The Wreck of the Yankee

“Were you here when the Yankee went on the reef?”
“Oh, yes,” Powell shook his head sadly.

The battered hull of the famous round-the-world yacht still remains as a prominent landmark just beyond the harbour at Avarua.

Yankee wreck 1

The Yankee was a steel hulled German pilot vessel, taken over as a prize of war, and acquired by Irving Johnson and his wife who took young people as working, paying crew on voyages around the world and their adventures appeared frequently in National Geographic and the sparkling, white-sailed Yankee was the dream ship of all the adventurous young who wanted to explore far away places.

“The Yankee under the Johnsons was immaculate. White dacron sails, white hull, varnished woodwork and gleaming brass. She was a picture.

“One day [in 1964] a large sailing ship came into view and as usual everyone started to speculate on what ship it might be because even then a ship of 117 tons and 97 feet was a rare sight and at first it was thought that the ship was the Yankee but as it came closer we could see the hull was grey and when it went to its engines after dropping sails the diesels belched black smoke.

“When the small boats were put over and came in, they were dirty with broken gunwales and with water sloshing around the bottom. There was no way that Irving Johnson could be on board and later the word drifted around that it was the Yankee all right but the boat had been sold to Windjammer Cruises and was being run out of Miami. It was as ratty as it could be.

Yankee wreck 3“At first the trades were from the east and then gradually started to swing slowly to the north with the wind getting stronger. By this time the Yankee was snubbing to her anchor and rolling badly and I thought it was time the skipper got away….but the crew had picked up a batch of local girls and there was a marathon party going on board. I said to my wife, ‘The Yankee is going ashore tonight.’

“When I woke up the next morning at the first light in the sky and I could feel the wind I told my wife, ‘The Yankee has gone on the reef.’ And I called our daughter who was a photographer at the time and told her to get her camera and go down to the beach because undoubtedly the Yankee was on the rocks and she could take news pictures which would be very valuable. And she did and they were.”

Yankee wreck 4BW

“A bit later I took my bicycle and rode down to the main road and there she was.”
Powell heaved a heavy sigh and shook his head again, “I wanted to cry.”

Condensed from ‘How to Get Lost and Found in the Cook Islands‘ by John W. McDermott, Waikiki Publishing Company, Inc. 1979.
Images from 1981.

Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, whose luck got worse with time, finally went bankrupt in 2007. Founder, Michael Burke, died of pneumonia at 89 in 2013. According to this Wikipedia page, the remains of the Yankee were cut up and removed in 1995.

 

 

 

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Now You Has Jazz*

Friday Flashback says Happy Birthday.

Welsh jazz fans are gearing up for their annual treat next weekend (9th – 11th) when the Brecon Jazz Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary. I was lucky enough to be there for the first one.

Brecon jazz festival 1

A band called Adamant, from Cardiff, leading the first parade down High Street.

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It was a modest programme compared to this year’s offering but everybody had so much fun they decided to do it again.  And again……

*’Now You Has Jazz’ is a classic performed by Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and his “ensemble” in the 1956 movie ‘High Society’. Watch.

1920s London

You’ve probably never heard of a photographer called Harry Moult, and there’s no reason why you should. I stumbled on his work by accident while trawling through Te Papa‘s online collection looking for ‘new’ old material. There, in the middle of all that New Zealand imagery, was a sepia-toned photograph of Cannon Street railway station in London.

Canon Street Station

[Railway station and bridge]. From the album: Photograph album – London, 1920s, Te Papa (O.032049)

I learned that the creator of this foreigner was Harry Moult (1878-1946), a Wellington electrical engineer by profession, who took up photography in middle age and quickly revealed a hidden talent. These atmospheric impressions of London were recorded on a business trip to Britain in the late 1920s when the capital was a more polluted, foggy city than it is now.

HM_London-Pool-a-November

 London Pool – a November morn, 1920s, London, Te Papa (O.031862)

The difference in light between smoggy London in winter and his own bright and breezey Wellington would have been the first thing he noticed on arrival and he emphasised this in his prints.

HM_Winter-sunshine

Winter sunshine, 1920s, London, Te Papa (O.031868). Victoria Embankment with Big Ben silhouetted in the mist.

HM_One-of-Londons-wet-days

One of London’s wet days, 1920s, London, Te Papa (O.031867). Viewed full size, this is an impressionistic image. All movement, and nothing is sharp.

There are many more examples of Moult’s work, at home and abroad, on file at Te Papa. Just follow the link on his name.

The Tui tops up.

Friday Flashback 3.

DH Dominie

 Filling the fuel tank of a DH 89 at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton, New Zealand in 1985.

De Havilland’s DH 89 first appeared in 1934 and quickly became a popular short-haul aircraft with airlines around the world, seeing service from the ’30s to the ’50s and even into the early 1960s.

DH 89“The D.H. Dragon-Rapide is a medium-sized eight-passenger air liner resembling a twin-engined version of the D.H. 86. It has the same general features, including tapered wings, undercarriage faired into the engine nacelles, and is of the same type of construction. It is fitted with two 200 h.p. D.H. “Gypsy-Six” engines, which give it a cruising speed of 140 m.p.h.”

A military version, called the Dominie, was developed for navigator training and, after World War Two, many were sold to civilian operators – like the one in the top picture. This was delivered to the R.N.Z.A.F. in 1943, bought by the National Airways Corporation for its Northland (north of Auckland) service three years later, christened Tui*, and was retired at the end of 1962.

DH 89B

When these photographs were taken at Hood in 1985, it was locally owned and had just emerged from a two-year major rebuild.

The Tui now lives at Mandeville aircraft museum in the South Island and is still available for tourist flights. Watch a video here.

*A tui is a New Zealand native bird.

Getting personal

Today I’d like to introduce a new feature where I dive into my personal photo archive once a week and present an image or two from the ancient times, a.k.a. the 20th century. Eighteen years into the 21st, I’m forced to admit (reluctantly) that I have negatives older than some of my blog visitors. For example

Chris Barber

1970. The 100 Club, Oxford Street, London.
Legendary British jazz trombonist Chris Barber was a mere lad of 40 when I shot this. Now he’s 88 and, at time of writing, still playing. Watch and listen.

I’ve tried to avoid getting too close to The Present in my posts, for obvious reasons, but it seems this image can now be classified as a genuine ‘past impression’ – the numbers don’t lie – and as such might be informative, educational, or just mildly diverting for readers under 45. The rest of us can wallow in nostalgia.

I’ll tag this section Friday Flashback to distinguish it from the really old content you’ll find on other days of the week. Not a very original title, I’ll admit, so I hope I haven’t infringed somebody’s ™ or ®.

You might get two or three images in a post with story attached, or just one with a caption, when (hopefully) the photograph by itself holds as much interest as time and place.

Fisherman

1987. Lake Ferry, Palliser Bay, New Zealand.
A fisherman with two rods on the back of his motor-trike rides along a sand bar in search of a calmer spot for surf-casting. He’s silhouetted against spray rising from waves pounding the beach on the other side of the ridge.

You’re welcome to leave a comment and let me know if you think this idea sucks or has merit.

The Tarawera eruption

(Hint: this post will make more sense if you’ve read the previous two).

The ridge known as Mount Tarawera in New Zealand’s North Island, that lies alongside a lake of the same name, is actually made up of three ancient volcanoes fused together. They were considered long dormant in the 19th century and certainly didn’t feature as a threat in local Maori tradition. But Tarawera was surrounded by an extensive and active geothermal field that drew tourists from all over the world.

Charles-Blomfield-Mount-Tarawera-in-eruption-June-10-1886

Painting by Charles Blomfield.

On the night of 10th June 1886 all three vents burst into life, ripping the top off the ridge and creating a deep rift that ran for its entire length. It continued down the southern end of the mountain and through Lake Rotomahana, site of the world famous Pink and White Terraces, which were never seen again. The shape of the landscape had been changed forever. Dust from the eruption spread right across the Bay of Plenty as far as East Cape but most of the hot ash and boulders were dumped in the immediate area.

T_map

The shaded area shows the extent of ash deposits. The parallel lines indicate the geothermal corridor from Mount Ruapehu to White Island.

Small family settlements around the edge of Lake Tarawera were wiped out and Wairoa village was buried under three feet of mud and ash. Over 150 people died, although that can only be an estimate. The magnitude of the disaster can be understood best through photographs taken over the days that followed.

T_Wairoa mud

Wairoa village, once a tourist base for trips to the Terraces. The humps in the ground forming a line at left are buried Maori huts (whare). The remains of buildings can be seen in the middle distance.

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McRae’s Rotomahana hotel at left (see last Tuesday’s post) and the Terrace hotel, right.

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The old mill in a desert of ash.

T_church ruin

The remains of a church.

T_Moura

Moura, a small Maori settlement, used to stand here beside Lake Tarawera. Searchers found only waist deep mud.

T_rift

Part of the rift that split open Mount Tarawera.

T_southern rift

These huge craters were blasted out of Tarawera’s southern end. Lake Rotomahana and steam from new vents lie beyond. The landscape is covered in ash as far as the eye can see.

The land took decades to recover but curious tourists returned to the area within weeks of the eruption. The buried village is still a popular attraction.

A Bath for the Gods

Continuing from Tuesday’s post, following J. A. Froude’s account of his adventures in the geothermal region of New Zealand’s North Island in 1885.

Leaving the White Terrace behind, the guides Kate and Mari led the group on a track past boiling pools where the “heat, noise and smell were alike intolerable”, and steaming cones of mud. “Suspicious bubbles of steam spurted out under our feet as we trod, and we were warned to be careful where we went.”

After lunch beside Lake Rotomahana, Mari ferried them accross the “weird and evil looking” hot lake in a leaky dugout canoe.

The Pink Terrace, the object of our voyage, opened out before us on the opposite shore. It was formed on the same lines as the other, save that it was narrower, and was flushed with pale-rose colour. Oxide of iron is said to be the cause….

T_pink painting

A painting of the Pink Terrace and Lake Rotomahana by Charles Blomfield. The White Terrace can be seen in the background on the other side of the lake. The height and shape of Mount Tarawera has been exaggerated and distorted. (Compare with the photograph at the bottom of the post).

The party landed at the terrace-foot “with no more misfortune than a light splashing”. Some intrepid tourists of the time felt their trip wouldn’t be complete without bathing in the terrace pools and Froude was keen to take the plunge.

To my great relief I found that a native youth was waiting with the towels, and that we were to be spared the ladies’ assistance. The youth took charge of us and led us up the shining stairs. The crystals were even more beautiful than those which we had seen, falling like clusters of rosy icicles, or hanging in festoons like creepers trailing from a rail. At the foot of each cascade the water lay in pools of ultra marine, their exquisite colour being due in part, I suppose, to the light of the sky refracted upwards from the bottom. In the deepest of these we were to bathe. The temperature was 94°F or 95°F. The water lay inviting in its crystal basin.

T_pink detail

Falling like clusters of rosy icicles.

The water was deep enough to swim in comfortably, though not over our heads. We lay on our backs and floated for ten minutes in exquisite enjoyment, and the alkali, or the flint, or the perfect purity of the element, seemed to saturate our systems. I for one, when I was dressed again, could have fancied myself back in the old days when I did not know that I had a body, and could run up hill as lightly as down.

T_pink boat

The bath over, we pursued our way. The marvel of the Terrace was still before us, reserved to the last. The crater at the White Terrace had been boiling; the steam rushing out from it had filled the air with cloud; and the scorching heat had kept us at a distance. Here the temperature was twenty degrees lower; there was still vapour hovering over the surface, but it was lighter and more transparent, and a soft breeze now and then blew it completely aside. We could stand on the brim and gaze as through an opening in the earth into an azure infinity beyond.

The hue of the water was something which I had never seen, and shall never again see on this side of eternity. ….. Here was a bath, if mortal flesh could have borne to dive into it! It was a bath for the gods and not for man.
Extracted from ‘Oceana’, J. A. Froude, Ed. Geoffrey Blainey. Methuen Haynes, 1985.

Froude was right – he would never see the sight again. One year after his visit, this landscape changed forever. More about that tomorrow.

T_pink photo