Letting in the light

When the Cook Strait kowhai blooms

and the snow-line creeps closer

Puketeraki Range from Loburn

On frosty  mornings Continue reading

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In the hills of Cheviot

North Canterbury Farm Forestry Association visited a couple of farms near Cheviot last Thursday.

The first is a small–holding north of Cheviot that was enthusiastically planted and landscaped around 20 years ago, with ponds ornamental trees and walnuts. The property is a familiar sight to travellers on State Highway One as one of the more scenic farms in this area. Our hosts Kevin and Prue kickstarted the day with tea, coffee and several plates of hot scones and buttered cake.

Continue reading

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Southern Lights

While I was cobbling together my last post, oblivious to events in the real world, a friend who likes his privacy so I’ll just call him ‘The BFG’, was out on the Port Hills near Gebbies Pass taking ‘not very good’ photographs of the Aurora australis.  In response to that last post of mine he sent one of his worst photos.  I am of course green with envy and have had a reminder to trust my instinct, as I had noticed a ruby tinge in the night sky, but with Christchurch to our south had put it down to light pollution.

Aurora australis from the Summit Road, Port Hills, Christchurch, 23 April 2017. Photo courteousy of the BFG.

I understand the next peak in aurora activity is expected to be 26 days after this one (19th May) when the hole in the sun points toward earth again.  This applies to the northern hemisphere too, where the solar storm that produced this display reportedly put on a good show as far south as New York.

You can find out more and check aurora forecasts here

If you want to catch one for yourself you can subscribe to aurora alerts here

The real trick is to spend more time outside in the evenings with a good view toward your polar horizon.


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Of St Aidan, ANZAC and Serbia

Another year and another commemoration of the sacrifices of WWI for ANZAC Day (25th April) is upon us. We’re so focused on the horrors of Gallipolli, victories of Palestine and madness of France and Belgium that we forget (actually I don’t think it ever really comes up at school or in NZ war histories) the Great War was spread over much vaster areas.

I have a thing for country churches something about the wooden neo-gothic architecture and I’ve always had a fascination with the stained glass images. Traveling in and out of the Hakatere over the summer I’d noticed a bell tower standing over some oaks near Mt Somers Village so heading home for the weekend one Friday evening I checked it out, St Aidans, Anglican Church.

St Aidans, Anglican Church, Mt Somers, NZ. January 2017.

Built in 1900 it’s the only church I’ve ever seen with mooring blocks, to prevent it  sailing away on the teeth of a Nor-wester not a problem for now with a good block of trees around it but as the old photo shows….

St Aidans Aglican Church, Mt Somers, NZ. Possibly prior to 1920 as the lychgate built in 1920 is not to be seen although it may be out of frame. Tree size would put it near 1920 if they were planted soon after construction in 1900. The background is the south face of Mt Somers

Click on any photo in the gallery to see it in detail.


It seems to me that a lot of Anglican churches have memorials to those who fell in conflicts far, far away. ST Aidan’s has a register of those “On Active Service” that clearly was never finished. If the lack of an end date wasn’t enough, that George and Harold Harrison aren’t on the list clinched the deal (see stained glass image above).

Roll On Active Service – St Aidans, Mt Somers

While you’ve got to admire the penmanship, what really got my attention was the 2nd entry ‘Jane Emily Peter, Nurse, Lady Paget’s Unit, Amongst first to Serbia’. In our popular narratives on WW I Serbia doesn’t get a mention and Bosnia, where it all began, gets two lines at best, so I had a real HUH? moment. Viva la internet, all things are connected.

St Aidans, Mt Somers, line 2 reads, Jane Emily Peter, Nurse, Lady Paget’s Unit, Amongst first to Serbia

Lady Paget, was the wife of the British ambassador to Serbia. She established the Serbian Relief Fund, using volunteers and charitable donations sought from both sides of the Atlantic, which then funded and provided ongoing support for a mobile hospital unit tending to wounded Serbian soldiers. The first hospital unit (nurses, doctors, medical supplies, tents, etc) was headed by Lady Paget herself, hence Lady Paget’s Unit.

L-R: Gertrude Littlecott, Emily Jane Peter, Grace Webster & Annie Hiatt at No 4 General Hospital of the Mooi Camp, Natal.

Jane/Emily was Born in Burra, Australia, later moving with her parents to Anama, Mt Somers, Jane went, as a nurse, with the NZ adventurers to the Boer War, and took herself to England to help in France but was turned down, the British Army wouldn’t accept women at that time, however British women did not agree, so she joined Lady Paget’s Serbian Relief Fund hospital.  I’ve copied straight into this report brief biographies for Sister Emily and another NZ nurse, Ethel Lewis, who in another unit had taken part in the Serbian Great Retreat.

Five New Zealand women received Serbian Awards as well as two women who later came to NZ. source

Dr. Jessie Anne Scott, Christchurch, NZ.  Surgeon with the Scottish Womens Hospitals, Serbia (twice-having been a POW and repatriated via Switzerland she went back), Russia – Romanian Front, Serbian Army and in 1919 France.

Sister Ethel Lewis, Otaki, NZ.  (see below for full account)

Dr. Agnes Lloyd Bennett, born in Sydney, became attached to an NZ medical corp serving in Egypt, Salonika, Serbia and Wales.  Between the wars she worked in the Wellington Childrens Hospital and as an obstetrician at St Helen’s Wellington, NZ.  She returned to England for WW II, and died in Wellington aged 88.

Sister Jane Emily Peter, born Burra, South Australia, childhood and later life Mt Somers, Canterbury, NZ

Sister Elizabeth Buchanan Young, New Plymouth, NZ

Dr. Mildred Ernestine Staley, born in Honolulu came to NZ sometime after 1923

Sister Mary O’Connor, Fairhall, Marlborough, NZ

A New Zealand medical contingent was sent to Salonika but …

No. 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital was mobilised in October 1915 to deploy to Salonika and provide medical support to the wounded of the new battle area.  The group departed Alexandria aboard the Marquette, a transport ship travelling as part of a British Ammunition Convoy.  The Marquette was unfortunately torpedoed by the German U-boat U35 on 23 October 1915, resulting in the lost of 10 nurses of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service and 18 members of the New Zealand Medical Corps.  The survivors were taken to Salonika and while several kiwi nurses returned to Egypt or New Zealand to recuperate, many offered to remain and establish the New Zealand Stationary Hospital as planned.  However, as military historians Sherayl Kendall and David Corbett record, ‘their offer was not accepted and as conditions in Salonika were not good it was fortunate the nurses were sent back’  source

As far as I can work out there were seven British hospital units in Serbia, four of which were operated and funded by the Scottish Womens Hospitals for Foreign Service, the linked wiki page also provides further interesting reading on the Serbian situation. This report by Lady Paget covers the first 3 months in Serbia, https://archive.org/stream/withourserbianal00page/withourserbianal00page_djvu.txt it’s sombre reading and to quote the recently late John Clarke ‘We don’t know how lucky we are’.  Where Lady Paget chose to remain with her patients when the Bulgarian forces entered Skopje, other hospital units retreated with the Serbian Army and ultimately joined the ‘Great Retreat’ where some estimates are 150,000 died of cold and starvation. Lady Paget’s unit remained working at the hospital while the Bulgarian Army was in occupation but when the Bulgarians were replaced by German troops, Lady Paget and her nurses were forcibly repatriated to Britain, which is covered in this Grey River Argus, article https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/GRA19160529.2.35.


Though Serbia bows her stricken head,

Hope whispers that she is not dead,

That Serbia, like the Phoenix, dies

A Greater Serbia to arise.

The Story of a Red Cross Unit in Serbia. James Berry, B.S., F.R.C.S., F. May Dickinson Berry, M.D., B.S., W. Lyon Blease, LL.M., and other members of the unit.

The following biographies are abbreviated from the website of the:

New Zealand Army Nursing Service – Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps http://www.nzans.org/Honours/Serbian%20Awards.html

Sister Ethel LEWIS
Ethel Lewis had gained experience nursing in Otaki but had travelled overseas and was in England at the outbreak of war where she volunteered for overseas service.  She worked for nine weeks in Belgium before being evacuated and subsequently travelling to Serbia where she worked with the 1st British Hospital attached to the 2nd Serbian Army.  While working in the trenches she was slightly wounded by shrapnel and was decorated by King Peter for saving the life of a Serbian officer.   When the German and Austrian armies forced a Serbian retreat she helped to evacuate the 400 patients through the mountains but only the hospital staff survived with Sister Lewis suffering frostbite.  The conditions were exceptionally bad with one patient dying on her back after she had carried him two miles.  After leaving Serbia Sister Lewis nursed in England before returning to New Zealand midway through the War.

The Great Retreat, the caption reads: Dr.  MacGregor leading the retreat of the Scottish nurses from Serbia

For her services in Serbia Sister Ethel Lewis was awarded the Serbian Order of the White Eagle (class unknown), Order of St Sava 3rd class and the Serbian Royal Red Cross 2nd class.  She then returned to New Zealand and in 1917 joined the New Zealand Army Nursing Service

Sister Emily Jane PETER
Emily Peter was born in Australia but came to New Zealand with her parents in 1861and spent her early years on a farm in Mid-Canterbury.  In 1891 she travelled to England to train as a nurse and worked at Westminster Hospital, London until returning to New Zealand in 1899.  She was selected to lead a group of four nurses sent to support British Forces in South Africa by the New Zealand Government in January 1900, and was one of the first nurses to enter Ladysmith after its relief.  Emily Peter turned(sic) to New Zealand in 1901 and worked at the Sanitarium Health Home in Papanui, Christchurch until leaving for England in 1914.  When the Great War broke out she was unable to obtain a place in the military forces and instead joined Lady Paget’s American Red Cross supported Serbian Relief Fund venture. Sister Peter travelled through Salonika to Skopje and later Vrnjatchka Banja where she nursed battle casualties, before succumbing to typhus just prior to the ‘Great Retreat’.

Jane Emily Peter standing. The original caption reads ‘These nurses from Canterbury were the first to depart New Zealand for the South African War in January 1900. From left to right: Sister Annie Hiatt; Sister Gertrude Littlecott; Sister Emily Peter; and Sister Grace Webster.’

For her services in Serbia Sister Peter was awarded the Serbian Samaritan Cross and Serbian Red Cross Medal.  After the war Emily Peter returned to New Zealand and died near Mount Somers in 1927.  Sister Peter’s medals are held in the collection of the Ashburton Museum, there are also a journal and photographs held by the Canterbury Museum.


Emily Peter’s Serbian Samaritan Cross


Emily Peter’s Serbian Red Cross – but I’m not sure this is hers as it is dated 1912 – 13

The two group photographs are from http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C68871



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Best office day I’ll have this year!

If working on a computer means you’re in the office then for the 27th February I must have had one of the best office spaces going anywhere.

Being a Monday it started with that long dawn haul south


Balloons at dawn over Hororata

Up in the Hakatere the weather was perfect with d’Archiac prominent away on the Main Divide


Strolling across the grassy plain


Hakatere basin looking into the Pott’s Valley

There were pale blue berries underfoot

Coprosma petriei

Coprosma petriei

At the head of a dry valley


What  I thought was a pretty awesome office


Logging into the Clearwater Kettles

But when I got to the next login point…wow

The Dell and the Gentians

Gentians around the Dell (Gentianella corymbifera?)

Which made me think of this….


And while I waited for the techy stuff to do its thing I noticed this native bee with it’s tongue down the throat of a late flowering willowherb.  It’s so small I couldn’t see how hairy those legs are until I got the photos home, positively pilose!  Click to enlarge

There’s a heap of small native bees, all black and a range of sizes but some have coloured hairs.  This is the first one I’ve seen with white hairs and so thick, it’s like an old man.


I had to find out why “Mrs Hairy Legs” popped straight into my head and here’s the answer, Crowded House, taking the piss on the Late Night Show in 1991, I wonder if they’d get away with that now or would they get deported?

Tim those trousers are terrible and “Do not touch certain parts of your body when on camera”

Then when  I was lunching I realised that I’d plonked down in a patch of the tiniest onion orchids

Microtis oligantha, onion orchid Hakatere

Microtis oligantha, onion orchid Hakatere

Moving on there was a patch of orange berries

Leucopogon nanum, hakatere

Leucopogon nanum, hakatere

Patotara, Leucopogon nanum, Pa = defensive structure, tara = prickles, defended with prickles

Prickly patotara, Leucopogon nanum

Prickly patotara, Leucopogon nanum

At the last stop

In the notes this is 'Deep Hole' and there are tales of ice-breaking through chest deep water to download the datalogger

In the notes this is ‘Deep Hole’ and there are tales of ice-breaking through chest deep water to download the datalogger

there was a different Gentian


Gentianella grisebachii or so I’m told

Now the spell is broken as it’s a long walk to the carpark and as I headed that way I came across….

Huh?.FYI the little white spot hard right in the distance is the car.

Huh?.FYI the little white spot hard right in the distance below the dark green, is the car.

It wasn’t there in the morning but closer inspection reveals, it’s a possum monitoring trapline.


It’s a strange way to set traps as any fur trapper well knows but there’s a science behind it.  By setting a given number of  traps in the prescribed manner for the prescribed number of nights then the population can be estimated and that can indicate if a control operation is warranted.

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Christchurch Revisited II

The latest Hanmer, Kaikoura, Seddon, Wellington quakes have shifted focus off Christchurch but it is still far from business as usual.


Christchurch: a work in progress under a grey Nor-west blanket

Back near the shortest day (late June) I had another day wandering the streets of Christchurch, essentially a year on from my last visit . Some of those inner city things that had been done to liven it up had been abandoned


A living fence is …well dead

but new buildings are on the rise and there isn’t much left to come down. It should look prosperous when it’s all done but I hope they don’t keep doing the current grey themes. Grey to match the grey of the gravel underneath and the grey of the Nor-west sky that so often hangs over the city to be relieved at days end when the sun briefly traverses that narrow strip of blue the “Nor-west Arch” painting the city and hills in golden light.


Durham St, Christchurch: kissed by late afternoon sunlight peeking under the Nor-west arch. Roadworks continue and stone buildings on the left have protective structures built over them for the meantime

The brand new bus exchange


Christchurch bus exchange

There are still a lot of otherwise bland surfaces exposed by the demolition of adjacent buildings that have been decorated in a range of styles

When I came across this mural by BMDISYOURFRIEND, it took a moment to work out what was going on… and it was only as I walked away, that I realised my sense of disorientation came not from the mural, but that the carpark had previously been occupied by the hotel where my parents stayed, on their return to NZ, after getting married in Australia.

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Pollarding plane trees stopped many years ago. The current trend is to pollard the buildings

London plane: a pollard no more

London plane: a pollard no more

Modern Pollard

Modern Pollard


There are lots of new open spaces, greyfields

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The site of the modern office building where Kirsty worked.

The former site of the modern office building where Kirsty worked.


Durham St, Methodist Church. Opened in 1864 it was the oldest stone church in Christchurch.

and greenfields


A whole city block temporarily turned into a park


From Latimer Square a vista not seen in decades

and soon to be built over fields


Pegs in ready to rip

It amazes me that so many of the early bridges came through unscathed

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You see this bridge and the next one along are at least partially brick when you take a peek under them.  That they’ve withstood modern trucks and buses is amazing enough for something 130 years old.

Then there are still plenty of buildings that haven’t fared so well and are still waiting to be reborn.  Like these old Christchurch City Council offices, brick and limestone didn’t cope so well when half the ground underneath moved toward the river.

Others are getting the grand treatment


If 2 red brick stores get restored, there'll be 8 red brick stores waiting to accidentally fall down, 8 left hanging

If 2 red brick stores get restored, there’ll be 8 red brick stores waiting to accidentally fall

but now we can see that our reality is distorted

vista’s worthy of Mr Brown

Has the Anglican Cathedral ever been visible from the bridge on Victoria St before?

Has the Anglican Cathedral ever been visible from the bridge on Victoria St before?


I always liked the look of this hotel but click on the photo below and take a closer look…

Earthquake repairs

Earthquake repairs

have a deco at New Regent Street’s new art deco

New Regent Street, Christchurch.

New Regent Street, Christchurch.

Rescued piano in the public dance space

Rescued piano in a public dance space, Victoria St.

I made this visit with a documentary fresh in mind “The Art of Recovery” and sought out some of the places that were shown. If it comes your way take the time to watch it, sad, funny, a commentary on resilience, lost opportunity and what happens when business interests take control of rebuilding a community. For a time, Christchurch new what it was to have a soul even though the body was

piano rescued from a bar now on Victoria St.

piano rescued from a bar now on Victoria St.

broken, it’s unclear if the soul will remain when the concrete and glass facades of commerce dominate the city streets.

Here’s the official trailer http://artofrecoveryfilm.com/

If you’re in NZ it’s available at TVNZ on

Where the foofy Crown Plaza Hotel once stood

Where the foofy Crown Plaza Hotel once stood

demand https://www.tvnz.co.nz/ondemand/the-art-of-recovery I doubt it will work from other countries but it won’t hurt to try.

Next to the Bridge of Remembrance on Cashel St, is what remains of the post earthquake shopping area ‘The Container Mall’


Bridge of Remembrance, Christchurch

Bridge of Remembrance, Christchurch

I stumbled across ‘185 Empty Chairs’, many of the chairs were personal possessions of those killed, donated and painted by those nearest to them.

185 Empty Chairs leads naturally to the Cardboard Cathedral

The temporary Anglican 'Cardboard' Cathedral from 185 Empty Chairs, Christchurch

The temporary Anglican ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral from 185 Empty Chairs, Christchurch

If the following seems a little weird and you don’t get the references, not to worry, for me it’s a bit of fun but I hope it works for at least some of you. Not without it’s serious note mind but I have been inspired somewhat by Rick of Massachusetts and his often witty and slick Blue Oak Blog. So there’s a nod here to some Old World and some New World workers of post and beam, summers, bays and trunnels, mortice and tenon paired with the slick and knocked into place by a beetlish commander. If I’m lucky my effort will rate a 1 on the Rick-ter scale.

To set the scene a cousin took this photo of the Cathedral the day before it fell.

Christchurch Anglican Cathedral 21st February 2011

Christchurch Anglican Cathedral 21st February 2011

At the old centre of knowledge, behind bolted doors art and atoms are soon to re-emerge into the light


within the spaces where Lord Rutherford learnt his craft. Here he had his alpha days but his beta days came in England where he devised the art of elemental riving.

The former Canterbury University, now the Christchurch Arts Centre approaching completed restoration

The former Canterbury University, now the Christchurch Arts Centre approaching completed restoration

The house of law has been reformed

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and The Chalice catches the Light in front of God’s House

Love it or hate it. The Chalice, Cathedral Square, Christchurch, caught by late light under a Norwest Arch

Love it or hate it. The Chalice, Cathedral Square, Christchurch, caught by late light under a Norwest Arch

Fallen into dereliction

and bondage


abandoned by the shepherd, but guarded by the flock

for now, from the wrecking ball but dung and rain will take their toll

where proud Kings balance on reeking beams


hammered onto crumbling masonry

at the edge of the void where the bells once pealed

and the roof is now slated to do the peeling.


The Anglican Church wants to flatten the cathedral and put up a modern architectural and engineering masterpiece, however a stalwart group the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) want to see the cathedral rebuilt, but time is a wasting. The GCBT have a website http://restorechristchurchcathedral.co.nz/ where anyone who shares their ambition can make a donation toward the cause. Amongst other things the website displays a letter from the American Timber Framers Guild offering assistance.

In front of the mound that was the nave a stack of stones of a different order, stands

The Cairn, Cathedral Square, Christchurch

The Cairn, Cathedral Square, Christchurch

Memorial to Democracy plundered


to rivers dried, streams fouled, wells polluted and a way of life erased

where once a patchwork of crops blanketed the dry plains beyond the city


all is changed

for water is the new oil that greases the fields, to feed the cows to make the shit that feeds the algae that poisons the rivers that means the only safe place for children to experience flowing water is in the concrete creation of the waterpark by the Avon,


the Avon which is only safe to look at despite the quotes of founding fathers awed by her purity not so long ago.

A river of water so pure

“A river of water, clearer than crystal indeed the  finest water I ever saw.”

The long story of how the ‘cairn’ came to be can be uncovered in “Franzi and The Great Terrain Robbery” by Sam Mahon. It’s the story of how a community came together to protect their river and having won their cause through the correct and proper channels had the water stolen from under their feet by a central government determined to turn Canterbury into a giant milk factory.

Sam’s response was to turn to his art and protest through it, the ‘cairn’ was just one of several projects and it came together mid-winter not long before the shaking started, in his words (heavily abridged) this is how it was built:

“…’This song is for the rivers’ said Ariana ‘and as it’s being sung I’d like those of you nearest the trailers to take stones and pass them to your neighbours. In this way we can create two rivers of stone flowing to the cairn behind you.’ …Ariana was still singing …but where were the two rivers of stone?….I scooped up a boulder. A woman stood with her back to me. I took her by the arm and as she turned I offered her the stone. She smiled at me, she was already cradling one in her arms. I turned to the person beside her, he had one too. Everyone had a stone. But they weren’t passing them, they were standing facing the centre of the square. And now I understood; something unscripted was taking place. The bishop was standing beside the cairn, she was sprinkling water on the stones, and she was blessing them.

When it was over, the crowd began…passing their boulders to people on steps beside the cairn. Now there came a continuous dry clattering …for a few minutes it was constant, and then suddenly it ceased. I saw Lesley* walking up with a last great boulder clutched to her stomach.

‘There’s no more room, lady,’ someone said. She glared up at him; she had come an awfully long way with her offering from the Mandamus.

‘Don’t you tell me what to do,’ she said. The stone was passed up and as it nestled in among the others the crowd applauded and the mesh lid was wired down tight.

….I walked across to the seven tonne column of river stones. It had been built in twenty minutes by three thousand people. Mothers and fathers, grandparents, young and old…each had taken a stone in their hands…Some of them bore the names of rivers; Waimakariri, Rakaia, Hurunui, Waipara, Waitaki, Haast attached at eye level was a plaque of etched steel:


Chris appeared at my side…’Tell me…what other public art work has been crafted by nature, built by the people, explained by a dean and blessed by a bishop?’ “

*On a personal note I know Lesley, she grew up on a rugged high-country farm surrounded by high peaks feeding the Mandamus River, she has been a champion of wilderness and nature all her life and there is no way I’d be brave enough to tell her what to do.

Sam has an interesting website: gallery, sketches, paintings, videos, bronze casting …. check it out http://www.sammahon.com

Somewhere in the intervening months between my visit and now, Sam installed a new public work outside the Regional Council offices. ‘Vigil‘ is a bust of the late Cathy Sintenie who campaigned for sensible water use and clean water in South Canterbury.

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The Barker Icerink


The Lombardy poplars around ‘The Icerink’ in the Upper Rangitata as seen from the Rawtor bridge

As I journey back and forth on the road up the Rangitata to monitor river birds, just below Ben McLeod Station and over a mile away across the river there’s a stand of Lombardy Poplars that gets pointed out as ‘The Icerink” occasionally there’s a glimmer of white buildings with dark openings.  It’s pointed out as a place to hear bittern in the swamp and as yet I haven’t had cause or opportunity to visit.  My colleagues under-rate the interest and extent of the icerinks and buildings if this article posted recently in the archaeological blog, ‘Christchurch uncovered’  is anything to go by.


Crossing a braid of the Upper Rangitata River a few miles up from The Icerink

A word of caution though, should anyone be inspired to visit by fording the river from Turn Again Point, the Rangitata River is often cloudy and is sufficiently powerful that without local knowledge and river experience probably shouldn’t be attempted except at low flows (less than 70cumecs at the Klondyke Guage) and not after recent rain in the headwaters.  Rainfall (Mistake Flat) and riverflows can be checked on the ECAN website

A man & his dream — Christchurch uncovered

Today I’m going to tell you about what is possibly my all-time favourite archaeological site (there is another contender, but it doesn’t have any connection to Christchurch or Canterbury so is unlikely to feature here). I reckon this site has … Continue reading →

via A man & his dream — Christchurch uncovered

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I hate Mondays or Too Much Rock and Roll

No doubt you all know that our peace was once again shattered by Ruaumoko stirring in his sleep just after midnight on Monday morning 14th Nov. (nearly 15 days ago). It was that rock and roll of someone shaking you awake from deep sleep but it went on and on, everytime we thought it was about over it would start up again.  So we new it was big, bigger than the Christchurch earthquakes but a lot further away. Having checked the GNS website to learn it was near Hanmer Springs (low population, no highrise) it was back to bed in an effort to get some sleep between the aftershocks before the early Monday morning drive south.

Click on photos to enlarge them or mouse over the mosaic galleries for captions.

Hanmer Springs gets its name from the hotwater percolating from deep in the Hope Fault

Hanmer Springs gets its name from the hotwater percolating up from deep in the Hope Fault

The Hope Fault runs east to Kaikoura

Monday 14th’s earthquake started somewhere near here  on the Hope Fault whick cuts across country eastward to Kaikoura


Downtown Wellington: if it's not on a major fault it's on seabed raised in the 1855 Wairarapa Earthquake

Downtown Wellington: if it’s not on a major fault it’s on ex-seabed raised in the 1855 Wairarapa Earthquake, some of those high rise might be coming down soon.

Once again we (NZ) are lucky to have had a major earthquake occur in the dead of night when the roads are almost empty and no one was out walking the streets of Wellington to be sliced and diced by falling glass. It was sad that 2 people did die but it could have been so much worse. The geologists are saying the rupture was probably over a 200km length merely starting at Hanmer and then connecting across several faults to run north toward Wellington, our capital city, where one of the bigger aftershocks has caused significant damage.

The Seaward Kaikoura Range from the coast near Conway River

The Seaward Kaikoura Range, as seen here from the coast near Conway River,  is among the fastest rising land in the world


Of course it’s not surprising, they don’t call the current mountain building phase the Kaikoura Orogeny for nothing and if this wasn’t the fastest rising real estate in the world, there wouldn’t be picturesque mountains rising out of the sea with sperm whales lolling around at their base feeding on giant squid a convenient 1000ft dive below.

Burying a sperm whale washed up north of Kaikoura. The lower jaw, lower left, put aside for cultural uses.

Burying a sperm whale washed up north of Kaikoura. The lower jaw, lower left, put aside for cultural uses.

Same sperm whale jaw as in photo to left, the teeth are prized for carving

Same sperm whale jaw as in photo to left, the teeth are prized for carving

Rockfall has changed the face of the coast around Kaikoura and it sounds like Kaikoura and the coast in the immediate area have been given some much needed insurance against rising sea levels having been hoisted 2m into the air, with the uplift affecting at least 100km of coastline.

Tourists watch the seal pups at Kaikoura's Ohau Pt in 2015

Tourists watch the seal pups at Kaikoura’s Ohau Pt in 2015

Had it struck 12 hours later there would have been at least 100 cars  and trucks buried or pushed into the sea, and 20 or more tourists would have perished with the seal pups swimming under the waterfall at Ohau Pt (I’m being very conservative here).

NZ fur seal pups in the waterfall at Ohau Pt, Kaikoura in 2015

NZ fur seal pups in the waterfall pool at Ohau Pt, Kaikoura in 2015

With the human drama easing off, my thoughts are turning to the ecological impacts, how many seals and penguins lie under the rockfalls?

Did the Hutton’s shearwater breeding area high on the mountains survive or did the mountainside collapse taking them nearer to extinction?

Endangered Hutton's Shearwater have their nest burrows somewhere up there near the snowline

Endangered Hutton’s Shearwater have their nest burrows somewhere up there near the snowline

Just a little north did the shingle cliffs that hold the last coastal tree broom in the wild crumble or are those contenders for real life Dr. Seuss trees still standing? Disturbingly I was listening to a geologist saying it looks like the coastline has been raised by 3 – 4 metres at Waipapa Pt which is pretty close to the stronghold of coastal tree broom. In the same interview they talked about walking on a dry reef which hitherto had never been exposed by the lowest tides. Apparently tons of paua (abalone) and koura (crayfish/spiny lobster) were left stranded high and dry. Incidentally Kaikoura means ‘to eat crayfish’.

Extremely rare coastal tree broom - Carmichaelia muritai - muri (behind) tai ( the shore)

Extremely rare coastal tree broom – Carmichaelia muritai – muri (behind) tai ( the shore)

blossom of coastal tree broom - Carmichaelia muritai

blossom of coastal tree broom – Carmichaelia muritai

The precarious habitat of coastal tree broom

The precarious habitat of coastal tree broom

The whole area of South Marlborough is home to a host of endemic plants and animals many of which are now restricted to precipitous terrain, much of which seems to have fallen into the valleys below including bluff weta, black-eyed gecko and the Chalk Range cress.

Over the hill in the Clarence Reserve, how did the historic Quail Flat cob buildings fare? and in particular the monstrous bread oven made of river stones? I’m sure we would have heard if the one family that lives in here was in trouble, and perhaps for them it makes little difference as a quick trip to town meant getting in a plane or helicopter anyway, but to get their cattle out from Muzzle Station to market they have to drive them over the Seaward Kaikoura Range, a breathtaking journey for those who get the chance.

Further north than either of these, there’s been rumour of a massive slip damming the Ure River (named after it’s English counterpart) and if that’s the case what of the sawcut gorge in Isolation Creek and another host of rare and undescribed plants.

The Ure River gorge through a chopper's perspex window hence the flaring

The Ure River gorge through a chopper’s perspex window hence the flaring

In the most awesome Sawcut gorge, of Isolation Creek, Marlborough

In the most awesome Sawcut gorge, of Isolation Creek, Marlborough

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Recovery: Saving the “Rat” That Isn’t — Cool Green Science

At first glance this post on the Nature Conservancy’s blog ‘Cool Green Science’ appears to be about a hut building rodent in Florida but really it’s about CATS.  In particular the impact of the new trend of trapping, neutering and then releasing feral cats back into the wild. In New Zealand It’s a policy being pushed by the Royal NZ Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA).  While I thought the logic was flawed this article is about science that demonstrates that IT IS flawed, resulting in higher impacts on native wildlife.  Besides that there is the oddity of any SPCA promoting the lives of feral cats as worthy when to live the cats must hunt other animals and they are not particular about how they do it.  Even frogs and geckos SCREAM.  Follow the link in the title or below to read the full article.

Extinction of the endangered Key Largo woodrat seemed likely as recently as 2012. But thanks to years of work by two dedicated volunteers and recent enlightened management by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this subspecies of Florida woodrat is making a dramatic comeback. The worst of its problems was and is free-ranging domestic cats.…

via Recovery: Saving the “Rat” That Isn’t — Cool Green Science

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What does a forested valley


Brook Valley, Nelson. Photo: Alison Balance radionz

have in common with thisRIMG3511 Continue reading

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