Posts Tagged ‘Captain Cook’

Queen Charlotte Sound

April 25, 2011
Captain Cook is more than just a household name in New Zealand – he is admired, revered, even loved.  Everyone, it seems, knows some of his story.  His biographies are prominent on the bookshop shelves, and there’s a new one coming out later this year.  Cook has been credibly described as a genius – for his technical navigational skills his scientific acumen and his extraordinary seamanship. He was one of those enthusiastic thinkers and doers who seem to have abounded in the eighteenth century – and they appreciated him. The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) four-part documentary was being re-run while we were in Auckland, which is how I know all this.  Thank goodness!  We caught two parts of it, and it is absolutely rivetting stuff.  Though the acting is a trifle wooden, and the material on his wife tries to fill out absent detail with mawkish speculation, the information itself  is  marvellous and really well presented.  The descriptions of his closing years and death in Hawaii are moving, and very credibly analysed.  There’s a trailer for the series on youtube: 
And if you know a bit about Cook (1728-1779), you will never be short of conversation, should you meet a New Zealander.  The BBC summary of his life is good – though it minimizes what he did in New Zealand and emphasizes Australia. 
I didn’t know much of this back when I booked the ferry from Wellington to Picton (en route to Nelson) – I was just trying to travel overland (and oversea?) as much as possible, seeing lots of the country at close quarters and avoiding the un-green activity of flying. (I am guilty of far too much air travel already).  So you can imagine my delight to discover that Picton is at the southern tip of Queen Charlotte Sound, Cook’s favourite anchorage of all time.  He even travelled across half the Pacific to get there, on one occasion.  Quite why isn’t clear – people say it was such a good, safe anchorage, where he could rest and repair his ship.  But it does seem like an awfully long way to go – I can’t help wondering whether there was more to it than that.  Maybe when I get around to reading the biography I’ll find out.

entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound - that little notch between the hills

The ferry here has already crossed Cook Strait (yes, him again) between the North and South islands  and is already within the Sound.  Its route sweeps in westwards, and then turns sharply into Tory Channel.  This picture was taken looking back towards the North (or maybe more like the North East), and you can just see the curve of the wake, outlining where it has travelled. 
I was trying to check the actual compass points for you on a map when I came across this marvellous photo of Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound, taken by Phillip Capper (I found it on Flickr).

 All the world was fresh and glorious: as delightful as if it (and I) had been newly created.  It was a Monday so there were not many people out and about.  I was lucky to see one little sailing boat slipping along.  

There are seals in the Sound, but although I pointed the camera at them and it went click, they are quite invisible in the photos.


(No – this is not one of my ‘find the seal’ pictures.  I genuinely can’t see it – you just have to take my word that it was over by the little sailing boat, and visibly eating a fish.  I could almost hear the crunching.)  You could draw your own seal into the picture, if you like. 
From Picton, it was a bus trip through flat agricultural land, past the vineyards of the Marlborough region, then over a  jack-knifing mountain range and down into Nelson in the warm glow of late afternoon.   Encumbered by my embarrassingly massive suitcase, I eventually met my friend at the tourist centre.  A long day, and a tiring one.  It was wonderful to be scooped up into her four-wheel drive and transported to her charming home near Nelson.  Bertie the Jack Russell made me welcome.

Bertie Russell

Travellers’ Tales – Surprises in Auckland

March 26, 2011

(First weekend in Auckland)

Ann and Colin kept us busy, all right. We walked up the defunct volcano that is Mt Eden – wondering why the name. Did it look like the Garden of Eden to someone? Perhaps someone had thought that New Zealand looked like a world before the Fall?  Alas – it was named after George Eden, Lord Auckland: an even more complete cultural appropriation. At the top we found busloads of tourists, mostly Japanese, taking photos of one another. Our hosts were amazed at the crowds and at the size of the coaches that were trying to turn in a very tight parking area. Some local folk were disobeying the sign that forbids access to the crater – perhaps New Zealanders are like the French in their creative attitude to rules.

needless to say, I found this photo on the internet

In the evenings we roared with laughter at reruns of a truly riveting TV show – ‘Wonder Dogs’. Why this has never been networked in Australia or the UK entirely defeats me: it is a hoot.
The promo video shows them all succeeding, and loses much of the naturalness. It’s much more fun on the actual programme, which shows just how difficult it is for the dog-plus-human teams. There’s a downside, though, as unfortunately the re-runs are in random order, so one doesn’t get to follow any one competition through the various stages to its finals. Apparently the format (the idea, not the shows) has been bought by Canada and Fiji – but for me the whole New Zealandness of the thing is a major part of its attraction. (A 2006 news item tells me that TVNZ has licensed ‘Wonder Dogs’ to the Discovery UK network – I think they are missing the point – it should screen alongside ‘Flight of the Conchords’.)
Also on TV was a wonderful doco about James Cook – we caught episodes two and three – and we were soon sold on finding out much more about this extraordinary and talented man. A reading project for the future, but for now we had enough superficial knowledge to sustain some conversation.
By Saturday we were ready to stroll through the city centre past ann’s favourite chinese chippy
(I think she mostly likes it for its name)
to take the ferry across Waitemata Harbour to Devonport, and another tall hill. The transport centre is called ‘Britomart’ but there is no sign of an armoured female knight, nor of Spenser’s Faerie Queene.

Here she is -

– the warrior knight of heroic myth and legend, reduced to modernity and functionalism.  I can’t help thinking of Marvin the Robot from The Hithchikers’ Guide: ‘brain the size of a planet’ but reduced to parking cars until the end of the world.  In this way we subsume the richness of the past, of heroism and complexity, into our triviality.
It turns out that like so many slightly odd-sounding Australian and New Zealand place names, the connection is via a ship of that name. Of course, nineteenth century ships still very commonly had names from mythology and literature, so these concepts in turn stand a chance of being carried forward through time, via the places named for them because they had visited, or where they were shipwrecked.
Here is a small part of the information that Auckland Transport Centre kindly tell us on their website. HMS Britomart was a brig-sloop, one of 101 vessels of the Cherokee class, built at Portsmouth in 1820. The ship was 237 tons, armed with ten guns, and was sold in Singapore in 1843.
(You may need to scroll to the end to see the picture of  a brig-sloop.) 
[I love the next sentence.] In command of HMS Britomart in 1840 was Commander Owen Stanley, the eldest son of the Bishop of Norwich. [Surely he must be the bloke after whom they named the Owen Stanley Ranges.] HMS Britomart gave her name to an area of Auckland where fighting between Europeans and Maori took place, and thence to a street, and finally to a transport hub. So it goes.
By the ferry wharf there towered two enormous white cruise liners, huge and daunting as the castles that Spenser’s knights  occupied: suddenly the busloads of tourists at Mt Eden were explained.
Moored at Devonport, by a wharf full of earnest fishermen and their little sons, was a beautifully restored tug, the William Crush Daldy. We goggled at it, as this was the very ship named after Andrew’s Great Great (and possibly Great) Uncle, who had been an early settler in New Zealand. We had known that the tug once existed, but hardly expected to find it in pristine running order, lovingly cared for by a dedicated historical society.

Daldy with Daldy

(Andrew’s mother was a Daldy)
Furthermore, when a chap working on it saw us, he gave us an impromptu guided tour of the whole vessel – engine rooms, coal bunkers and all.

beautifully polished brasswork - is this a binnacle?

essential information

apologies to the mystery figure on the left - I just can't edit you out today

We heard about her coal consumption, her speed, her history – all from someone who was clearly very proud of the tug’s achievements. (She had won a tug race against much more modern ships not long before). It was altogether a great privilege and a big surprise.

you might have to enlarge this a bit to see what it says

Up on North Head, kite-flying was the order of the day, while scores of sailing boats flew across the water on the seaward side of the headland.

on top of the world with a two-handed kite

New Zealand’s daylight saving time puts it three hours ahead of Queensland, so we were inclined to sleep in shamefully: Sunday started late.  

This is HMS Pelorus - a brig-sloop very similar to HMS Britomart. There is a Pelorus River in Victoria (Australia) (where you can find advertising for the Perilous River Riding Stables) and a Pelorus Sound in NZ.

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