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.

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An Emigrant’s Tale (#2)

Sailing ship Hesperus from a postcard.

My father, John Grubb, a ship-builder by trade, came to New Zealand in 1847, and after spending about a year in Wellington, went to Lyttelton under agreement with the Canterbury Association to build a jetty and make other arrangements for the arrival of the first settlers.

During this time my mother and three children lived in Dundee, until arrangements were made for them to join Father and come to New Zealand in the Charlotte Jane, one of the four ships chartered by the Canterbury Association to bring the first settlers to Lyttelton.

Before the ships sailed, Lord Lyttelton, the president of the Association gave the passengers a farewell luncheon at Gravesend, where four marquees were erected, one for each ship. During the voyage Mr. J. E. Fitzgerald, who was in charge of the expedition, edited two papers, The Cockroach and Sea Pie; he also composed the Night Watch Song of the Charlotte Jane, of which the first verse ran as follows:-

” ‘Tis the first watch of the night, brothers,
And the strong wind rides the deep,
And the cold stars shining bright, brothers,
Their mystic courses keep.
Whilst our ship her path is cleaving
The flashing waters through,
Here’s a health to the land we’re leaving
And the land we’re going to.”

Mrs T. V. Whitmore, Canterbury Pilgrims’ Association. Reproduced in ‘Tales of Pioneer Women’. 1940.

Wellington whales

Matariki, the southern right whale that’s been entertaining the population of Wellington for the past week and making headlines around the world, is lucky to be living in the 21st century and not the 19th or 20th. Back in the early 1840s, when the fledgling settlement pinned its economic hopes on becoming the port of choice for the whaling industry, he or she would have met with a very different reception.

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Wellington in September 1841 drawn by Charles Heaphy, “draftsman” to the New Zealand Company.

New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator. Saturday 30th July 1842.

During the past week, more than one of the cetacea have entered our harbour. They were mostly considered by those who saw them, to be young, or small species of the common or black whale. In one case a female followed by her cub were distinctly made out. The appearance of these strangers in Port Nicholson is by no means a common occurance, and all the spare hands and boats went in pursuit, but hitherto without success.

With the knowledge that most of the species of true cetacea frequenting the South Seas are by no means satisfactorily determined by systematic naturalists, we feel as strong a desire to see a specimen, for the sake of science, as the practical whaler can for the oil. The crania and imperfect skeletons of many of the larger cetacea are to be met with on the coast, and although the crania are in themselves of high prize to the comparitive anatomist, it yet does not, as we have distinctly repeatedly shewn, enable him to distinguish species.

The living specimens now in the bay, are said to have had no appearance of protuberance or fin on the back, and consequently must belong to that species possessing the elongated baleen, but all measurements which are simply comparitive, however they may differ, will not determine species – without the number of vertebrae composing the spinal column were at the same time given.

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Port Nicholson as British settlers found it in 1840. They could never have imagined a time when a right whale would be allowed to roam their harbour unmolested – and stay long enough to start its own Facebook page.

The last shore-based whaling station in New Zealand closed as recently as 1964.

(Images from the Te Papa collection).

The Wool Wagon

Bullock Team and Wool Wagon, Cheviot. Nelson Province, Hon. W. Robinson‘s Station.

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This photograph represents one of the methods by which wool is conveyed from the wool sheds on the Cheviot Station to Port Robinson in Gore Bay, a distance of about nine miles. The land is very undulating as far as “First Beach,” after which the track lies through shingle and sandhills until the pass of “Cathedral Cutting” is reached, where the numerous steep zigzags put the strength and temper of the bullocks to the severest test.

Bullock wagon pulling a wagon of wool bales. Image from Te Papa collection.

Port Robinson is afterwards gained by a steep descent. There a large woolshed has been erected, also a wharf running directly into the bay. The wool is placed in an iron pontoon, 70 or 80 bales at a time, then run down the inclined plane of the wharf by a wire rope worked by a stationary engine, until the pontoon reaches deep water, when it is hauled alongside a steamer moored a short distance away.

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 ‘The Wool Season’ by John Gibb, 1885.

It is said that two or three days only are required to ship wool from this station, the value of which may reach £30,000.
Messrs. F. Bradley & Co., Photographic Publishers, Christchurch. c. 1880s.

(‘Station’, in this case, refers to what Americans would call a ranch)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The remains of a church.

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

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Part of the rift that split open Mount Tarawera.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The White Terrace

Way back in October my post titled The Unquiet Earth featured the words of J. A. Froude who was exploring New Zealand’s geothermal region around Ohinemutu and Rotorua in 1885. The poor man has been left in limbo too long and historic events of this week prompt me to take up his story where he left off.

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Ohinemutu was so novel a scene that I could have stayed there indefinitely, and have found something every day new and entertaining to look at …. but our immediate business was to visit the famous [Pink and White] Terraces, the eighth wonder of the world.

The Terraces themselves were twenty-four miles off. We were to drive first through the mountains to a native village which had once been a famous missionary station, called Wairoa. There we were to sleep at an establishment affiliated to the Lake Hotel, and the next day a native boat would take us across Tarawera Lake, a piece of water as large as Rotorua, at the extremity of which the miracle of nature was to be found.

Lake Tarawera from Wairoa by Burton Bros studio of Dunedin. Te Papa collection

Lake Tarawera from Wairoa with the long ridge of Mount Tarawera in the background.

Twenty four miles in a horse-drawn vehicle took up most of the day but, eventually – There stood Wairoa and its inhabitants. It was late afternoon. The people were all out loafing and lying about.

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“McRae’s Hotel”, or more correctly the Rotomahana Hotel, at Wairoa. Joseph McRae is standing at right with hand on hip.

In the morning we had to start early, for we had a long day’s work cut out for us. We were on foot at seven.

A one hour journey across Lake Tarawera in an open rowing boat followed. Then, led by their guide Kate and her apprentice Mari, a half mile walk on a bush track brought them to – the White Terrace in all its strangeness; a crystal staircase, glittering and stainless as if it were ice, spreading out like an open fan from a point above us on the hillside, and projecting at the bottom into a lake, where it was perhaps two hundred yards wide. The summit was concealed behind the volumes of steam rising out of the boiling fountain, from which the siliceous stream proceeded.T_white2

The stairs were about twenty in number, the height of each being six or seven feet. The floors dividing them were horizontal, as if laid out with a spirit level. They were of uneven breadth; twenty, thirty, fifty feet, or even more; each step down being always perpendicular, and all forming arcs or a circle of which the crater was the centre.

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We walked, or rather waded, upwards to the boiling pool …. It was about sixty feet across, and was of unknown depth. The heat was too intense to allow us to approach the edge, and we could see little, from the dense clouds of steam which lay upon it. We were more fortunate afterwards at the crater of the second terrace.

A fixed number of minutes is allotted for each of the ‘sights’. ….. We were dragged off the White Terrace in spite of ourselves, but soon forgot it in the many and various wonders which were waiting for us.

to be continued on Thursday…..