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.
The National Aquarium of New Zealand is not very large and only takes about an hour to see the displays, yet it includes a charming Penguin Cove where over a dozen injured little blue penguins live out their days in ease and repose. I watched Dora, the hand-raised penguin who really likes people and swims and chatters at the front of the pool, while another penguin sunned herself on the deck, and a third penguin swam for the joy of swimming. You can view through a window underwater and from above.
When the keepers came out at 1:30 to feed the penguins, almost all of the penguins came out to grab a fish or two. The penguins feed three times a day in view of the public (9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily). One keeper shares information about the penguins while the other feeds them by hand. They warn about the threats to penguins like the pollution and fishing line that caught Gonzo and removed his fin and lower beak. The rescued penguins live longer at the aquarium than they would in the wild; one elderly penguin is 21 years compared to 12 years average in the wild. The keeper said she’ll be served her lunch “at home” likes Meals on Wheels.
The towns of Napier and Hastings were almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. Napier was rebuilt in the Art Deco style and continues to celebrate this architectural heritage in festivals and tours. Many cruise ships stop here for a day and one convenient penguin outing is to the Marine Parade and National Aquarium of New Zealand. For over a kilometer along the shoreline there are gardens and walkways that lead from the Hawkes Bay Museum to the Aquarium.
Entry to the National Aquarium is $20NZ for one adult. A family of four can visit for $54NZ. There is special pricing for students and seniors. The aquarium is open from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The café and gift shop are currently closed for remodeling.
It is a 20-minute walk from the tourist information centre to the aquarium. The paths are flat and easy to navigate if you are in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller. Just across the street from the I-Centre is a bike rental place. For $20NZ you can rent a cruiser with a helmet and lock for 2 hours. Most of Napier is completely flat so you can pedal to the aquarium, see the penguins and continue exploring.