Thursday, 4 June 2009

Happy Birthday Queensland

The image at left shows Queen Street ca 1859, taken from the Edward St end looking toward George St. There's a bar now where the horse and cart is (the place with the blue neon hidden among the trees here. I can't remember its name, but it's a nice spot.

A surfeit of Queens

As an entity, Queensland is 150 years old today. At one stage, the entire eastern half of Australia was New South Wales.

You wouldn't think it to look at these days, and very few locals have an interest in it, but Brisbane has a rather interesting history. "Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead" could well be the city's motto. It is always being knocked down and rebuilt. A place of energy, people are always looking for and being distracted by the next shiny thing.

I'll write something about Brisbane at some stage, or some othe place in QLD. I'm a bit pushed for time at the moment though, so this post is a just a nod to my home state. Many happy returns.

Here's an article from the Moreton Bay Courier (20 July 1859) telling us why the names of Moreton Bay and Brisbane should be changed. The image is scanned from the Historic Australian Newspapers database .
I've copied it:
IT has been wisely said, that "a multi-tude of counsellors darken wisdom;" and as we have no desire to cloud the horizon of our new colony, we make the following suggestion in all humility. We presume that the question as to which is to be the capital of the district has long been settled. The position of Brisbane - its nearness to the Bay, its possession of the Government offices, and its age, will certainly enable it to take rank as tho capital.
We have no wish to help to erect such a capital as shall prevent our Ipswich friends from sharing in our glories,or rising in importance as fast as she can. Our idea is simply that as we borrowed our starting name from a past Governor,and the name of our Bay from a navigator; and that, as the Colonial Office has been pleased to call our colony by the euphonious name of Queensland, that we should endeavor to harmonise the names,and make a similarity to prevent misunderstanding.
We therefore propose, with all modesty, that the name of the Bay be Queensbay, and that the name of the capital be Queenstown or Queensburgh,whichever it may please the people to assent to; but that in no wise would we permit the capital of Queensland to retain the name it at present bears. A friend of ours has been very witty in accounting for the discarding of tho name of Cooksland in its application to the colony. He says that name smells too strongly of the kitchen; and that the name given by the Colonial Secretary is far more appropriate.

Without wishing to cast any slur upon the men whose names have at present figured largely in our district cognomens, We think Queenstown or Queensburgh, better suited as the name for the capitalof Queensland than Brisbane. And to remove any jealousy for the honor of names in the minds of those who may fancy the names of Cook and Brisbane, we propose that justice be done by erecting suitable monuments to their memory, which will satisfy that, in consulting ourfuture advancement, we honor those whose names were mixed with our early struggles.
Needless to say, these suggestions fell on deaf ears.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Pilots in Wellington

Left: Pilot Holmes and crew at Worser Bay, Wellington, ca 1883. Source: Timeframes

The men who met their end as described in the article below were probably using this boat pictured, taken five years previously. Most of them are likely pictured also.

The Pleione was the source of a bad run of luck. In March 1888, she ran aground on Waikanae on a trip out from England. She ended up floating again, but she wasn't insured and lots of money lost in fixing her up on the slip at Evans Bay (Pictured here with a beautiful gig in the foreground). The episode described in the article below must have been her first round-trip since the relaunching, which took place in November 1888.

Wellington waters can get very rough at times (recently we had 12 - 14 metre swells in the Cook Strait, and 60 Knots of wind recorded at the heads where this takes place). The Wahine, a not insignificant vessel, sank in 1968 when she was pushed by a wave on to Barretts Reef, the scene of the tragedy here recorded.

Source: Evening Post. 18 August 1889.

Thursday, 21 May 2009


This photo is copyright to Tanya Katterns/Dominion Post. Sourced from Stuff on 22 May 2009. I didn't ask permission to use it, so sorry about that.

There are all sorts of funny little anomalies around and about, eg the Tamil Bell, Spanish helmet and Korotangi. This skull is the latest.

Of course, where this skull could be interesting is that each of the above items may very easily be recent (although in flights of fancy I like to think that the idea of the Roc comes from the Haast Eagle. But that's a bit silly really, Asian Eagles are big enough to spawn that idea).

The big show-stopper for me about this skull, is that radio carbon dating is not very reliable (here and here).

Considering the mulch that abounds on the East Coast, this woman could have died only a few years ago. Still, if she was alive in the 17th Century, it is unusual that it is the skull that survivies. Perhaps she was a survivor of a wreck and she was kept as a prize, her head preserved? Anyway, all a bit funny.

I'll wait till the genetic testing comes about.

Below can be viewed at:

Skull riddle may be solved

An ancient European skull found in a Wairarapa riverbed could belong to a victim of an early Dutch shipwreck, a scientist says.
The 2004 discovery of the skull sparked a coroner's inquest, and the involvement of forensic anthropologist Robin Watt. His findings could overturn what is known about New Zealand's prehistory.
Carbon-dating put the skull's origin at between 1619 and 1689 overlapping with and pre-dating visits to New Zealand by Abel Tasman in 1642 and Captain James Cook in 1769.
The skull, found in the Ruamahunga River by Sam Tobin, was of a woman aged between 40 and 45.
How she died was a mystery, Dr Watt said. The shape of the skull showed it was of European rather than Maori origin.
"When I saw it, I thought what on earth have we got here?"
Permanent occupation by Europeans did not occur until New Zealand Company settlers arrived in 1840. Earlier, whalers came ashore in the late 1700s. So what was Dr Watt's explanation for a woman in her 40s wandering in Wairarapa during the 1600s?
"At this time there was a tremendous amount of movement by the Dutch. We know they were exploring the southern coast of Australia. Anything sailing this way has a chance of being stopped by New Zealand, so for my money there was either a visit here or a wreck. I'd say it was probably a wreck."
The key was that the Dutch ship was on a voyage of settlement, not discovery, and probably heading for what is now Indonesia.
"When they came out, the local governors, dignitaries and the people brought their families, and who was with them? Their wives."

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Paekakariki will always be Pie Cock

Te Awaiti, or “Tar White” as known to the Europeans who had a hard time with Maori words, is an old whaling station at the top of Tory Channel. I took this photo while sailing past late last year.

Funny - I commented in this post on the the dreary nature of the names of the Islands of NZ and now it seems the NZ Geographic Board has caught up with my inciteful scholarship! In case the link there dies, I'm pasting the full text of the article below. It is from, 22 April 2009.

Naming NZ places has been a bit of a talking point lately, particularly at Wanganui/Whanganui. The trouble mostly I think is in dealing with 18th and19th century transliteration of different Maori accents and their subsequent dying out or changing. The transliteration creates words in modern Maori (a largely European construct, and largely influenced by Northern accents) that don’t actually mean anything. "Whanga Nui" means “Big Harbour” but the local Maori at the time pronounced the initial not as a sort of English “Ph” sound (as in the North), but more like a “W”; hence the European spelling, and its meaninglessness in the common modern Maori idiom. Spelled "Wanga", the word doesn't mean shit, no matter what accent you use. You can again see this problem illustrated in the old spelling of “Hongi” (fish) as “Shunghie”, a reflection of the aspirated Ngapuhi accent of the North. Hongi Hika, for example, is never called Shunghie these days, as in most accents it makes no sense: pretty much like the impenetrable paragraph I've just written! To make it simpler, if you get a Yorkshireman to say "boat" he will say something like "Boort", but he will still spell it "boat". So spell it correctly I say, and pronounce it as your accent and culture dictate.

(Hongi Hika can also translate as “smells like fish”. This isn’t an insult, early Maori used to smear themselves in fish oil, which really put the Europeans off, But Maori liked it and it is good for the skin. War casualties were also known as “The fish of war” (ie the catch). Hongi Hika was a successful general during a very bloodthirsty period in Maori history)

As in all things, these things go both ways. "Punakaike", for example, is a Maori rendering of "Pancake"; as “Poneke” is an attempt on the difficult to pronounce “Port Nicholson”. This goes for personal names also: Piri, Hemi, Henare are attempts at Peter (or Philip), James, Henry.

And, sometimes the wrong place gets the wrong name. Terawhiti in the Cook St should actually be a few capes to the East. Lord and I hope a few old Kaumatua know now what it's real name is: Perhaps "Cook's mistake" would be a good option.

Sometimes these official name changes stick, for example Mt Egmont now is almost universally known as Taranaki. Whatever the board decides, it will be the people who will really name it. “New Zealand” and “Aotearoa” (actually again, a word used by a minority even within the Maori peoples) have been interchangeable for a long time for both Maori and Pakeha.

That, in the end, is what is cool about this country. Politicians, bureaucrats, and militants of all colours can say what they like, but the biggest issue with the Wanga/Whanga debate is the expense no doubt incurred in changing their stationery!

Maui fished up a dilemma

Rebecca PalmerThe Dominion Post. 22 April 2009

You might have always known them as plain North and South, but it turns out our two biggest islands have an identity crisis.
The Geographic Board plans to formalise the names North Island and South Island after discovering they were not official. It is also investigating alternative Maori names for the two land masses.
Chairman Don Grant said yesterday: "Interestingly, while researching this issue, we noted that `North Island' and `South Island' are actually not official names under our legislation, despite their long-term usage."
The board would be writing to iwi representatives over the next few weeks to seek traditional Maori names and associated stories for the islands, he said. It planned to widen the consultation to all New Zealanders next year.
Dr Grant said the English and Maori names would be alternative they could be used individually or with the other.
That was different from dual naming, in which both names were used together on official documents, such as maps.
The board decided that a name change or dual names would "cause too much cost and disruption throughout the whole country and for visitors".
Dr Grant said Te Ika a Maui for the North Island and Te Wai Pounamu for the South were on early official maps and documents, including Captain Cook's.
The board's decision to investigate alternative Maori names was prompted by a 2004 proposal from Christchurch man Keith Darroch to rename the South Island Te Wai Pounamu. In 2007, the board decided it would not consider a Maori name for the South Island in isolation.
Maori names for the North Island:Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui), Aotearoa, Aeheinomouwe - Captain Cook's spelling of what might be He Ahi No Maui (a fire of Maui) or He Hi No Maui (a thing of Maui)
Maori names for the South Island: Te Tumuki (the oldest recorded name), Te Arapaoa, Te Wai Pounamu, Tovypoenammu (Captain Cook's spelling of Te Wai Pounamu), Te Wahi Pounamu, Te Waka a Maui, Te Waka o Aoraki, Tau Ihu o te Waka.
Other English names that have been used: Middle Island - for the South Island (where the name 'South Island' was used for Stewart Island/Rakiura) New Ulster - for the North Island New Munster - for the South Island Island of Victoria - for the South Island.