My travel rule of thumb: visit a botanic garden, especially if it is free. When traveling on business a good garden makes an excellent place to get some steps in and breathe fresh air. Not all gardens are created equal. This summer I had the opportunity to go to the Missouri Botanic Garden and it is world class. And I started my NZ trip with a stay at the world class private garden, Paripuma. Alas, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is looking frumpy. It was winter and they have had their hands full with rebuilding glasshouse structures after the earthquakes; nevertheless, even before “the big one” I felt the garden was more Ode to Mother England than a celebration of New Zealand. In the photos above you see lots of lawn, some legacy trees and a lot of (yawn) planted annual beds.
Even with that critique, there is hardly a prettier downtown than Christchurch ANYWHERE in the world. Well, maybe Adelaide, Australia. They have optimized the Avon River and the parks and gardens in a way that you must make time to walk through.
The garden that I’ll be sure to visit again is in Dunedin.
This garden is built on a steep hill (much like Wellington’s) and yet maximizes the attractions with different gardens and lots of plant variety and statuary. Plus I LOVE a knot garden! I just wish there was a viewing platform for the knot garden.
They welcome children in Dunedin and design for their enjoyment: a train, free food for ducks, playground equipment, and space to make your own fun. It was Father’s Day Sunday in New Zealand on the day of my visit and I saw loads of families taking advantage of the garden on an almost spring day.
It seems an almost silly thing, but I found this little stick structure and ended up sitting for a little while admiring it, wondering who built it and admiring their handywork.
The best gardens help you forget that you are in a city and take you into nature. Dunedin Botanic Garden does.
Both gardens are free to enter. Both have cafes where you can get a coffee or tea or something more substantial to eat. Both make their cities more livable and enjoyable.
When I first visited Christchurch in 2010 I enjoyed the Botanical Garden and walking along the Avon River; however, I thought the City felt stodgy and old-fashioned. They had already had several big earthquakes and I experienced a couple of small ones when I was there. The following February the downtown was largely destroyed by another quake and then rattled by hundreds of additional aftershocks. I didn’t visit again until 2012. The National and Canterbury governments were still grappling with the magnitude of damage. Houses were being “red-tagged” and individuals were moving to other parts of New Zealand to keep their children in schools and to find work. On this visit (my third or fourth visit), I was impressed with progress made, and by the new spirit exhibited by the art and buildings created downtown. Christchurch is cool.
The downtown has been opened up and its relationship to the Avon River has been redefined. The pathways and landscaping enhance the pedestrian experience. Plus a real investment has been made in public art. I walked from my hotel, the Crowne Plaza Christchurch to the Margaret Mahy Playground. This new complex is awesome for kids and families. Even early in the morning the number of children using the playground was exciting.
I walked along the river walkway towards the Christchurch Botanic Garden. I passed through Victoria Square and took a slight detour to the Commons–a collection of businesses in pop-up type buildings. Along the way I enjoyed the public art.
On my return I walked through the Cathedral Square. A Farmers Market was setting up and vendors were setting up and early arrivers were sipping coffee on the edges. There are signs of determination to rebuild the Cathedral in its old glory. I can understand the attachment to the old buildings at Christ College and the Cathedral. But the energy is all coming from the new forms and functions in the city and makes Christchurch an exciting place to visit.
This is an emergency blog to express my dismay at the Mosque attacks in Christchurch by white supremacists. Part of me doesn’t want to believe it because the New Zealand people I know and love are so far removed from this hate. Just look at the example of the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership in the days following the attacks.
These fellas were hanging out in St Heliers on my last visit. Chillin’. This is what I believe better represents the Kiwi spirit.
I heard people make racist remarks in bars and in unguarded moments–made by much older people and never with any intent to do physical harm. I’d heard worse in the US, but as we witness in the United States, these attitudes are pernicious and difficult to change without real effort by everyone in society: education, neighbors, political and business leaders.
One of my favorite memories of New Zealand was in the community hall in St Heliers. They adopted the USA for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the town was festooned in stars and stripes. The village hosted a celebration with the US Consulate and everyone was invited. A young woman sang the New Zealand national anthem and it was the first time I’d really listened to the words. I was so moved. It summed up the complicated beautiful people that I met throughout the North and South Islands. It is always sung in both English and Maori before the rugby test matches. Tonight I am saying it as a prayer for Aotearoa.
English “God Defend New Zealand”
Māori “Aotearoa” translated
1. God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.
2. Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.
3. Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.
4. Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country’s spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.
5. May our mountains ever be
Freedom’s ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations’ van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.
1. E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
2. Ōna mano tāngata
Kiri whero, kiri mā,
Iwi Māori, Pākehā,
Nei ka tono ko ngā hē
Māu e whakaahu kē,
Kia ora mārire
3. Tōna mana kia tū!
Tōna kaha kia ū;
Tōna rongo hei pakū
Ki te ao katoa
Aua rawa ngā whawhai
Ngā tutū e tata mai;
Kia tupu nui ai
4. Waiho tona takiwā
Ko te ao mārama;
Kia whiti tōna rā
Ko te hae me te ngangau
Meinga kia kore kau;
Waiho i te rongo mau
5. Tōna pai me toitū
Tika rawa, pono pū;
Tōna noho, tāna tū;
Iwi nō Ihowā.
Kaua mōna whakamā;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tū hei tauira;
1. O Lord, God,
Of all people
Listen to us,
May good flourish,
May your blessings flow
2. Let all people,
Red skin, white skin
Gather before you
May all our wrongs, we pray,
So that we might say long live
3. May it be forever prestigious,
May it go from strength to strength,
May its fame spread far and wide,
Let not strife
Nor dissension ensue,
May it ever be great
4. Let its territory
Be ever enlightened
Throughout the land
Let envy and dissension
Let peace reign
5. Let its good features endure,
Let righteousness and honesty prevail
Among the people of God
Let it never be ashamed,
But rather, let its name be known
Thereby becoming the model to emulate
Dr. Michelle LaRue is an ecologist and science communicator who specializes in using Geographic Information Systems, satellite imaging and other tools to count penguin, seal and mountain lion populations. I follow @drmichellelarue on Twitter—I especially enjoy her #Cougarornot game. She recently moved from the University of Minnesota to the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ. This new adventure includes research opportunities in Antarctica.
The USA and New Zealand have a history of collaboration in Antarctica. The McMurdo research station is just down the road from the Kiwi Scott base, and both are supported from Christchurch. Dr. LaRue agreed to answer questions about this new opportunity.
Q: You’ve done research in Antarctica whilst maintaining your University home base at University of Minnesota. What prompted the move to New Zealand?
A: A faculty position with Gateway Antarctica at the University of Canterbury! Here I will continue my research on the ecology of Southern Ocean predators and look forward to building a lab in the next few years.
Q: From your new position, what do you hope you’ll be able to contribute to our understanding of penguins and the endangered polar habitats?
A: My goal is to effectively fill in the pieces of the puzzle that are missing – we’ve got several baseline population estimates now for Adélie and emperor penguins and we’re doing the same for Weddell seals and crabeater seals. Once those pieces are filled in, we get to start asking: why? Why are these populations in certain spots and not others? How do these species interact with each other across space and time? How might climate change impact their populations and habitats? To ask these questions we first need to know how many animals there are and where they live, so that’s my focus at the moment.
Q: Have you experienced an earthquake yet in Christchurch? And what is your favorite discovery about living in New Zealand?
A: For the first time, I felt a 3.2 earthquake back in December, though I will say the people around me didn’t even notice! I think my favorite discovery or realization is just how unbelievably beautiful it is – I mean this is something I knew before but now that I live here it’s remarkable to me how much diversity there is in the landscape in just a short distance. It’s an incredibly beautiful place to be an outdoor enthusiast!
Recall that it is currently summer in Antarctica, so she was in the field this past November. You can follow her team’s current research at https://emperorpenguinchange.blogspot.com/. Dr. LaRue also has links to a number of her video presentations and written papers on her website.
Dr. LaRue works on teams gauging the status of Adélie and Emperor penguin populations in Antarctica. There are things we can do to reduce human impacts on penguins and their habitat. First, more efficient fishing vessels are harvesting the krill that makes up the food supply of penguins and whales. It is important that we stop using krill oil (I didn’t realize this was a thing; however, a quick Google search and apparently lots of people are taking it as supplements). Second, the ice is shrinking in both polar regions due to rising ocean temperatures from rising CO2. We can all reduce our use of fossil fuels by riding a bike, walking, or carpooling.
For just $10NZ you can spend a couple of hours happily exploring the exhibits of Maori artifacts, and rotating exhibits of cultural history. My favorite gallery tells the story of the Napier earthquake in 1931 and shows a film on a continuous loop: Survivors’ Stories. It is 35 fascinating minutes.
“In 1931, New Zealand’s deadliest earthquake devastated the cities of Napier and Hastings. At least 256 people died in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake – 161 in Napier, 93 in Hastings, and 2 in Wairoa. Many thousands more required medical treatment.” (Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand)
There are many testimonies in the documentary that moved me, but my throat closed a little when someone remembered almost casually how most of the nurses were killed in the initial quake and so everyone had to help as they could do cope with the injured. Oh my.
If you look at Napier today you can envision how Christchurch can recover; however, not without suffering, not without suffering and hard work.
Postscript: I watched the video on Sunday with my mom. Her mom was 6 years old and living in Santa Rosa, CA when the San Francisco earthquake struck. She remembers the ground rolling up to meet her as she ran out the door. We thought about the latest NZ quake. We live on the “Ring of Fire” too, so we cannot become complacent. Check your emergency supplies and make sure you are ready with water, flashlights, candles, matches, and other supplies. Click through to this article in SFGate for tips on creating your own earthquake preparedness kit.
What people refer to as the Christchurch earthquake was actually an aftershock of the first quake in September. The destructiveness of the February 2011 aftershock displaced the earlier incident as “the quake” and deservedly so.
Christchurch earthquake 6.3 magnitude on the Richter Scale. (Why Can’t Kiwi’s Fly?, p. 56):
A more accurate measure of how strong an earthquake feels or how much damage it causes is the Modified Mercalli Scale. It gauges the effects of an earthquake on the Earth’s surface, humans, buildings, and trees. It has a scale of I –XII (1-12); on this scale the Christchurch earthquake is rated IX (Violent: general panic, damage considerable in specially designed structures, well-designed frame structures partially collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.) Some argue the Christchurch earthquake should have been rated as high as X (Intense: some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundation. Rails bent. Large landslides.)
Another measure of the strength of an earthquake is peak ground acceleration or PGA. This does not calculate the total energy (magnitude or size) of an earthquake, but rather how hard the earth shakes. On that scale the Christchurch earthquake recorded one of the highest PGAs ever: at Heathcote Primary School it was an incredible 2.2 g, or 2.2 times the acceleration of gravity. And to compound the destruction, the greater force was upwards, with people lifted off their feet. Only the recent Japanese earthquake in Tohuku, on 11 March 2011, recorded a higher PGA—2.7g.
As geologist Hamish Campbell said: “No wonder so many stone churches, including Christchurch Cathedral, were destroyed. Such structures were simply not designed to be thrown up into the air and left to go into free fall, even though the fall is all over in a matter of milliseconds to seconds.
I first visited Christchurch in October 2010. I experienced a small roller during my stay, but I’m from California so I wasn’t unnerved. I’ve never experienced what Christchurchians did for a period of several years: a seemingly never ending series of aftershocks of varying strengths. I feel like I followed it with the Ole JackMeter. My friend David introduced me via Facebook to Ole and Karen and I visited them and got the deluxe tour of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula in October 2010. They were away from Christchurch on the fateful day in February, but they endured many more sleepless nights. It was not uncommon to be woken up by the sound of a train–held in suspense as to the size of the coming trembler. Ole posted on Facebook when there was another significant quake by saying something like it was another “Jack night” meaning he was going to need Jack Daniel’s whiskey to get to sleep. Whenever I read this from my home in California I’d say a little prayer and think of the beautiful city in Canterbury.
Ole and Karen gave me another tour in 2013. Streets and sewer lines were dug up for repairs almost everywhere we drove. Places I had admired in 2010 were in ruins or closed. Upheaval was ongoing including occasional aftershocks. There were also signs of vitality. The Restore Mall had recently opened with shops in shipping containers.
UK Sarah made time on our road trip to meet Ole for breakfast (Karen was on a business trip) and he gave us another deluxe tour. The roads are in much better shape. There are more and more signs of life returning to normal. The Children’s Bookstore I love is closing/for sale; however, it is hard to say if it is earthquake or book industry related. Now the Sumner suburbs are completely cleared and going back to nature. The fallen rock along the Redcliffs is almost completely removed and many people have already rebuilt to a new standard.
I predict that Christchurch will go from tragedy to triumph. It takes time. And they’ve only just stopped shaking.
This documentary gives a moving account of the “big one”.
Postscript: Their Monday morning they experienced more earthquakes (7.8 Richter, 5+ aftershock(s)). The epicenter was further north near Kaikoura. I am sad to see the photos of the destruction of this beautiful seaside town. My prayers are with them. We can also donate to the NZ Red Cross.
One of my earliest penguin experiences was with the Pohatu Penguin Plunge in Akaroa. Several years ago I got up at the crack of dawn in Christchurch and drove out to Akaroa to go seakayaking and observe the penguins in Flea Bay on the Banks Peninsula. It was a wonderful experience, except for getting very, very seasick (but I’m easily prone).
I recently returned to the Banks Peninsula and was able to convince UK Sarah to go with me on the evening penguin safari at the Pohatu Marine Reserve. We reported to the Pohatu Penguin Plunge office in Akaroa and met the 3 other participants and our guide Ben. We climbed aboard the van and began the drive up the side of the old volcanic crater and down the other side to Flea Bay. We stopped along the way for some great views. Ben explained with his French accent the history of Akaroa from volcanic formation, to French settlers landing 4 days after Waitangi Treaty was signed, to the current efforts to conserve the penguin habitat at Flea Bay.
We stopped at the farmhouse to collect binoculars and to put on some camouflage raingear. We also fed bummer lambs a bottle and gave some pellets to the ewes. There is a bathroom here (and the last stop for the next several hours).
We headed the short distance toward Flea Bay—so named because early explorers noted that the penguins here were covered in fleas. Ben took his notebook along to make observations along the way. He reminded us the importance of watching the penguins from hides and not touching them or using flash photography.
It is tricky to time the penguin viewing—the start and finish of tours changes as spring turns to summer—because the penguins have adapted to the introduction of mammal predators by postponing their return to land until nightfall. When we began our walk only a few little blue penguins had returned, and as it got darker, we could see more and more penguins but less and less of them. And the ground is rough (you are walking along a hillside on a sheep and penguin trek not a proper path).
Almost right away we came to an artificial penguin nest provided by the Pohatu Penguin Plunge. If left to their own devices, the penguins would dig out nest in the dirt, but this requires a lot of energy and the colony is struggling to maintain its numbers. Providing the artificial boxes is a common practice approved by the Department of Conservation.
It is easy to tell the occupied boxes by the tell-tale poop outside the door. Each nest is numbered and the lids on these boxes are removable so Ben and others can check on them and track the number of chicks and help to educate us, the interested public. Ben showed us two different nests—one with a male and some chicks and one with a female and some chicks. The chicks were still small and difficult to see. Ben cannot touch the penguins so unless they shift it is difficult to know for certain. He replaced the lids and then added a rock to keep curious sheep out of the nests.
The little blue penguins in this colony are growing in numbers but only gradually. They experienced a 5% dip after the biggest Christchurch earthquake due probably due to stress. Their survival is threatened mainly by overfishing of their food supply and by stoats and other alien mammals harassing chicks and eggs. In the van, Ben explained the Department of Conservation approved poison program and then on our walk showed us a stoat trap. He recently started baiting the trap with mouse juice (pee from pet mice) and is finding more stoats than before. The most vulnerable period for the penguins is during the month or so when they molt and gain a new coat of feathers.
We walked to a set of hides where we could see the little blue penguins without disturbing them. I asked Ben how the chicks finally move out after weeks of being fed by their parents. He explained that the parents finally just stop going back to the nest and the young adults spend several days getting hungrier and hungrier until finally they clamber to the sea and begin fishing for themselves.
We walked to the furthest hide and received our reward: a lone yellow-eyed penguin. He was very handsome preening himself before going home. We watched him for some time. And while we watched we also saw a New Zealand fur seal go into the water from the nearby rocks. The seal swam just off shore and the returning little blue penguins avoided him as they returned from feeding all day.
In this area the white flippered penguins and the little blue penguins coexist and breed with one another. They are not considered separate subspecies. Only along these shores on the Banks Peninsula and Motunau Island will you find the white flippered penguin. I was pleased that with the help of binoculars I could soon tell the difference with the penguins we watched come ashore.
We returned slowly to the farmhouse and returned our gear. It was a lovely experience and the five of us from Scotland, Malaysia, England, USA and France were united in our admiration for the penguins.
The evening penguin safari costs $75NZ per adult and lasts 3 hours. Transportation is provided from Akaroa. No food or drink is provided by the tour company. Reservations are recommended. Uneven terrain may be a challenge for some, ask about accommodation if this is a concern. The Department of Conservation provides guidance for conserving the marine reserve but no funding. The Pohatu Penguin Plunge activities help to pay for the conservation of the habitat in Flea Bay. Best time for viewing is September through February.
No one associates cathedrals with the new world. If you go to Europe you reserve time to see Notre Dame in Paris or St Paul’s in London. I am one of those odd people who checks out a cathedral while in New Zealand.
New Zealand has been inhabited by people for the shortest time of anywhere in the world. And for much of that time the Maori built fort like structures, but no cathedrals. Not until Europeans arrived with their ideas of suitable places to worship, and then every New Zealand city worth its salt needed a cathedral (or two as often the Roman Catholics followed suit).
On this trip I have seen three Anglican cathedrals so far: Holy Trinity in Auckland, the temporary cathedral in Christchurch, and St John’s Cathedral in Napier. The history of New Zealand and the Anglican church are intertwined in the life of Bishop Selwyn. His portrait is generally found in each cathedral–unless they’ve been destroyed by earthquake.
The cathedral in Christchurch was recently felled by the February 2011 earthquake, but the Napier cathedral was also destroyed by an earthquake and fire in 1931. Unfortunately the quake struck while holy communion was in progress. As it states in the display at the back of the cathedral, “One parishioner, Edith Barry, (Mrs. T. Barry) was pinned beneath the falling beams and when she could not be extricated and fire began to rage through the stricken city she had to be given a merciful injection of morphine by Dr. G.E. Waterworth.” (Who said visiting churches is dull?)
St John’s Cathedral in Napier was rebuilt in the 1970s. It is very conducive to worship and has some lovely stain glass. It is not as grand as the cathedral in Christchurch was before it was damaged in 2010 and destroyed in 2011. Sunday services are held at 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. I attended the later service and can vouch for the very talented choir.
We arrived in Christchurch just in time to attend the evensong service at the transitional cathedral, or Cardboard Cathedral at 4:30 p.m. The boys’ choir sang beautifully and the service was a blessed reminder that while the earth may heave, there is still some continuity and community that remains. The cathedral is constructed out of specially treated cardboard–hence the nickname “cardboard cathedral”. It was only meant to last five years and it has already been four. It will need to last much longer it seems as no one can resolve a way forward with some wanting to rebuild the former cathedral and others wanting to start afresh. Might I suggest a compromise? Consider the Coventry Cathedral where they incorporated some of the old cathedral that remained after the Blitz into the new modern design to beautiful effect.