Fear and loathing in Canterbury
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There's something particularly unsettling about the ground moving beneath your feet—terra firma that is suddenly, frighteningly, not so firma after all. This was the realisation that literally dawned on the residents of Canterbury on September 4. The ground heaved like a storm-tossed sea, throwing them from beds as their homes and in some cases their livelihoods, crumbled. And the cathedral bells tolled, swinging to the beat of a geological clock. Among those picking up the pieces was Sally Blundell, who set to preparing the feature in this issue. She discovered that the ground is not immobile, but rather more like a layer-cake of soil and rock, each responding in a different way to movement. Some substrates shatter, others become viscous, and the soils beneath Bexley turn to liquid, spewing up through cracks in plumes of waterborne mud. The Greendale fault was new to science, and in the weeks following the quake it became obvious that this was no simple fault—in fact there could have been a smaller fault at Hororata which triggered the catastrophic failure of the Greendale. And as this magazine goes to press, scientists are puzzling over a third smoking gun, just northwest of the quake’s epicentre. Whatever the case, it’s clear that these events are complex, and it may be more useful to think of the earth as a flexible, ever-changing structure. Usually this means an imperceptible creep and lift as plates fold and slide and twist. On other occasions solid ground gives way completely, like the illusion it has always been. Residents of an archipelago on the Ring of Fire have always had to deal with a sort of uncertainty in their foundations. It was an earthquake that triggered a 45-metre-high tsunami that demolished the kauri forests of the Far North in the 15th century, an act of God that dramatically recast the landscape and future of the region—as Warren Judd relates in his feature on Northland. Moving from disaster to jubilation, we are proud to announce the winning and highly commended entrants in our second New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year competition. While every frame was captured with care, some frames stood above the rest. The winners found an unusual angle on the New Zealand condition that expressed something about the society and environment in which we exist. In a territory that stretches from the Antarctic dependency to islands in the tropics, with long coastlines and low population densities, we are shaped by the landscape—sometimes subtly and, as the residents of Canterbury discovered on September 4, occasionally vigorously.
A region of scrubby hills disappearing under moving dunes, economically impoverished and barely registering on New Zealand’s psyche, the Far North is favoured by tourists and a special place for Maori. Traditional beliefs have the spirits of the dead travelling up Ninety Mile Beach, Te Oneroa a Tohe, to Te Rerenga Wairua on a spiritual pathway known as Te Ara Wairua. Near the tip of the Cape, they descend the roots of an old pohutukawa and leap off into the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiiki.
Unleashed, Hustler, Mako, Whammo—their boats have names as defiant as their spirit. Each day the fishermen of CRA8 set out to face isolation, potentially bad weather and treacherous seas as they hunt one of our most valuable marine creatures—the New Zealand rock lobster.
The southeast corner of the South Island is a remarkably beautiful area renowned for its coastal forests, wildlife, beaches and scenery. Mercifully, the Catlins hasn’t been subjected to excessive tourism development. What services exist for tourists—the campgrounds, backpackers, homestays and specialist ‘eco-tourism’ operations are small-scale and low impact, and this feels right for the area.
One of New Zealand’s preeminent social documentary photographers, Quinn’s moving visual studies shot over 20 years have provided a view of New Zealand in cross-section, offering insights into the nature of our familiar yet diverse and multi-layered society. His new book, published by New Zealand Geographic, is a selection of the best.
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