows of suckers. Suckers attain a maximum diameter of five or six centimetres, and each is on a mobile small stalk, and surrounded by a ring of serrated chitin (the horny material that covers crabs and adult insects). The two long tentacles are used like a pair of tweezers for seizing prey and conveying it to the mouth. A formidable beak of chitin—not unlike a parrot's beak, but able to be protruded and rotated by blocks of surrounding muscle—chops the prey into bite-sized pieces. Unlike the cart-sized beak of Icelandic legend, mandibles longer than 15 centimetres have not been encountered on any squid that has been measured. Like gastropod snails, giant squids possess a radula—a tongue-like ribbon that bears transverse rows of small rasping teeth. Although the giant squid's radula is small in comparison with the size of the body, it is huge (100 mm by 10 mm) compared with that of other molluscs. Food passes down the oesophagus into the stomach where digestion occurs. The body of the squid is enclosed in an envelope termed the mantle. Water is drawn through the mantle cavity to aerate the large gills, then expelled forcefully through a narrow funnel to provide jet propulsion. This funnel can be turned in any direction to give considerable manoeuvrability. Some oceanic squids are capable of high-speed swimming, but the musculature of giant squids is poorly developed in comparison, casting considerable doubt on the 25 knots alluded to earlier. Noteworthy along with the tentacles are the eyes of the giant squid. At 25 centimetres in diameter, they are as big as volleyballs, and are the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. Sexes are separate, and the males (seen much less frequently than females), can be distinguished by having two arms modified to assist with fertilisation. They are also much smaller than females. Females produce very large numbers of small eggs; males produce dozens of 20 cm tubes packed with sperm, themselves stored in a special cannister a metre long within the mantle cavity. Cephalopods are notorious for their ink, and giant squid are well endowed here, too, with a large sac of gooey black ink ready for release through the siphon. The ink leaves a shape that may resemble the squid hanging in the water to confuse a possible predator. What creature could pose a threat to such a formidable creature? One that has a fondness for squid of all types, including giants, is the sperm whale. The soft bodies of squid are quickly digested by the whale, but the chitinous beaks remain. Indeed, it is to protect against their sharpness that the sperm whale produces the sought-after tarlike ambergris in its gut. The stomachs of sperm whales have been found to contain, on average, 2000 cephalopod beaks, and up to 8000 have been recorded. Amazingly, 2000 beaks are considered to represent only a couple of days' sustenance for an average whale, and it is estimated that the ocean's one to two million sperm whales annually consume 100 million tonnes of squid. (For comparison, the total world catch of fish is 70 million tonnes each year). Beaks from most species of squid are distinctive, enabling a reasonable identification of the animal it came from. Most of the squid eaten by whales are smallish (0.6-8.0 kg, depending on the area), but some are giant squid. On a numeric basis, they are insignificant, but on a weight basis they contribute substantially to the diet of sperm whales in some parts of the world, especially in the Tasman Sea and in the eastern Atlantic off the Mediterranean Sea. The heads of sperm whales are generally scarred by the serrated suckers of giant squids, evidence of battles in the deep. Some of these sucker marks are much larger than the 5-6 cm maximum diameter for squid suckers, leading to speculation about truly gigantic squids. In fact, the size of the scars is accounted for by whale growth—the scars enlarge as the whale grows, so big scars are simply relics of meals that fought back when the whale was smaller. What giant squid themselves feed on is less certain. Guesses—and they are mostly that, for few of the specimens found have ever had anything in their stomachs—include fish and smaller species of squid. Deciding how many species of giant squid exist has proved problematic. The few specimens that have been recovered differ from each other in confusing ways, and there has been a tendency to make almost every specimen a new species. Biologists are now favouring the idea that there are just a few variable species, all belonging to one genus, Architeuthis . Preservation causes considerable shrinkage and distortion, and exchanging specimens to facilitate comparisons—standard procedure for most taxonomists—is well-nigh impossible for those who study these creatures. Some 18 specimens of giant squid have turned up in New Zealand waters over the last dozen years. The first—and most difficult to explain—was a large immature female that was found wedged in the filtering screens of the cooling water intake of the New Plymouth power station, and distant from any deep water. The second specimen was captured by a Japanese trawler from 500 metres of water around the Auckland Islands, and appeared to be a different species from the first specimen. A third specimen was brought to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Wellington on the back of a ute by a rock lobster fisherman who had recovered it near the Castlepoint lighthouse. He had thought it was a large floating plastic bag, and was mystified why gulls were attacking it. Many features of this individual were intermediate between the first two specimens. Most subsequent specimens have proved to be immature females, and the taxonomic picture remains obscure, but leaning towards fewer species. Plans are afoot to bring a submersible to New Zealand in the summer of 1996/1997 to search for giant squid. National Geographic Television, the Smithsonian Institution, and our National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research are considering a joint expedition, perhaps in Cook Strait or at Kaikoura. Since sperm whales are major predators on giant squids, expedition leader Clive Roper of the Smithsonian is interested in using the whales "as beagle hounds," to lead the team to their quarry, since humans don't have a clue as to where squid might be found. Given the popularity of squid rings in seafood smorgasbords, would discovering the habitat of giant squid give rise to a new abyssal gastronomy? Probably not. Three scientists once cooked up a slice of Architeuthis to celebrate completion of a doctorate and found it permeated by the foul taste of ammonia. Apparently, giant squid produce ammonia because it is slightly less dense than water, and so imparts buoyancy. With giant squid, big may be bitter, not better.
According to anthropologists, hankering for the blemish-free look that only make-up can give goes back 1.5 million years, when our ancestors began plastering each other with red and yellow ochres, brown limonites and black manganese oxides. Initially, what they were probably after was protection from the harsh elements and from irritating insects, but the smearing soon evolved into primeval fashion. Throughout history, there have always been "naturals" with the informal artform. Cleopatra used kohl for her trademark black eyelashes; Greek maidens fluttered theirs after blackening them with incense. The Romans stained their cheeks with wine and lightened their faces with chalk. Catherine de Medici's complexion secret was dewy peach blossoms gathered at dawn and mixed with crushed almonds by moonlight. By all accounts, Maori used red ochre—kokowaiin a big way. At the Waihou River mouth, a surprised Endeavour crew came across locals painted from head to toe. Smearing the face with the reddish iron oxide pigment was universal with early Maori, and any contact left an indelible mark. Commented Joseph Banks: "[The] red ochre which generally was fresh and wet upon their cheeks and foreheads was easily transferrable to the noses of anyone who should attempt to kiss them ... as the noses of some of our people showed." Wandering the Waikato in 1893, naturalist John Bidwell discovered a people, "who looked as if they had fallen into a paint pot. I understand it is going out of fashion .. . but is still so common that it is impossible to be carried by a native without getting your clothes daubed all over with the red dirt with which they had saturated their mats." Ochre pits, chosen for rich colour and lack of grit, were often kept secret to a tribe or even a family. In the absence of a solid deposit of ochre, fern fronds were used to collect a red iron oxide scum leaching on to the surface of swamps and streams, as at Pukupuku on the Whanganui River. Once dried, it could be scraped off and processed as normal. This involved roasting the material in a hot oven to make it more friable and bring out the colour, then crushing it to a fine powder with a kuru (stone pounder) on a large rock. Shark liver oil was used as the foundation cream with which the cosmetic was blended for application. In situations requiring a little more finesse, pleasant smelling vegetable oils—pressed from seeds of titoki, kohia or miro—were used. The kokowai and shark oil combination was an effective sandfly repellent, but it also had the advantage of keeping away the dreaded patupaiarehe, or fairy folk, who were thought to be not partial to the mixture. The ancient Polynesian tradition of equating red with kura (a valued possession) carried through in the Maori's wider use of ochre as a sacred colour. Colour anything red and it was tapu: carvings, war canoes, a dead person's house, even the scraped bones of a chief. Wholesale kokowai coatings were mandatory on chiefs and elderly matrons. Experimenting with multicoloured facial designs became the prerogative of the young, especially females, but it seems males were allowed wider variation of design. At a funeral ceremony in the 1830s, trader Joel Polack describes "antipodal exquisites" dipping their entire heads into a kokowai calabash: "One of them had painted one half of his face longitudinally with this mixture ... the opposite half being rubricated with charcoal dust, and the whole washed over with rancid shark oil. The effect of the red and black joining in the centre ... executed with much exactitude ... was ludicrous in the extreme. Many had also enriched the crimson stains with broad bands of blue earth, the eyes like spectacles. The elders were bedaubed by oil, red earth, and blue clay; and one grotesque monster had painted his forehead, nose and chin a bright yellow, obtained from the bark of a tree, every other part of his face and person being a glaring fiery red." The blue clay (pukepoto) was probably vivianite, or iron phosphate, while the chrome yellow was derived from rotting wood. Young women would often use the bright blue pollen of the native fuchsia as a kind of lipstick. Archdeacon Herbert Williams, an early missionary whose special interest was Maori figurative painting, gave the name tutaewhetu (star droppings) to a slimy blue-grey clay that the Ngati Porou on the East Coast used as both paint and make-up. WI I liams went on to document other common facial designs, including diagonal and horizontal coloured lines, facial marks from the red juice of a berry and patterns of dots on the face. By the early 1900s, however, traditional Maori make-up had become a thing of the past, as European fashion codes were adopted. The country's largest and best quality ochre deposits occur at Parapara in Golden Bay, where concentrated pigment literally rusts out of the most exposed section of a nine-milliontonne lode of high-grade iron ore preserved in a fault angle depression. According to locals, early morning and late afternoon are the best times to look for ochre, as the light accentuates the rich red and umber boulders washed down by erosion from the ore-body. Raw ochre has the texture and density of an oil crayon, and is able to be daubed directly on to the skin. Exactly how the original Ngati Tumatakokiri people of Taitapu (Golden Bay) utilised their renowned ochre has been lost, since successive genocidal raids from northern tribes finally wiped them out around 1813. However, demand for the pigment brought European interests to the area in the early 1870s. Under the auspices of the entrepreneurial Washbourn family, the New Zealand Haematite Paint Company produced high quality paint pigment at a quarter the cost of imported oxides. New Zealand Railways became their best customer, and virtually every railway wagon and goods shed in the country was painted with their reddish brown line. A brighter colour ended up on hundreds of woolsheds around the country, but the company's attempt to make a bright red roof paint for the domestic market was unsuccessful. The plant closed at around 1920 (little sign of it remains today), and the last pigment was extracted from Parapara in 1930 by the Nelson Paint Company. Iron in the rock found other uses, too. The nearby Onekaka Iron and Steel Company extracted some 40,000 tons of pig iron from 80,000 tons of limonitic ore between 1922 and 1935 in the country's first successful attempt at iron production. More recently, the oxides have been used as a coal gas purifying agent and as a hardener in high grade concrete—it was used in the concrete for the Clyde Dam. A few locals continue to use the Onekaka minerals as natural cosmetics, applying the reddish powder to their hair as a henna substitute. One uses the material as a sunscreen. In a year or two, will we see the Kiwi cricketers with indigenous red sunblock opposing the white zinc of the Aussies?
If you were a close follower of the world of women's high fashion during the 1970s and '80s and wondered what happened to the often spectacular garments created for beauty pageants and fashion awards, wonder no more. There is a good chance they ended up in the callouSdd hands of a Central Otago farmer, now retired. Eden Hore, who lives near Naseby, has created a unique museum, the cornerstone of which is the largest private collection of women's high fashion dresses and gowns in New Zealand, almost 200 in total. His collection features designs from 20 of New Zealand's leading designers from the 1970s and early 1980s. There are 26 garments made by prominent Wanganui designer Rosalie Gwilliam (including her own wedding dress), with some of the gowns having been made especially for the museum. Other New Zealand designers of the period whose work is represented include John West, Kevin Berkhan and Vinka Lucas, who produced garments for the Saudi royal family. How did a man of the land more accustomed to sheep than chiffon develop a taste for exotic women's clothes? ' "In the early 1960s I advertised for a housekeeper and farm help, and the woman I employed worked part-time in Dunedin as a model," Hore explains. Over the 12 years she worked for him he became interested in the world of women's high fashion as, like most models, his housekeeper was very fashion conscious. His interest was further fuelled by involvement in the Miss New Zealand Pageant. Hore first attended the pageant in 1963 when invited by country singer John Grenell. Grenell, a friend of Hore's, was new to performing, and was looking for moral support. However, instead of applauding from the front Hore found himself backstage, assisting with the show, and the organisers cajoled him to return and help at the next four pageants. Through work at the contest and his modelling housekeeper cum farmhand, Hore made contact with leading figures in the fashion industry of the day, and in 1970 started collecting garments, sometimes buying direct from designers. He took a particular interest in woollen and leather garments, as he was keen to have examples of how wool, skins and hides were transformed from raw farm materials into fashionable apparel to show some of his farming cronies. "Now when I look at all the dresses, I wonder how the devil I got so many," Hore comments. Parts of the collection are well travelled, having been displayed throughout the South Island, and Hore even exhibited 20 gowns at Sydney's Royal Easter Show in 1977. He was even given the chance to take the clothes on a tour of Australia, complete with models to wear them, but declined the offer. "I'm a pretty shy sort of a fella, really, and very straight. I just didn't feel comfortable with the idea," Hore says. Initially, he kept his burgeoning collection in his house, but wi th space fast running out and more and more people wanting to view them, he had to find somewhere else to display the garments. He converted an old implement shed and grain store next to his house into a huge walk-in wardrobe of exotic clothes in 1975, and "Eden Hore's World of Fashion" was born. Wardrobes-53 metres of them—now fill most of the space the machinery once occupied. Two of the more unusual dresses include an evening gown aglitter with 42,000 sequins (which took 211 hours to sew on), and a futuristic wedding dress which features chain, coins and lace. The museum contains several award-winning designs including the 1977 and 1978 Benson and Hedges "Gown of the Year" dresses as well as the "Supreme Wool" and "Fantasy" winning garments for that year. Hore stopped adding regularly to his collection in 1982, after running out of wardrobe space, although the last two Rosalie Gwilliam gowns were not purchased until 1989 and 1993. Pictures displayed around the museum of models wearing some of the creations help take the guesswork out of how the more exotic and bizarre garments were actually intended to fit the female form. Hore says he paid only a few hundred dollars for most of his dresses, but many are worth much more. One gown is valued at $15,000. While high fashion dresses may hold centre stage at the museum, visitors have plenty of other collectables and curios to enjoy. Atop the wardrobes are 280 Jim Beam decanters, the largest collection of its type in New Zealand. These used to reside at the nearby Danseys Pass Hotel, but were sold by the present owners. The decanters come in a bewildering array of forms. As well as glass bottles, there are steam locomotives complete with carriages, vintage cars, trucks, fire engines and even tramcars, each containing a bottle of bourbon. Complementing the decanters are more than 70 old porcelain jugs. In display cabinets are souvenirs from the 55 countries Hore has visited during his life, including dolls in national costume, pens, ashtrays and key rings. However, these common tourist trinkets are eclipsed by less pedestrian mementoes of his travels, including a handmade banjo given him in the United States, a gold-plated cutlery set from Thailand and a cigarette case and purse belonging to the wife of Vodka baron Marquess Smirnoff. Recently he added $15,000-worth of Franklin Mint's heirloom dolls. Even with these items, Hore's collecting instinct is not extinguished. To view the dresses, visitors must first pass a display of 31 stuffed animals seemingly guarding the haute couture in an extension added to the front of the museum. Some of the more unusual exhibits include a coyote, dingo, ferocious-looking wild pig and an enormous yak bull. These animals share more than a common resting place, for all were born or at some time lived on his farm, and provide a clue to another Eden Hore hobby: breeding unusual and exotic animals. The reason for diversifying into animals not normally seen in rural New Zealand is simple, he says. "After working on a farm all my life, I didn't want to see the same old cattle and sheep after I retired." The dingo and coyote were purchased from the Wellington Zoo, and saw out their days in Central Otago, and while he may not have any living examples of either today, there are still plenty of exotic animals roaming his 80 ha property. Aside from his museum, Eden Hore is probably best known as a breeder of American miniature horses. He was the first person to import the animals into the country, and is still the largest breeder in New Zealand. The horses are sold nationwide, and he has a waiting list of customers despite an asking price of $3000 each. Hore first saw the horses while on holiday in the United States in 1981 and was so captivated that he purchased 12 mares and three stallions on the spot. Nowadays, miniature horse sales provide his main income. "It takes a lot of people at $5 each going through the museum to pay for $15,000 worth of dolls. I only get about ten buses a year out here, though a few other passers-by drop in." His 30-odd miniature horses vie for attention with wallabies, peacocks, cockatoos, deer and Himalayan tahr. No clothes horses, though. His most spectacular animals lurk in a far corner of the farm, and upon first seeing them you could be mistaken for thinking the Dalai Lama lived just down the road. Hore has been the only person in New Zealand breeding Tibetan yaks, although he has just sold most of his stock. He first saw them at a zoo in Toronto in 1982, and arranged to have three cows and two bulls airfreighted back to New Zealand. The animals are deceptively large, with bulls weighing close to a tonne, and as high as a man at the shoulder. Although they may appear ungainly, he says, they have a good turn of speed and are quite graceful when running, as their tails curl up over their backs. Despite having had them on his farm for over a decade, Hore is not keen to tangle with them. "They can be quite aggressive, so you wouldn't catch me in the paddock amongst them. Their horns can become pretty impressive. I had one with a span of 52 inches. We had to back that one up a cattle race to get it on to a truck. If you hand rear calves they become very friendly. I've even shorn one or two for local spinners. Bearskin hats on the Queen's guards are supposedly made from yak fur."
My father would tell us about the clever dog who rescued a family from a burning house in the middle of the night. First, Rover woke up Dad, who unfortunately rushed outside before he realised that Mum wasn't with him. But all was well; for in a few moments Rover appeared leading Mum to safety. Then Mum and Dad both got frantic because the baby was still somewhere in the flames. However, brave Rover turned up a third time, carrying Baby safely in his mouth. ("Still asleep," my father used to add.) Then Rover himself disappeared Tears and mutual comforting until once again this marvellous dog came staggering out of the house just as the roof fell in, carrying a rough sort of parcel which he laid at his master's feet. And when Dad opened it, there safe and sound was the fire insurance policy and the premium receipts, all wrapped up in a wet teatowel. Well, there's a clever dog for you, and of course there's no end of jokes about all sorts of animals. But have you ever noticed that in the wider sense of animal stories—the ones about how clever or almost human they are or their captivating ways—have you ever noticed that there's one animal who hardly ever gets a mention at all? It's the cow. Yes. The cow. And it's very odd, because in a country like ours with more than two million dairy cows, you'd expect to find any number of first-class cow stories. But no. We just ignore the ways of cows and go on reading stories about dogs, horses, lions, elephants, foxes, whales, wolves, otters and so on. Some even get whole books written about them while poor old Buttercup hardly gets a mention. I wonder why? I suppose it's quite true that most cows are pretty solid, stolid kind of creatures (like most human beings for that matter), but some at least are individuals and I'm happy to say that once we owned several of them. Darkie, for instance. A bigboned black beast who seemed as if she could go on supplying two and a half gallons of milk twice a day for ever. A splendid milker, and most of the time a child of five could have taken it from her. She was the easiest thing in the whole byre to milk. But unpredictably, often she wouldn't let us have any milk at all. You could squeeze till your wrists seized up. You were only wasting your time because Darkie had turned off the supply at the main. For no apparent reason she'd hurriedly gulp down her cud then go stiff all over. She became a black statue of a cow. We could scarcely tell if she was breathing. Mental paralysis, we assumed. Perhaps some very hard problem had suddenly demanded her full attention, or maybe no more than wondering what had become of her last calf, or if the gate to the lucerne paddock might be open. Ordinary things that you and I would hardly worry about, but great problems to Darkie. She refused to think about them and let her milk down at the same time. She might remain in this rigid state for anything up to half an hour and you could do nothing about it. You could shout and she didn't appear to hear you. You could pummel her fat belly and you merely hurt your hand. You could only bide your time and go on with something else till Darkie, having either solved her problem or forgotten about it, relaxed of her own accord, happily began chewing her cud again, and let the warm milk flow. As kids we tried over and over to stop cows' cuds from reaching their mouths. Each of us hoped to be the first one to catch a cud on its way up the loose soft neck. But we never succeeded. The bulky cud always bumped past our small hands as if they weren't there. Lena got her name because she used to lean on my eldest brother. Bob and I could milk her any time and she'd remain upright and self-supporting as a factory chimney, but whenever my eldest brother sat down to her she leaned on him like a lovesick sweetheart. Not right away. She'd stand upright in the beginning but as the milking continued she'd sag. She'd gradually take the weight from her offside rear leg till the hoof was barely touching the concrete, when she'd have fallen over if it hadn't been for my brother shoring her up with his head. Luckily she was small. A neat, cream-coloured Jersey. But holding up even a small cow for five or six minutes with only your neck muscles can be pretty tiring. Sometimes we'd hear my brother protesting in a strangled kind of voice but it made no difference. She still sagged. Yet in an odd way I think he was secretly flattered that she singled him out for this heavily amorous attention. Anyway, he was the only one she ever leaned on. A far cry from cows to the American poet Walt Whitman? I'm sure he had them in mind when he wrote‑ I think could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained... A few more lines, then— Not one is demented with the mania of owning things. Like Whitman's animals I don't think any of our cows ever wanted to own anything, but for a time we had one who was definitely demented. Dippy was obsessed with the thought of self-destruction and tried everything she could to do away with herself, her simplest scheme being to get lost, just stand, and starve herself to death. The first time she sneaked away it took us two days to find her, droopy and dispirited in a clump of manuka she could have walked out of any time she liked. She lost herself several times, once in an old shed. She'd fallen through the floorboards and then couldn't lift enough legs at one time to clear the joists. We had to saw them out (the joists, not her legs) in sections and lead her out. However when we got to know all her hiding places including an old Maori drain that had fallen in, she gave up the idea of getting lost and took to casting herself over banks, wading in swamps up to her belly, and falling down with her neck jammed between young poplar trees. Once she almost managed to drown herself in a flooded creek, a roaring creek, so wild that nothing else in the herd would have gone within yards of it. And when we came across her she was lying on her side waiting for her first glimpse of the heavenly pastures while the yellow flood raged round her. She refused to get up and we had to manoeuvre a sledge under her. Then when Old Prince, heaving and floundering, dragged her up the muddy bank, she staggered off—genuinely regretting, no doubt, that we'd saved her. In the end she successfully hanged herself in a tangle of supplejack deep in the summer gloom of dense bush. A fitting Valhalla, I suppose, for such a morbidly determined cow. Some people might merely have thought her to be accident-prone. To us, however, she was a kind of bovine Hamlet. I'm pretty sure to understand a cow properly you have to milk her by hand. Machine milking won't do. With machine milking, Buttercup with her sadly docked tail is merely something to fasten a set of wheezing metal cups on to and there's really no time for observing anything but the sight-bowl. But when you sit under a cow for upwards of fifteen minutes a day for most days of the year, milking her, chatting to her and perhaps singing her a song sometimes, then you get a pretty fair idea of what's going on between those furry ears. Ours was a mixed herd and Jessie was a plump plum-coloured Polled Angus who loved playing with children far better than just being another cow in the paddock. She'd been a pet from the start. As a calf we used to run races with her and wrestle with her. As a yearling, then a two-year old, we persuaded her to pull a small sledge and also to test our skill as bullfighters, killing her from time to time with swords of green flax. She made a splendid bull, darting in short runs, bunting us when she could, and I'm sure that all the time she knew it was only a game. However, even a bunt from a Polled Angus can be a bit shattering so we gave up bullfighting and took to riding her as a sort of farm hack. She enjoyed that too, and I remember one entire summer when almost every day she came trotting to the fence to meet us as we came home from school. The first two or three lucky ones scrambled on her back, and Jessie, proud as a Trentham winner, stepped out the two to three hundred yards to home. She just ambled and we could all have got home faster on our own two feet than on her four, but she liked giving us rides and seemed genuinely disappointed on wet days, when no one was particularly keen to straddle her broad wet steamy back. Mind you, she was always rewarded for her efforts with carrots, apples, or lettuce, which may have helped her to accept her role as a beast of child-burden. But all things come to an end, and as Jessie grew older and we grew heavier she gave up playing games and settled down as a sensible matron cow. Even then, however, her pleasure in things smaller than herself wasn't quite over and one winter she made friends with a mouse. In Otago the milking cows were generally kept indoors on winter nights and given a last feed about eight o'clock, the time when the mouse would appear in Jessie's feed-bin. Certainly, other mice were about, but this was the only one to appear publicly, as it were. With one good snort she could have blown the tiny creature through the back wall, but she kept very still and never even tried to touch it. All she did was half turn her head and follow its friskings with one kindly eye. We were able to watch too, because the mouse seemed to gain courage from the presence of his large friend and took no notice of us. Heaven knows what Jessie really made of the mouse, but she almost seemed to smile as she watched him, and plainly enjoyed his company. Finally there was Rocker. Rocker was a comfortable patched-up Holstein and we all agreed that somewhere in the remote past one of her ancestors must have been a horse. Every now and again after she'd been lying down, she'd try to get up like a horse, front legs first. This method works pretty well with horses but with cows it's different, and Rocker could only ever manage to get up halfway. That is, once she'd pushed herself into a sitting position by bracing her front legs, there she stuck. Her rear end was immovable. But this didn't worry her and sometimes she'd stay in this equine or canine sitting position for as long as ten minutes, chewing her cud and contentedly surveying the world around her. When she eventually decided it was time to get herself on all four feet, she'd begin rocking, rather like someone starting a swing, and hoping no doubt for enough momentum to hoist her rear end off the ground. She'd rock and rest, rock and rest, but naturally enough, in the end she was always obliged to kneel down and get up hindlegs first, as cows are born to do. This continued throughout her life, on an average of two or three times a month. I never heard of any other cow who tried to get up like a horse. I do like cows. I like their big kindly eyes, their beautifully curved or beautifully crumpled horns, and above all I like their air of easygoing serenity. I even like the smell of them, while the smell of too many sheep can make me physically sick. So after that testimony it may seem a bit odd to end by quoting in full a poem by Ogden Nash who I don't think regarded cows very highly at all: The cow is of the bovine ilk One end is moo, the other milk. Clever? Funny? Memorable? All those. The lot. And by heavens I'm pretty sure that Darkie, Lena, Jessie and all the others would have thought so too. The dear old things.
Protected by remoteness, violent seas, steep cliffs and Government decree, the Three Kings Islands north of New Zealand are home to many plant and animal species found nowhere else, and are among our least-known islands. West Island and some of the Princes Islands, viewed from the helicopter's precarious perch on South West Island, have seen landings from only a handful of Pakeha.
There are about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and main sequence dwarves (such as our Sun) are one of the most common types. Which is to say there are some tens of billions of stars having similar chemistry to the Sun's, and formed in very much the same way. It strains credibility, therefore, to believe that the Sun is the only such star with attendant planets. One would expect there to be millions of planetary systems orbiting stars of this type. With such large numbers of possibilities, spotting planetary systems should be a doddle, but this is not so, for the scale of space conspires against us. Viewed from the nearest star we can see with the naked eye, alpha Centauri A (4.3 light years or 40 x 10'3 km distant), our Sun would appear the same size as a 50-cent piece 370 km away. Seen from the same viewpoint, the giant planet Jupiter—only a tenth the diameter of the Sun—would be no bigger than a red lentil about seven metres away from the 50-cent piece. To make matters worse, while stars emit light, planets are merely reflectors, and generally poor ones at that. Indeed, the inner or rocky planets are better described as absorbers rather than reflectors. Mercury and the Moon reflect only 11 per cent of incoming sunlight, cloudy ice-capped Earth averages almost 37 per cent, and Venus, brightest of all (being completely covered with cloud), scores 65 per cent. Even the gas giants, with surfaces formed from clouds, are still far from mirrorlike. Jupiter reflects only 52 per cent of visible light because of the chemical composition of its atmosphere. For an observer, surface reflectivity is only one of five basic factors affecting the apparent brightness of a planet. The observer must take into account: the brightness of a planet's sun, which can range over more than ten million fold, the distance of the planet from its sun—double the distance and the intensity of incident radiation is decreased fourfold, the albedo or reflectivity of the visible surface, the planet's diameter, since apparent brightness will be proportional to the visible surface area, the distance of the observer—the perceived brightness will diminish proportional to the square of the observer's distance. These factors place all but the very closest possible systems beyond direct observation, because even the largest planets will be too small and faint to see with the most powerful of telescopes. As a result, we must rely on inferences drawn from the data generated by other techniques. We can do this with confidence because the laws of physics and the properties of matter do not change from place to place. Measurements made here are valid samples of what happens elsewhere, and the value of such fundamental constants as the speed of light, the mass of the proton, the Laws of Gravity and Thermodynamics and the behaviour of electromagnetic radiation are the same anywhere in space. Although astronomers have discovered many strange phenomena—stars which spin hundreds of times per second, objects so massive that even photons are trapped forever, as the speed of light is less than their escape velocity—so far we have found nothing to undermine the generality of application of physical laws (known as the Cosmological Principle). One clue in searching for planets is to observe the effects that a massive planet has on its sun as it orbits it. In reality, a planet does not orbit its sun, nor the sun its planet, but both orbit their common centre of mass, termed the barycentre. In a system with only one planet, its sun's motion would trace out an ellipse. Due to the effects of the various planets in our solar system, our Sun's path is an open-looped curve. If, however, the mass of all the planets in our solar system were concentrated in a single giant planet, Jupiter+, the Sun would be seen to orbit in time with it. Since the orbit would be small, the Sun would appear to wobble rather than describe an orbit. However, this wobble would be in time with the orbital motion of the planet, for the two bodies would be inextricably linked by their mutual gravitational attraction, and so the slight reflex motions of the bright primary would be evidence of the existence of an invisible, less massive and distant partner. Movements of stars measured along the line of sight of the observer are called radial velocities, and may be away from or towards the observer. Refinements in the design and construction of spectroscopes now enable us to measure the Doppler shifts caused by line of sight motions as little as 3 metres per second. Over the years there have been a number of claims to have discovered planets by such means. Unhappily, meticulous scrutiny of the data has revealed mistakes or experimental errors, and these claims have had to be withdrawn. For example in the early 1970s van de Kaamp became convinced that irregularities in the motion of Barnard's Star indicated the presence of a pair of Jupiter-sized planets. Photographic plates made on another refractor telescope going back to 1911 not only failed to confirm the data, but showed that the ageing objective of that telescope was showing a slowly changing colour effect. Subsequently, the objective of the telescope with which the "discovery" had been made was shown to be suffering from the same deterioration, which had a subtle effect on star positions measured off the plates, and so Barnard's star remains bereft of planets. The first planetary system confirmed was that around the millisecond pulsar PSR 1257+12, discovered by Aleksander Wolszczan in 1990 from an analysis of the cyclic variations in the timing of its basically very regular radio pulses. This was an entirely unexpected result, as pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars which are the hugely compressed cores remaining from supernova explosions. These explosions are the most violent events known in the galaxy, and are sufficient to vaporise nearby planets and blow more distant ones out into space. Yet it is now accepted that this pulsar has two approximately Earth-sized planets orbiting in 67 and 98 days at a distance less than that of Mercury from the Sun, and maybe a third further out. The puzzle is, if the planets were orbiting the parent star how did they survive the explosion? If they have joined the pulsar after the explosion, where did they come from ? In 1995, the existence of planets too faint to be seen in orbit about a Sun-like star was established. Mayor and Queloz, working with a high-sensitivity spectrograph at the Haute-Provence observatory, obtained radial velocities from 51 Pegasi. This is a main sequence star 40 light years away, and the regular sinusoidal variations in the data could only be convincingly explained by positing a planet half the mass of Jupiter orbiting the star at only 7 million kilometres out every 4.229 days. As with the PSR 1257+12 system, the existence of a planet at this distance from its sun poses problems for current theories of stellar and planetary formation. 51 Pegasi is an exemplary main sequence dwarf star, stable and unvarying, giving not the slightest hint of anything unusual in its past. How did so large a planet form so close to its primary during those turbulent early aeons when the star was 100 times more luminous and losing matter with a massive solar wind? What type of planet could this be—is it a ferrous clinker (like Mercury), or does it have a massive, Jupiter-type atmosphere, which, although theoretically possible, seems unlikely? But to say something appears unlikely seems to guarantee its existence in the contemporary astronomical bestiary. Now the search for planets is a hot topic, and telescope time all over the world is being booked. With two surprises out of two, it looks as if for some time to come our models of both planet formation and possibly stellar formation will be under revision. Postscript As we go to press, news has come in of two new planetary systems discovered by Marcy and Butler at the Lick Observatory, California. Like the planet about 51 Pegasi, the first discovery poses problems, because its markedly elliptical orbit is characteristic of a pair of stars, while planets typically have fairly circular orbits. It is possible that rather than a planet (an object condensed and accreted from the primordial circumstellar disc) this object is a mini-brown dwarf, a wannabe star too small to generate the pressures and temperatures for thermonuclear ignition at its core, and so condemned to be just a slowly cooling mass of hydrogen and helium orbiting a "proper" star. The only body which appears to be a classical planet is that in orbit about 47 Ursae Majoris. Twice the mass of Jupiter and orbiting its primary at about the distance of the asteroid belt from the Sun, it has all the hallmarks of a classical gas giant. Although this planet is in no way a candidate to harbour any sort of life as we know it, nevertheless it may be that it is the only detected member of a system of planets akin to our own, including one capable of supporting life. Watch this space.
In Tamihana Te Rauparaha's book about his father, he tells a story that shows the deep respect Maori people had for Cook Strait, or, as they called it, Ruakawa. When someone made their first crossing of this dangerous stretch of water, a blindfold was tied over their eyes, and they paddled the whole way across without seeing their surroundings. When they reached the far shore, they were carried to land without touching the water. Then the blindfold and the karaka leaves covering the prow of the canoe would be taken and left at a sacred place. The message was clear: no crossing of this body of water should be undertaken lightly. The first European to see the Strait was James Cook, from a hilltop in the Marlborough Sounds during his first visit to New Zealand. It is not clear from his journal when Cook decided to name the Strait after himself, but it is thought to have been at the urging of Joseph Banks. When Cook first sailed into the notorious Strait he was, ironically, endangered by calms. As the wind died, a strong ebb tide carried the Endeavour up under the steep cliffs of The Brothers islands, and Cook was obliged to drop anchor in 75 fathoms. He managed to hold the ship two cable lengths away from the rocks until the tide turned. The Strait also produced troublesome weather for Cook when he returned to New Zealand on the Resolution in 1779. Then he spent a frustrating ten days battling springtime northwest gales at the mouth of the Strait. He almost got through to Queen Charlotte Sound during a brief southerly change on November 2, but when the southerly died the northwest gale quickly returned, driving him back. He sailed across the Strait for the shelter of the North Island, and anchored a mile southwest of Barrett's Reef. From here he could see into Wellington Harbour, which he would have explored but for the fact that he had become separated from his sister ship, Adventure, during the gales, and was anxious to reach the agreed rendezvous site in the Sounds. The gales caused considerable damage to the Resolution, and by the time Cook anchored in Queen Charlotte all his sails and much of his rigging needed repairs. The Adventure was not there, having been driven north by the gales as far as Tolaga Bay. She finally reached the Sounds a few days after Cook had left for the Antarctic. Although it was the north-west wind that caused trouble for Cook in the Strait, southerly storms are more dangerous because of the large waves they cause. One of the earliest tragedies involving considerable loss of life was the sinking of the paddle steamer City of Dunedin in 1865. She left Wellington for Nelson in a heavy southerly swell and is thought to have struck rocks on the south coast. Wreckage was washed up in Palliser Bay, but no trace was found of the 40 or so people on board. The worst shipping disaster in Cook Strait was the sinking of the interisland ferry Penguin in February 1909. On an overnight voyage from Picton, she was caught by a southerly gale. In the dark and with poor visibility she was carried north on an exceptionally strong flood tide, and struck Thom's Rock on the south coast near karori Rock. Although the ship sank rapidly, most of the passengers and crew got off into boats or rafts, but many of these overturned on the way to shore. There were only 30 survivors out of a total company of 105. The most recent disaster was the sinking of the Wahine after striking Barrett's Reef during a severe storm in April 1968. Although forewarned of the possibility of extreme weather, the ship's master attempted to enter the harbour in deteriorating conditions. For reasons never properly understood, though possibly connected with rain or blowing spray, the ship's radar broke down just as she was approaching the harbour mouth. After rolling badly off a big wave she became disorientated in very poor visibility, and manoeuvred in the harbour mouth for some 25 minutes before striking the rocks. The ship immediately lost power and dropped both anchors. The wind continued to increase in force, and drove the ship up into the harbour, dragging the anchors. Paradoxically this may have saved many lives, as the death toll is likely to have been much higher than the 51 who died had the ship finally rolled over at Barrett's Reef, rather than inside the harbour mouth. At the time the Wahine got into difficulty, the wind at Wellington Airport was 60 knots gusting 80 knots, and peaked at 78 knots gusting 101 knots a couple of hours later. The maximum wind recorded at Oteranga Bay was 98 knots gusting 145 knots—the highest ever recorded in New Zealand. Thankfully, not all shipping accidents in Cook Strait have ended in tragedy. One of the most dramatic narrow escapes occurred on February 2, 1936, when the Rangatira, with almost 800 people on board, struck rocks near the entrance to Wellington Harbour in a southerly storm almost as severe as that which capsized the Wahine. Again, poor visibility was a factor, with a combination of rain and driving spray masking the land. However, because of the conditions, the ship was moving very slowly when she struck, and was able to reverse off the rocks. The Rangatira then manoeuvred her way to the heads, and proceeded stern first up the harbour with the assistance of two tugs. Although the ship took in a considerable amount of water, was down at the bow with the propellers partially clear of the water, and developed a list, she successfully reached the wharf with no loss of life or even serious injury to any of the people on board. The longest lasting narrow escape concerned the Wanganella. On January 19, 1947, making its first trans-Tasman voyage after the war, the Wanganella struck Barrett's Reef just before midnight and stuck fast. The weather conditions were benign, and remained so for the 18 days the ship spent on the reef. No-one was injured, and the passengers were taken off the ship the morning after the accident. The wind near Cook Strait is often strong because the waterway is the major gap between an otherwise nearly continuous line of mountains and hills running for much of the length of New Zealand. The extreme southerlies that drove both the Wahine and the Rangatira on to the rocks were caused by deep depressions that had originated far to the north as tropical cyclones. Instead of weakening as they moved away from the tropics—the normal course of events—they re-intensified as they changed into mid-latitude depressions a little to the north of New Zealand. On average, northerlies outnumber southerlies about two to one through Cook Strait. This is because Cook Strait lies in a latitude where westerly winds predominate, but the westerlies are deflected by the mountains to blow north or north-west through the Strait. The worst of the northwest gales occur in spring, as Cook found out. This is because the Southern Hemisphere westerlies are strongest in spring, as they are driven by the temperature difference between the Pole and the Equator, which is at a maximum in spring. These springtime westerlies seem to be worst in years with either a strong El Nino or La Nina, so it is possible one of these phenomena was occurring during Cook's visit. The winds around Cook Strait not only pose a danger to shipping, they also affect aviation. The fragile aircraft from the pioneering days of aviation certainly had their share of grief in Wellington. Apart from a short 50-metre hop just above wave height at Lyall Bay in 1911 by Arthur Schaef in a home-built aircraft, the first substantial flight in Wellington took place in March 1914, when Will Scotland took off from Athletic Park in his Caudron biplane. Experiencing difficulty controlling his aircraft in the turbulent winds, Scotland made for Newtown Park, but crashed into the boundary trees before he could attempt an emergency landing. The aircraft was written off, but Scotland suffered only bruises and sprains. He later claimed to have been the first person to climb down from a tree in Wellington without first climbing up it. Scotland's flight had been delayed for four days by continuous strong winds, and he had flown with some misgivings about the conditions, but the paying crowd had become restive with the delay. The first flight from Auckland to Wellington took place in 1921 in a Supermarine Channel flying boat, with a live flounder in the bilge as a present for the Minister of Defence. Although the flight was successfully completed, the aircraft became the victim of a squally southerly change a week later when it rolled over at its moorings in Oriental Bay and sank. Pulled from the water, dismantled and dried, it was sent home to Auckland on the train.
Halo of ice on a mountain of fire, this 1.5-metre snow circle was built on the flanks of Mt Ruapehu only days before the mountain erupted in 1995. Transience is an essential part of the environmental art movement, which celebrates nature as alive and constantly changing.
"My last climb was to Glacier Peak on the Main Divide, and it very nearly was my last climb," recalled Derek Grzelewski of his time in the mountains photographing for the Mt Cook story. "The beginning was magical: a predawn start, brilliant starlight, a superb sunrise. Then, out of nowhere, a sou'westerly storm rolled in. By the time my partner Ross Hickey and I reached the summit the visibility had dropped to ten metres. Freezing rain soaked us within minutes, and we had to almost run along the Divide—only a rope length apart but each invisible to the other. Despite our fitness and the best gear available, we were probably less than half an hour from hypothermia, from being too cold to move. "Eventually, we found the couloir that was our route down, and got out of the worst of the storm, at which point the photo on page 85 was taken. It was a sobering experience." It was also just one of many adventures that came Derek's way while he was on and around Mt Cook. "For the picture of the Caroline Face , I spent a night out near Ball Pass bivvying in the snow. The stars were so intense, I could not sleep for one moment. Unfortunately, you cannot readily capture such luminous experiences on film." Derek has had a longstanding passion for the outdoors. He started climbing as a teenager in the Tatras Mountains that straddle the border of his native Poland and what is now the Slovak Republic. Departing Poland in 1985, he roamed the world and arrived in New Zealand after a year or so, without any intention of remaining. However, he found the country to his liking particularly the opportunities for solitude, climbing and wilderness travel that it affords. As might be expected from an itinerant who seeks the riches that lie only in the vault of nature, he keeps his possessions to a minimum, heeding Thoreau's advice to "dispose of the superfluous and see things as they really are, grand and beautiful." At present, Derek is working on two Explorer Douglas" and caving exploration. Richard wolfe was born in Avenue Road in New Plymouth, but he denies that his interest in street names is a form of compensation for spending his early years in one of the country's most unimaginatively named streets. Rather, an abiding interest in popular culture and social history spawned not only the street names project in this issue, but the article on Zealandia, the female figurehead, in Issue 23. "Back in the 1980s I started collecting packaging, and from that came a book on trademarks in 1987," he says. In 1989, a book on "Kiwiana" followed, then one on the kiwi itself. "Why did we go for a small, furry, nocturnal, flightless bird as our national symbol?" he wonders. "I do not think it was entirely by chance. New Zealanders are happy to be a bit different from the rest of the world, to be a small, innocuous country, and we are pleased to take on the world and hopefully win against the odds from that underdog position. Until recently, at least, we've never liked what's flashy or smart." Getting to the heart of what it means to be a New Zealander what it is that makes us different from other people motivates much of Richard's research. "I want to get beyond nostalgia, to find some sense from the past to give us a few clues where we may be headed." His next book, due for release later in the year, deals with New Zealand folk art, defined as "creative products made at home." That list includes rag rugs, weather vanes, rustic outhouses, macrame bags, bone carvings, wood turning and the like. "I'm worried about the continued viability of a lot of this sort of thing," Richard says. "Cheap imports and television are the problems. Listening to the radio, you could do a lot of handcraft, but with television we're producing a lot less. I wouldn't like to see us lose all that creativity. I hope the book will remind us to keep the traditions alive."
A razor-edged summit crest that slices across the heavens for almost two kilometres crowns New Zealand's highest mountain. Aoraki/Mt Cook's icy flanks (viewed here towards the south from Mt Haidinger) have enticed and challenged climbers since 1882, when Irish clergyman William Green and two Swiss companions dragged themselves to within metres of the summit.
Travellers in some parts of New Zealand could be excused for thinking they'd taken a wrong turning many of the names of our streets seem to be pointing somewhere else. In most cases that other place is the British Empire, which once ensured that much of the globe was coloured red. New Zealand couldn't avoid this influence, and our unswerving allegiance inspired many of the names now imposed on the landscape. Individuals—and their deeds of valour which secured this once mighty Empire—may have been forgotten, but their names endure, immortalised and enamellised on street signs.
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